Today, Patrick and (guest writer) Andy are discussing Lando 2, originally released August 12, 2015.
Patrick: When you think about Lando’s role in the original trilogy, it’s hard to see him as an active player in the drama. His pivotal turn in The Empire Strikes Back boils down to him sending Lobot a text. Think about his role freeing Han from Jabba’s Palace – he infiltrates Jabba’s guard and then… does what? The man is a maestro at seizing opportunity, just so long as that “seizing” doesn’t really look like anything. But damn it all: be basically thwarts the will of the Emperor to Darth Vader’s face and lives to tell the tale. Charles Soule and Alex Maleev translate that effective inaction to the comic book page in Lando 2, using trappings two separate genres to their advantage, and then punctuate the whole thing with Lando’s opposite: an agent that never stops being active. Nearly every single element of this issue, from the pacing, to the coloring, to the dialogue, to the antagonist, serve to highlight what exactly makes Lando so damn special.
Aboard the Imperialis, Lando, Lobot and their band of ship-jacking misfits have discovered that their newly-stolen cruiser is far more valuable than they had originally imagined. How valuable? Valuable enough to send three Star Destroyers to intercept them. Being that these are Imperial Star Destroyers, being commanded by Captains that are far less good at keeping their cool than our titular rascal, they act immediately, firing on the shipyard in a totally pointless show of strength.
Lando’s stolen ship does appear in these panels — it’s the tiny one in the upper-left corner — but it is consciously inactive. Artist Alex Maleev could very well have thrown some motion lines behind the ship or writer Charles Soule could have inserted some dialogue about bringing up shields or something, but the ship is purposefully not doing anything. When the ship finally does act in defense, it is without Lando doing anything: the ship deployed its own self-defensive measures to eliminate some gravity mines tossed its way.
Brilliantly, Lando declares “I’ve handled it” enough though, as we’ve all been witness to, the man hasn’t actually done anything. Or has he? Nah, man, Lando’s got everything figured out, and his solution to this particular pickle is also hilariously inactive. He’s deduced that the Star Destroyers need to talk the ship in one piece, and simply baits one Star Destroyer’s tractor beam into the path of another one’s tractor beam, disastrously drawing the two mammoth ships to each other. Lando is able to effectively disable two of the largest, most fearsome ships in the Emperor’s armada with little more than some creative positioning. What’s so genius about this scene is that our hero’s inactivity plays into the suspense – we can almost feel them holding their breath too. But it’s also not so terribly out of place in a Star Wars comic: what does “the hero flies the space ship” look like, if not “the hero sits there?”
I love Paul Mounts’ coloring for this sequence. We keep cutting back and forth between the interior of the Imperialis and the interior of the Star Destroyers. The cockpit lighting of the Imperialis bathes our heroes in a red light, but the (presumably flourescent) lights on the bridge of the Star Destroyers blanket the bad guys in a cold, sterile blue. The transition is easy to miss turning from one page to the next, but occasionally Maleev puts these two locations in panels adjacent to each other, and the power of Mounts’ juxtaposition really shines through.
It’s a beautiful color dichotomy, established so clearly in these early pages. Lando’s plotting, cool nature is represented by this red coloring and the opposite is represented by blue. Even space seems a little bit bluer than it might otherwise, which reinforces the idea of Lando-against-the-universe.
This juxtaposition really pays off in the latter half of the issue with the breathless introduction of Chanath Cha. I praised the last issue for Soule’s ability to be inventive with his character concepts — Papa Toren is one of the most refreshingly original characters I’ve ever seen in Star Wars — and that spirit of invention continues with Chanath Cha. Maleev draws him as a pastiche of every space-bad-ass you can imagine: visually he’s equal parts Boba Fett, Iron Man, Master Chief and Samus Aran. Here’s the real kicker though: Mounts colors him blue.
This is how we meet this character: he flies, propelled by his goddamn rocket boots away from an exploding aqua-fortress. Between the color and the action, Chanath Cha is immediately established as the anti-Lando. From there, he proceeds to lay waste to the criminal Big String and his henchmen but kicking their asses the old-fashioned way (by punching them). As we’ve just seen, Lando’s not going to get himself out of a scrape by throwing blows. We also never see Cha’s face, which — barring a stray hand here or there — is the only part of Lando we see in this issue.
