In the Original Trilogy, one character rises almost overnight into a role of great responsibility and authority. It’s not Luke Skywalker nor Han Solo, but a city administrator in an out of the way gas mining colony: Lando Calrissian. Lando, played to perfection by Billy Dee Williams, was introduced in The Empire Strikes Back and arguably, his single greatest achievement was failing to realize that no agreement with the Galactic Empire ends well soon enough to at least rescue Leia and Chewbacca. At its conclusion, our smooth talking former owner of the Millennium Falcon hastily retreats with Leia, Chewie, and Luke, without a job and barely anything more than the clothes on his back (except for what appears to be an outfit ‘borrowed’ from Han’s closet). Lando returned in Return of the Jedi, having infiltrated Jabba’s palace and partook in the rescue of Han.
After that successful venture, he reappears among the Rebel forces with the insignia of general on his chest. Not even Force wielding Luke jumped the ranks that quickly, and the only rationale provided for such a promotion is a brief reference to a maneuver at a battle we the viewers have never heard of. Even more incredibly, he’s put in charge of the Rebel Alliances’ fighters and his advice before and during the Battle of Endor is taken seriously by Admiral Ackbar. In short, Lando is quite the interesting fellow. Despite this, there is a Lando-sized hole in The Force Awakens and whether he will appear in Episode VIII or any of the future films remains a mystery, but the new Disney controlled Expanded Universe has not forgotten the smooth talking rogue.
Lando, post-Falcon and pre-Bespin, appeared in an episode of Rebels, playing the role of smuggler complete with feminine focused flattery. It’s not the only appearance in the Expanded Universe for Lando, either. Concluded last fall, Marvel rolled out a limited five issue series providing a glimpse into Lando’s past. Titled appropriately, Lando, written by Charles Soule with art by Alex Maleev, the series is an entertaining quasi-origin story regarding why we find him on Cloud City in The Empire Strike’s Back. Unsurprisingly, it begins with a beautiful woman, a blaster, and a heist.
The story opens in the bedroom of an Imperial governor and a priceless artifact taken from a criminal boss at the time of the Imperial take over of the planet. Lando’s plan to retrieve the artifact may or may not have required intimate relations with the governor, but we enter the morning after such activities. Not a fool, the governor knows exactly who Lando is and why he’s in her bedroom, but nonetheless, Lando talks his way out of it through a combination of beguiling tongue and straight forward honesty. He believes the artifact will make him even with a debt owed to the crime boss, a belief that regretfully for everyone who draws close to him in the ensuing adventure will ultimately regret.
We cut to Lando handing over the artifact to a repugnant looking individual who’s surrounded by what can only be described as even more repugnant looking fairy-like creatures. His debt, Lando learns, isn’t fulfilled completely, but to accomplish that, he can take on one more heist. The nature of the job is initially obscured as he sets out to gather a team to pull it off. Immediately at his side is Lobot, the cyborg assistant from The Empire Strikes Back, except this Lobot is one with a full personality. Whom, we are told, allowed the Empire to place the computer elements into his brain to get a job calculating battlefield tactics; a job that obviously didn’t work out. It’s also established that both men are close, knowing each other like long time friends.
Next to join the team are two cat-like humanoids, Aleksin and Pavol, whom Lando blithely describes as, “I don’t know if they’re brothers or clones, or modified, or what they are, but they are extremely, ah…close, and they are extremely good.” The good is in reference to their combat abilities, shown in an impressively display against training droids in a previous panel. Following the ‘muscle’ comes the expert or brains, an Ugnaught named Sava Korin Pers, formerly of the University of Bar’Leth, and an expert on antiquities of many types. At some point she lost her position and an eye, one of which was somehow Lando’s fault, but neither enough to keep her from not signing on once she learns (off screen/panel) what the job entails. With the three new additions to his team, a time jump occurs, and we find Lando and Lobot in the cockpit of a space yact slipping away from an Imperial space facility. Countenanced against Lando’s delight at the success of the mission is a cutaway to Coruscant, where the owner of the ship is revealed: Emperor Palpatine.
