Star Wars Insider: Rogues, Scoundrels & Bounty Hunters: A Guide to the Star Wars Underworld is a compilation of Star Wars Insider articles about the fringe inhabitants of our favorite Galaxy far, far away.
The book is roughly divided into three sections. And although within each chapter the articles don't follow a chronological order, have not been corrected for typos, and a cursory glance the Bounty Hunter part looks like a Boba Fett monographic, and the Scoundrels features a lot of Han Solo and Solo: A Star Wars Story and very little Lando Calrissian, the charm and the value of this book lies between the lines and behind the masks.
This is because Star Wars Insider has done a wonderful job of bringing forward not only the main stars of the Star Wars fandom (Han, Boba, and Chewbacca) but also of shedding some light on the actors, crew members, and scriptwriters that made the gritty underworld of George Lucas' vision possible. For every article that hammers that the first design of Boba Fett's costume was all-white -- at least three -- there's a small joyful snippet from an ecstatic cast member remembering their days as Greedo (did you know that the infamous alien that Han vaporized in the cantina was played by two different actors, a man, and a woman, across the Atlantic?), with casting anecdotes (a lot of which seem to involve knowing Anthony Daniels, who plays C-3PO) and intriguing script insights. (Jonathan Kasdan, Solo: A Star Wars Adventure's writer, reveals in an interview that Qi'ra was supposed to be the smartest person on-screen at all times and that Chewie's storyline parallels the broken Native American cultures and their struggle to make their way in a universe torn apart by pitiless Empires.)
Equally important are the small homages paid to lesser-known professional actors, and to track down their voices to record their experience. Star Wars Insider doesn't always succeed in finding their targets, and in more than one occasion the writers apologize to the reader for leading them down a one-end street, but not before using charming in-universe ads to request their help to locate these missing bounty hunters that other Star Wars making-off books and guides couldn't include, or were too late to reach. These calls to action are as corny as they are touching.
One fascinating subject is Brian Daley, a writer that also worked under the pen name of Jack McKinney and who was the brain behind Star Wars radio-drama adaptation. Daley was hired because of his ability to inhabit the universe as well as any character, and his spot-on comebacks, particularly for Han Solo. Although he passed away in 1996, Rogues, Scoundrels, & Bounty Hunters pay homage to his career and to some of the scenes that made their way into the remastered versions of the original trilogy, like Han trying to talk his way out of the debt he had with Jab
They also managed to include a character profile on Doctor Aphra, a charming but amoral archaeologist, contemporary of Luke, Han and Leia, and her murder of associates, from Byronic Imperial officers to protocol droids specialized in torture. It is a decent introduction to the ongoing Marvel series, and a good reflection of the closing article of the book, which concerns surviving (and conning your guy to thriving!) in a Galaxy where two opposing sides seem to always be on the verge of blowing everyone up.
Rogues, Scoundrels, and Bounty Hunters is not perfect: faithful readers of Star Wars Insider will probably know the articles within, and other than the three sections described above, not much effort was put into organizing the content in any manner; his makes retrieving information or looking for specific details on a production or a character incredibly difficult. It's a book that works more as a curiosity for hardcore Star Wars fans than as clear-cut reference material.
This issue is amplified by the vast difference between the graphic quality of older articles, that have been reprised exactly as they appeared in print without fixing typos, and the clean and crisp look of more recent ones. There are also some blatant omissions, considering the title: not one mention of Benicio del Toro's DJ character from The Last Jedi and nothing about Rogue One; both of these movies came out before Solo: A Star Wars Story, so their absence is a little conspicuous and detracts from the theme of the book.
Despite these problems, reading through Rogues, Scoundrels, & Bounty Hunters was a deeply nostalgic pleasure, plunging into the same trepidation as the small-role actors that populated George Lucas' Cantina felt in 1977. Even the more random articles, like the making-of the rainy Kamino fight where Jango and Boba escaped from Obi-Wan in Episode II, brought that very special magic of being part of something bigger. And the best stories were the serendipitous ones: one Boba Fett actor was cast because he was the only one that fit into the costume, and Zam Wesell's actress, Leeanna Walsman, was found while the casting directors were looking at Rose Byrne. With The Mandalorian premiering in November, fans could find this an interesting addition to their Star Wars library that will help them understand the source material and storylines where Jon Favreau might have found inspiration.
Masks are a bounty-hunter totem and feature prominently in the selection. They also work as the hook that created the original hype around Boba Fett, a character with little to no lines. As Steve Perry, one of the featured authors, puts it, "Those masks give us a lot of room for our own dreams. It could be anybody - even you."