Warning: SPOILERS for Star Wars: Age of Rebellion Special
The Star Wars universe is FILLED with bounty hunters, assassins, and gunslingers, but none of them can hold a candle to IG-88… officially the deadliest droid in the galaxy.
Some are likely to read that description of IG-88 or catch a glimpse of its spindly, mechanical body and think it merely a joke that he should be called the deadliest, most notorious, and calculating killer to ever fire a blaster. But with IG-88 getting a story all to itself in the newest Star Wars: Age of Rebellion Special, fans can see for themselves. It's an incredible glimpse into an untold legend of the Star Wars universe, and a chilling (and fantastic) reminder that bounty hunters may spend their reward money on reputation, armor, or weapons... but for IG-88, "killing is its own reward."
In case anyone has trouble recognizing IG-88 in these comic panels of the droid engaging in glorious, epic combat, the character made its first appearance in the Star Wars movies canon in The Empire Strikes Back. As one of the bounty hunters hired by Darth Vader to bring Han Solo into custody, few in the audience could help but laugh at the spindly-armed, canister-headed droid that was, presumably, as famous a contract killer and bounty chaser as the rest of the killers called upon by Vader directly. And all these years later, the droid is living up to that reputation in a comic story so good, fans will be demanding IG-88 get a series all to itself.
The short story titled "The Long Game" gives as official an origin story as IG-88 is ever likely to get, confirming that its wild reputation and legends--that it killed its creators, reprogrammed itself to recognize no master, and fear no damage to itself, thus allowing it to upgrade and weaponize its body "with the obsession of an artist"--are all true. And to demonstrate what sets IG-88 apart from the rest of the bounty hunters scrabbling for one job after the next, the story recounts one of the times the droid chose NOT to claim a bounty.
It's an entertaining question to see answered, and one few Star Wars fans probably ever asked: what if killing to collect a bounty ends up putting a price on your own head? In those cases, when IG-88 fearlessly faces down a target's guns, kills them, and realizes their friends will seek retribution, the droid does the only logical thing: incinerates the body and claims it was a case of mistaken identity. Enjoying the kill for that alone, IG-88 cuts its losses… but never forgets. The result is a recorded list of criminals assumed by the galaxy to still be alive, since IG-88 never reported their deaths. Fans can use their imagination to guess why that kind of information is valuable in a galaxy filled with liars and rats.
In this case, IG-88 sees through a disguise to outsmart a target. But even for a droid, predicting an ambush isn't an exact science. At least that's how IG-88's 'death' seems to play out, getting blasted to pieces by the gangster's crew until only the droid's head survives the slaughter. Or rather, that's what IG-88 wants its killers to think. Finding enough unclaimed bounties in its memory banks to make them rich, the droid's killers seek out payment from the nearest warlord, and learn exactly why IG-88 found the blame for these dead comrades too dangerous to claim in the first place. The result is, predictably, a brutal gunfight that IG-88's killers end up on the wrong end of. Only then does IG-88's true brilliance become clear, surveying the survivors now that the dead gangsters have softened up the prize.
Any normal bounty hunter fan would assume that a droid's reaction time or lack of creativity would prove a disability in the field (especially when taking on organic opponents). But the intelligence of IG-88 is contained purely within its head--making it far easier to survive almost any attack than a living, breathing bounty hunter. Having silently watched its own attackers stumble into an ambush and brutal gunfight, IG-88 takes aim at the real target it was eyeing up all along. Firing off a quick sequence of killshots using nothing but its head-mounted gun, IG-88 ascends from crafty to outright Terminator levels of baddassery by calling in its ship to deploy a brand new body.
Landing in the classic action-movie-hero stance, guns at the ready, it's painfully obvious that writer Simon Spurrier and artist Caspar Wijngaard know exactly what joke they're playing into. But regardless of the intent or shlock-factor, the result is IG-88 rising above all of the bounty hunter competition.
So for those who thought that Boba Fett, Bossk, Aurra Sing, or any other criminal was the deadliest, shrewdest, smartest, or hardest to kill bounty hunter in the Star Wars universe, the storytellers in charge of the new canon have clearly shown otherwise. How many other bounty hunters can claim to have been killed and reborn as many times as their tall tales and legends would suggest? In hindsight, Star Wars fans should just consider themselves lucky that it was Boba Fett who finally caught Han Solo, and started a trail that could lead to Han's escape. If it had been IG-88 who got to him first, the Rebels would have never found out what ever happened to their old friend.
Star Wars: Age of Rebellion Special is available now from your local comic shop, or direct from Marvel Comics.