Aaron really starts to hit the gas here, and, man, I'm excited.
First, we begin to get a better sense of the larger setting. The first three issues were more or less a self-contained story that felt like a missing action scene from "The Empire Strikes Back." It hinted at some of the larger dynamics at play after the destruction of the Death Star, but Aaron primarily kept the focus on the action. In comparison, this issue is more like a lost plot scene, as Aaron establishes the status quo for the characters.
First, we learn that Jabba the Hutt has been supplying the Empire with equipment in its fight against the rebels. It's not exactly an Earth-shattering revelation, since I assume that a lot of folks like Jabba were supplying the Empire. These scenes are fun just to see Jabba expertly tweak Vader over the destruction of the Death Star at the hands of someone that he keeps insisting is just a boy. More importantly, though, we learn that Jabba has also provided Vader with a Wookie bounty hunter with a "simple enough" mission and another bounty hunter looking for Luke. (It's implied that Boba Fett is this other bounty hunter, after he shakes down some Rodians at the end of the issue as he searches for information on Obi-Wan.) Even curiouser, we learn that Vader hasn't told the Emperor that he's using the bounty hunters, for reasons that Aaron doesn't identify here. But, it's clearly why Jabba appears able to talk to Vader in a way that few can, since he has some actual leverage over him.
Moreover, Luke isn't the only one attracting the interest of bounty hunters: the Rodians previously encountered a pretty brutal one dressed like Leia in "Return of the Jedi," raising the possibility that it's where she originally swiped the suit. This bounty hunger is looking for Han, saying that s/he "owns" him. Has she picked up Greedo's mission after HAN SHOT FIRST? I guess we'll see.
Meanwhile, the Alliance isn't maybe doing as well as the first three issues led us to believe. Leia is pushing Admiral Ackbar and Chancellor Mothma to allow her to press the attack on the Empire while they're got them hurting. But, Ackbar stresses that their limited resources have to be focused on protecting the fleet, and Mothma notes that not everyone on Leia's team might be ready for another fight. Proving her point, Luke leaves the Alliance to go to Tatooine to find himself.
The fact that Luke goes to Tatooine is clearly the surprise, since, if you know anything about the movies, you likely initially concluded that he was going to Dagobah. It's here where Aaron really surprises us, reminding us how many stories that he plans on telling before we get anywhere near the start of "The Empire Strikes Back." He's probably going to have to do a lot more of that in the coming months, until we don't open every issue waiting to see the Battle of Hoth unfold before us.
**** (four of five stars)