Retro Review – A Heist Gone Wrong in Marvel’s Lando
Welcome back to SWNN Retro Reviews! Sounds like we may be getting some new comics in the next few weeks but until that happens you can still look forward to these. In the summer of 2015, Marvel released Lando written by Charles Soule. Soule had been writing a number of big titles for Marvel at that point but this was his first venture into Star Wars. Many fans consider him one of the best writers working in Star Wars and this is where he caught my attention. He’d go on to helm Obi-Wan & Anakin, Poe Dameron, Darth Vader, The Rise of Kylo Ren, Star Wars, and his first Star Wars novel in The High Republic-era – Light of the Jedi – drops this August. Before taking on all those stories, Soule delivered a great story in this Lando series about a heist gone very, very wrong well one of the galaxy’s favorite scoundrels and his good friend try to get out of the constant debt plaguing the future baron-administrator.
One of the best parts of Soule’s writing is the attention he pays to characters – especially the quieter moments and concern between friends. Lando also does a great job of introducing us to Lobot and highlighting the friendship between himself and Lando. The series opens with Lando trying to settle a debt with an unpleasant shark called Papa Toren. By charming a local Imperial governor, Lando’s able to get what is owed, but Toren reminds Lando his debt is not yet fulfilled and he’s going to need much more to be whole. Much to Lobot’s dismay, Lando agrees to steal a ship for Toren. Lobot, at this point, serves as Lando’s friend and conscience but he gets very annoyed with the Lando’s carelessness between jobs and gambling debts. No doubt Lobot sees the hero we eventually get and is frustrated Lando uses his talents to fuel his gambling and deal for petty criminals.
Like any heist, Lando needs a crew and we get some interesting characters who come along for the ride. Korin, a former Sava (which I assume is the equivalent of professor) from the University of Bar’leth, joins Lando and Lobot. Like most people Lando gets involved with, there’s some history there, but all we know her past with the scoundrel cost Korin her eye. Her specialty is identifying rare antiquities and she only takes the job because the loot aboard the ship they are planning to steal is enough to set them all up for life. Korin serves as a the brains of the operation, for sure, definitely not shy about her disdain for Lando’s cavalier approach when it comes to his day-to-day living. After all, she lost an eye due to working with him, so you can’t imagine anyone in her situation would jump to it.
The other recruits, Aleskin and Pavol, are two androgynous, cat-like beings who are efficient in combat. Lobot’s not sure what to think of them but Lando assures him they’re good in a fight. I remember not really knowing what to think about these two but their feline, ninja energy is a lot of fun once this heist gets underway. Neither of them ever speak, their only expression being their skill in combat and their affection for each other. Their bond eventually ends up being tested aboard the ship Lando’s brought them onboard to steal. Oh…and that ship…which Lando believes belongs to some wealthy Imperial officer…belongs to someone we all know very well.
The ship Lando and company end up stealing belongs to none other than Sheev Palpatine himself. And that priceless treasure Lando promised everyone? Very deadly Sith relics, all tucked neatly in the back compartment of Sheev’s ship, the Imperialis. At the time of publication, no one had any idea what the sequel trilogy would end up being or how vast the canon would become by the time we reached December 2019. I remember thinking how cool it would be if some of these relics showed up across the canon. We never saw them pop-up in films, but Soule did circle back to this cache a few years later in Darth Vader (I’ll get to that in a second). I also remember thinking how bizarre it was the Emperor kept this trove of sacred Sith artifacts in a remote location so far from Coruscant but as we learn in the comics and other novels the Emperor knew Vader searched the galaxy for knowledge to eventually overthrow him so it makes sense he’d keep this far, far away from himself. Maybe he thought of it as another contingency. Before that whole Exegol thing.