We get to see the substance of the Emperor’s holo-call to Chanath Cha, but it’s mostly unnecessary. Soule, Maleev and Mounts have done such a great job of subliminally setting our expectations that we instinctively know that Chanath Cha is going to hunt Lando Calrissian down in some future issue. And if you don’t care about any of that color / action / face dichotomy, you have to admit that Chanatha Cha explodes onto the page and does some bad-ass stuff. This issue is about as close as you can come to a perfect visual introduction of a series’ antagonist.
Andy, I understand that you’re a big Star Wars guy. How are you liking the new characters (and planets!) that Soule and Maleev are introducing? Obviously, I’m beside myself with excitement over Chanath Cha, but even Big String’s low-level fishy-gangster design is damn compelling. Plus, Amethia Prime looks like a cool cross between Sullust and Kamino. It makes you want to see more of the treasures on the Imperialis, right?
Andy: It’s become cliche to admit, but it’s a thrilling time to be a Star Wars fan. After most of the Star Wars stories written in the past forty years were made non-canon, this is a new frontier of adaption and expansion. Many small questions and stories begged by the movies will need to be answered and it is precisely this style of nook and cranny storytelling which helps make the Star Wars Universe such a compelling place to poke around in. With Lando, Charles Soule and Alex Maleev strike a wonderful balance between known characters getting more development than they’ve had before, and new badass characters earning their spot populating this galaxy far, far away. I love your breakdown of Lando’s movie role before the Expanded Universe, Patrick, because it goes to show how Soule and Maleev really embraced him as he was.
If Lando was a superhero, his superpower would be striking deals, making trades, finding out what would be valuable to someone and acting on it. It’d be easy to write this book with the full intention of lauding Lando as a space pirate John Galt bringing individual driven, anarcho-capitalistic wisdom to a bureaucratic empire, but already this series has shown the weaknesses of a life dependent upon transitory power. Lando doesn’t gain power or leverage by gaining these treasures, only by giving them away. Not only is he inactive, he is actively powerless. With his trading he manages to rent power from better positioned beings, but that doesn’t get much done. Power is shown to be priceless in this issue, and Lando can only afford it for a short time.
I too was impressed by the deft coloring in this issue.There is a shifting power dynamic essential to the politics of this thing. Relationships between characters change as these valuable goods are exchanged and Paul Mount’s coloring brings these subtleties to light. To this effect, each color takes on its own character in this drama of a heist. The prizes are in green, those who hold the prizes are in Red, and those who are trying to get the prizes are in Blue.
This might be cheating to call back to a previous issue, but this exchange of colors first becomes apparent in the first issue when Lando and crew first blast of with the Imperialis.
The entire heist takes place under the shade of blue, and only once they have their prize do they make a physical transition with the ship from the blue area of the panel to the red, thus signifying their change in status. This also ties it into the story beat most prevalent to the second issue, the escape with the goods. Seeing as the escape from this heist is the bulk of the second issue, the relationship suggested by this color scheme only get more potent.
While escaping the Blue glow of the Star Destroyers and the encroaching space, Lando and crew are bathed in a cockpit of red. Even more compelling is the green glow of the treasure room looming behind them. It’s never in foreground as the treasure, (i.e., the green glow means nothing unless they get away scot free). Showing these relationships in another light, the scene on Amethia Prime shows Chanath Cha’s “prizes,” Big String and his men, as green fish people.
These green prizes serve as the primary currency for the characters to get what they want, and while they do have value all of them come to an abrupt halt. Mirroring the end of the last issue, the Emperor ends all conversations and changes all their plans.
In service of the Emperor, Chanath Cha casually drops his prize into the ocean. Commodore Idel seeks his own death rather than face the Emperor’s power. Producing a wonderful cliffhanger, Lobot is stabbed by the red Imperial Guards in front of the pitch black maw of the old Sith’s mystery treasure.
This is a direct destabilization of how Lando prefers to do business, and adeptly shows the frailty of his position. In Return of the Jedi, Lando pilots the Millennium Falcon to destroy the second Death Star perhaps to continue his escape the wrath of Darth Vader. I’m curious to see what actions Lando may be required of in order to escape the wrath of the Emperor.
Andy Lindvall has come a long way from the the 7-year old editor of the Infinity Boy comic published at Condit Elementary. As an actor and comedy writer currently hanging out in Chicago, he spends most of his time buying and trading pictures of scary clowns. Terribly thrilled to be writing with RetconPunch, Andy relishes the opportunity to dust off his college born essay writing anxiety and share in a love of comics with you all.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?