Today, Michael and Spencer are discussing Lando 5, originally released October 7th, 2015.
Michael: Lando Calrissian is one part Han Solo and all-the-rest parts Billy Dee Williams cool. Even in 2D, he can charm the pants off of us. Lando 5 asks us how far can that charm go? Lando schemes at every turn but does he ever come out on top? Can you count simply saving your skin as a profit?
Lando 5 is the final chapter of the mini-series by Charles Soule and Alex Maleev. Our scoundrel hero finds himself in the crosshairs of former friend (lover?) Chanath Cha, as well as the twins Aleksin and Pavol, who have been corrupted by the Sith artifacts aboard Emperor Palpatine’s ship. There are a couple of lines drawn in the sand here, as Sava Korin Pers sides with the twins in the hopes of gaining further knowledge of the Sith and Chanath joins with Lando — if for no other reason than to help their old friend Lobot. Lobot has been badly wounded and is succumbing to the control of his robotic implants, and his last bit of free will is used to access the escape pods so they can all escape the ship before its self-destruct activates. And like any good self-sacrifice scene, Lobot has a pre-programmed message ready to inspire Lando to realize his potential.
Lando Calrissian is a gambler, through and through; he’s always looking for an angle. Even after the shit has hit the fan so many times on this mission, he is still looking for a way to rig the odds in his favor. He tries to marry Chanath’s motivations to Korin’s by allowing the ship to be destroyed — but saving some of the more expensive treasures onboard for himself. Lando is not a forceful person, but he’s a guy that doesn’t give up on his plans very easily. At every twist and turn of this issue Lando is trying to bargain with the people that stand in his way — even Sith-possessed scary incest cats.
It’s not entirely about personal gain either. Though you could argue that it’s 50% selfish 50% selfless, Lando refuses to believe that Lobot will lose the fight against his implants. Lando wants it all: he wants his friends to escape with their lives and he wants Lobot to escape with his humanity. Implants or not, Lobot knows that’s not a possibility, however. Contrary to Lando’s “Plan C” mentality we have the binary language of Lobot and Chanath’s droid pilot 0-66. Clearly when you’re dealing with Star Wars you’re going to have your fair share of artificial intelligences, but I do like the combatting philosophies present here. 0-66 has the mission of protecting his ship and destroying the Imperialis; Lobot has the mission of saving his friends. Both know the steps they have to take in order to accomplish their missions — each with their own sacrifices.
In a way, Aleksin speaks that same binary language: “this or that,” “with us or against us.” With that narrow worldview he doesn’t see the possibility of Lando going for the third option: shooting him. It’s a lie, a cheat: no one (living) believes that Lando knows how to use a blaster. Lando breaks the rules by deceiving everyone around him. Alex Maleev’s draws this scene with the same “rule breaking” approach. As he pulls the trigger Lando exists outside of the panels, crossing the barrier of the page’s gutters. Maleev cheats too.
Star Wars is a pretty basic mythology when you break it down: good vs. evil. As I mentioned earlier Lando 5 has a lot of choosing sides; choose one or die (or choose one THEN die.) Han Solo’s journey through the Star Wars trilogy was coming to the realization that he has to pick a side — Lando’s coming to that realization as well. Through the course of this issue characters are calling Lando out on his bullshit — you can’t always be in the gray, you have to choose black or white. When the stakes are as high as they are for Lando, there is no third option where you shirk responsibility. And while I think that message is pretty prevalent in Soule’s script, this is not a Dickensian “coming to God” story for Lando. The imagery is available for the reader and for Lando — his friend sacrifices his humanity for him after all — but it’s merely once piece of a lesson that Lando will come to understand further. We know that he’ll still end up betraying Han, Luke and Leia in Empire, but that doesn’t have to be the only piece of the “De-scoundreling Lando” puzzle.
Spencer, how ya feelin? I didn’t get to touch on this but do you have any thoughts on Chanath Cha’s badassery? Do you feel sorry for poor Sava Korin, who only wanted knowledge? And does Lobot always make you think of Locutus of Borg like me?
Spencer: Y’know Michael, I’m not really all that familiar with the Borg. I was always more of a Star Wars fan than a Trekkie.
To answer your other question, yeah, I definitely feel sorry for Sava. Actually, I feel sorry for everyone — everybody involved in this mission lost something dear to them, yet none of them could be considered bad guys. Aleksin and Pavol were corrupted by the Dark Side, and back in issue four Soule made sure to give them some depth by revealing their plans to adopt a child together — incest-allusions aside, this casts them as tragic victims instead of villains. Aside from his life, Sava also lost those Sith artifacts that were clearly precious to him, and Chanath not only runs the risk of Palpatine discovering that she let Lando escape, but she also lost someone precious to her: Lobot.
Michael, you refer to Lando and Chanath as possibly being lovers, and while I wouldn’t rule it out, I actually feel like Soule is hinting at a past relationship between Chanath and Lobot. According to the above panel, this is the second time Chanath’s lost Lobot to Lando, and that’s got to be painful.
I appreciate Soule and Maleev taking the time to flesh out these characters a bit and make their losses feel important, and like I said, it’s significant that those losses paint all these characters as victims — not entirely innocent victims, as they all freely joined Lando’s scheme, but victims all the same. Even Emperor Palpatine can’t be said to be the bad guy here — he may be the ultimate evil in the universe, but in Lando, he’s just a guy trying to retrieve his stolen property. Yet, the “good and evil” dichotomy of the Star Wars universe demands a “bad guy,” and all evidence seems to be pointing at Lando himself.
Don’t get me wrong, Lando certainly isn’t evil or malicious. I’d even argue that Michael’s estimate of Lando being 50% selfish is a bit high; sure, he tries to find a way to escape with his loot up until the very end, but in a crunch, he doesn’t hesitate to prioritize his friends above even their haul. Yet, every member of the heist was there because Lando personally recruited them, and the trouble began when Lando neglected to find out whose ship he was stealing. On some level, the tragedy of this heist falls rather squarely on Lando’s head.
Fortunately, we can look ahead to the future (The Empire Strikes Back) to see how this incident has led Lando to change and evolve. As Michael points out, the Lando of Empire is far from perfect, but Soule still manages to hint at a logical progression from this moment to the betrayal on Cloud City. That Lando is one who has settled down and focused his charm on actually leading a city, and his betrayal of Han comes less from any selfish desire to benefit himself and more from a desire to protect the people of his city. Lando still ends up regretting this decision, but at least we can see him working to make sure he doesn’t make the same mistake twice. He even keeps Lobot in his employ so he can keep an eye on him — how sweet is that?
In a universe with such grand depictions and rigid definitions of good and evil, it’s refreshing to find a character who manages to transcend them all. Lando is complex, and feels all the more real because of it — even Lando’s struggle to get everything he wants, to save everyone and still keep his haul no matter how impossible that becomes, feels incredibly realistic and relatable to me. I’ve been there, albeit not in a life-or-death situation (yet). Under the guidance of Soule and Maleev, Lando has quickly become one of my absolute favorite Star Wars characters, and I hope to see them get another opportunity to continue his adventures again in the future.
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