Another person who joins the party is bounty hunter Chanath Cha. Yeah, Palpatine isn’t sending Vader or anyone who might attract his attention anywhere near his precious artifacts. So he hires a very capable bounty hunter and we meet her in the midst of another job. Of course, like everyone else aboard the Imperialis, she and Lando have history. Chanath ended up popping up in a few other books, but only in an Easter egg since, so enjoy her story. Soule still has quite a bit of writing to do so I hope we see her back sometime. This definitely takes place before The Empire Strikes Back though I’m not sure how close it is to A New Hope. Doesn’t seem too crazy Chanath would be out in the galaxy, trying to make a living. Or Lando trying her to help rescue Han from Jabba’s Palace at some point. Also, Palpatine must really like her, because he sends her Darth Maul’s old ship to track down the Imperialis.
Our ragtag crew find out pretty quickly this heist is not what they expected. The heist story quickly becomes one of horror, with Korin figuring out they are trapped aboard Palpatine’s yacht which could quickly become a mausoleum. Lobot is badly wounded and Lando notes that once his body goes into distress the artificial implants he wears take over all his functions to keep him alive – even his mind. The clock is ticking to save Lobot as Aleskin and Pavol take out the Imperial Guards. An interesting canonical note, once a hood is off one of the Imperial Guards, they appear to be mummified in a way, suggesting the Dark Side of the Force inhabits the Imperialis with such power it consumes the life force of those around it. Another reason for Lando and company to bail!
This is one of the best glimpses we get of Palpatine’s trove but the helmet Korin and Lando face turns out to be very important in the canon. Actually, when we see it here, it’s already had a huge impact on another Sith Lord…Darth Vader. Soule would later tell the story behind this helmet in the Darth Vader comic. It belonged to an ancient Sith Lord, Momin, who Vader resurrected to help him build his fortress on Mustafar. Momin’s specialty was building structures to channel the Dark Side. As a huge fan of that series, it’s very interesting to think Palpatine took the time to retrieve this helmet from Vader and eventually hide it from him.
Momin eventually finds a vessel for his dark energy in Aleskin, who turns on his brother quickly. They are able to contain the possessed Aleskin by sealing him back in the room, but now Lando knows he’s in over his head. Korin and Lando are ready to jettison their job and cut their losses but the escape pods have been locked out. Both of them are clueless who would do that until the new passenger makes herself apparent.
Like I said, these two have history. When Chanath Cha is brought up to speed about the situation, though, she’s less interested in bringing Lando in and more concerned with getting off the Imperialis and destroying it. There’s a big Alien vibe to this whole story, only the monster is the dark side working through one of the feline ninjas. Keep in mind, no one knows Palpatine is a Sith Lord. Chanath actually suggests the Emperor is keeping all of these artifacts hidden to protect the galaxy. There’s also hints of her having a relationship with Lobot at one point, with it ending due to his willingness to follow Lando instead of staying with her.
They are able to escape the ship after Lando blasts (very anti-climactic) one of Aleskin/Momin and Lobot hacks the computer of the Imperialis to free up the escape pods. The ending itself wraps up pretty quick, but we learn the person Lobot won’t be coming back from the takeover of his artificial implants. Somehow, Lobot knew this day would come, and embedded a message to Lando.
It’s very touching message, basically telling Lando to do something good with his life. Up until this point, we get the sense Lando’s been on the run and his old friend wants something better for him. Also, Lobot knows he won’t be there anymore to bail Lando out, so he hopes he can figure it out on his own. The novelization of The Rise of Skywalker suggested Lando would spend the last of his golden years traveling the galaxy with Jannah and other former First Order troopers, trying to reunite them with the families they’d been taken from. I think Lobot would approve.
As much as I gush about Soule’s writing, the art by Alex Maleev and colorist Paul Mounts give this a classic comic feel, as if I could’ve picked it up on my way to a showing of The Empire Strikes Back. Lando is so much fun and a great introduction to Soule’s writing in the Star Wars realm of comics. It’s a great heist story with a dose of Sith-lore thrown in, so I recommend picking this up sometime while we’re still waiting for new titles. It’s a limited series, so there are only five issues. Get yourself lost in a galaxy far, far away with the most charming rogue this side of the Outer Rim!