The four volumes of Lando follow something akin to a horror story involving one tragic thing after a next after the unknowing victims stumble their way into a place better left alone. After making their escape, Lando and his team explore the ship, which is filled with priceless artifacts and one door which will not open. Fortunately, Lobot’s implants can unlock the door, and unfortunately, the moment he does, a Force pike in the hands of an Imperial Guardsman is sent on a journey into Lobot’s shoulder and out his back. At the same time, we are introduced to Chanath Cha, a masked mercenary, bounty hunter, or hired killer (take your pick), called upon by Emperor Palpatine himself to retrieve the Emperor’s ship.
Four imperial guardsmen are finally dispatched by our cat-like killers, while Lobot is taken to a conveniently located bacta tank to recover from his wound. His prognosis is good, but only if he can remain in the tank long enough. Meanwhile, two discoveries are presented to Lando and the three remaining conscious members of his team. One, the slain Imperial guardsmen all have something akin to a bad case of zombie-it is or at least corrupted flesh. Two, they were guarding an interior chamber filled with ancient Sith artifacts. While many might take this as a bad thing, Korin Pers informs Lando that the collection is worth, “a moon or two…” Lando immediately expands the scope of his dreams funded by the heist. Though, as pointed out, this is not the story where things only get better, they only get worse.
In a scene somewhat reminiscent of Ghostbusters 2, which has to be completely unintentional, Aleksin stares into a piece of Sith art (relic) and becomes possessed or better put, corrupted by whatever evil resides in or lingers on connected to it. This prompts Aleksin to snatch up a dual-sided lightsaber (i.e., like Darth Maul’s) and slice off the forearm of Pavol. Lando and Korin Pers escape, believing the two warriors had gotten greedy and wanted the haul for themselves, and lock them in the chamber with the artifacts. This leads to a nice touch by Soule, including a scene of just the two fighters. It provides a moment of characterization for both, as we learn the pair are not siblings or clones, but mates. Aleksin’s sudden betrayal is one notch worse and the two engage in a fight, with Aleksin essentially seducing Pavol to the Dark Side (Note: a free red lightsaber comes with this transition process).
While things have been going continually further south for Lando and the team, Chanath Cha was equipped by order of the Emperor with a ship especially designed to hunt down the stolen yacht, as well an irritating droid dedicated far more to the mission than to Cha. Without detection, Cha had successfully boarded the stolen yacht and it was into the face of the barrel of Cha’s blasters that Korin and Lando find themselves after their successful escape from Pavol and Aleksin. We learn that Lando and Cha have a past, but not too much in the way of details to how deep that past goes. Out of respect for Lando and Lobot, and after turning down Lando’s attempt to offer Cha a cut of the haul, Cha announces she (yes, by the way, Cha turns out to be a lady) won’t kill everyone, but the ship still has to be returned with haul intact.
Could it get worse? Of course! First, Pavol and Aleksin make their way out of confinement and kill Korin. Lando and Cha are left to deal with their Sith possessed attackers separately with Lando dispatching one with an incredibly fast draw with a blaster and Cha finishing off the other with a single knife. And then there were three: Cha, Lando, and Lobot. It’s at this point that the final indignity is inflicted on the utterly failed mission. The aforementioned droid sent with Cha to assist, activates the yacht’s self-destruct mechanism and then detaches, marooning the trio on the ship. No witnesses. The only thing between the three and death is Lobot’s ability to connect his implants to the ship and find a way to access the yacht’s escape pods. Success comes at a cost, as Lobot’s bacta tank dip was not long enough to restore his ability to actively fend off the implants from taking over his core personality. The Lobot who remains becomes something more akin to the ‘robot’ implied in his name, though not without leaving Lando a plea for him to do something better with himself. Cha takes one escape pod and departs, leaving Lando and Lobot to another, and the future of a certain floating city in the clouds ahead.
Lando, written by Charles Soule with art by Alex Maleev, represents a fantastic start for Marvel in its first full year publishing Star Wars titles. Soule perfectly captures Lando’s voice, while Maleev equally depicts the scoundrel and the Star Wars world with excellent results. For general fans of Star Wars, Lando is worth the read. For fans of Lando Calrissian, it’s a must read.