STAR WARS: LANDO #1 by Rodney Barnes, Paolo Villanelli, and Andres Mossa
Despite some issues with the over-the-top nature of the lead and the story, STAR WARS: LANDO #1 is a fantastic opening issue in what could be a fine addition to the STAR WARS mythos.
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There are few characters as beloved and simultaneously hated as Lando Calrissian. Whether the subject is Billy Dee Williams’ original performance or Donald Glover’s new take, the character has wowed fans for decades. His betrayal and subsequent redemption in the original trilogy cemented him in pop culture fame. With the release of SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY, it only makes sense that Marvel would capitalize on Lando. This week, they released a new miniseries looking to fill in a bit more about the famed smuggler. STAR WARS: LANDO #1 looks to bring Donald Glover’s portrayal to life in new ways. Does it succeed? Or does it miss the mark?

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On the planet Batuv, the rising Galactic Empire has enslaved the citizens. Working in horrendous conditions, they have no choice but to follow the Empire’s orders. However, a revolution is brewing. Kristiss, the daughter of one of the slaves, needs a way to get weapons to the workers so that they can stage a coup. However, the job isn’t easy. She needs the galaxy’s greatest smuggler. Luckily, Lando Calrissian is willing to help. For a price.

With Good Intentions

STAR WARS: LANDO #1, Page 1. Courtesy of Marvel Comics

Marvel’s STAR WARS comics do two things incredibly well. They deliver high intensity plots alongside brilliant character exploration. Luckily, that stays true with STAR WARS: LANDO #1. The plot flows along at a brilliant pace. While the action doesn’t come into play until late in the story, I never once felt bored. The dialogue and the events at play just feel so satisfying. Lando as a character manages to make every scene a true blast to witness. I also enjoyed the natural flow of the narrative. Writer Rodney Barnes constructs the story so naturally, making all of the pieces fit together perfectly. There are no elements of Deus ex Machina at play here. Every gear in the story has its place and ticks away in perfect time.

Some readers may not like the dialogue-heavy nature in STAR WARS: LANDO #1. Very little of actual importance happens until about halfway through the story. This book looks to set the stage for the rest of the miniseries. The core issue and character personalities take center stage. However, Barnes tends to shy away from intense action set pieces. There is just enough to push the story forward, but the stakes aren’t fully there yet. I can easily see that the story will ramp up pretty quickly in the coming issues. However, it would have been nice to see some more of the trademark STAR WARS action from the start.

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The Galaxy’s Greatest Smuggler

STAR WARS: LANDO #1, Page 2. Courtesy of Marvel Comics

Where STAR WARS: LANDO #1 shines brightest, though, is in its characterization. Lando Calrissian is a brilliantly unlikable character. His interests lie solely in furnishing the Millenium Falcon like a ritzy casino for lavish guests. He has no interest in saving the galaxy. That puts him at great odds with Kristis and his navigator droid L3-37, which in turn makes the story that much more interesting. It isn’t just Lando’s over the top personality that pushes this story forward. In fact, the way it interplays with the more serious characters around him feels more satisfying. Lando feels like a caricature in the midst of this story of rebellion. That alone had me laughing throughout the issue, spurred on by Barnes’ brilliant dialogue.

I will say that something didn’t quite hit home with me in regard to Lando’s character. I think the fact that characters kept calling him this great smuggler didn’t sit right with me. The story just doesn’t reflect that yet. He certainly has the attitude, but none of the practical aptitude. His character refuses to upgrade the most important aspects of his ship, i.e. the shields, preferring instead to waste his money on rare animal skins. It starts off feeling like a cool personality trait. By story’s end, I didn’t feel like he deserved any of his hype. This major disconnect exists in the story for that reason. It didn’t derail anything for me here. It just stood out to me as a potential problem for later issues.

Stars and Planets

STAR WARS: LANDO #1, Page 3. Courtesy of Marvel Comics

Paolo Villanelli handles the art in STAR WARS: LANDO #1. I have to say, I am deeply impressed with his take on a galaxy far far away. His characters look deeply realistic. Lando looks almost exactly like Donald Glover in the best way possible. However, the world around these characters take on some really beautiful and surreal effects. Lighting and cloud effects, for example, look just a step past real, giving them an ethereal quality. What we get is a world that feels larger than life. It feels like we are being told an outlandish and over the top story about a real person. This works so well because it feels as if Lando himself is regaling us about one of his many adventures. The world looks so pristine through his eyes, mostly because he is in it.

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Meanwhile, Andres Mossa provides some astounding color to the issue. Many of the aforementioned effects wouldn’t feel nearly as powerful without his color work. I was almost surprised when I opened the issue and saw such bright and vibrant colors gracing every page. For subject matter as dark as indentured servitude, the art has almost no dark spots. I again took this as a result of Lando’s presence. His character has such an over-the-top personality that everything around becomes grander and more exaggerated. The fact that, in a world full of bland color palettes, he wears bright yellow should tell you everything. The world under Mossa’s pen is absolutely stunning. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

STAR WARS: LANDO #1: Final Thoughts

STAR WARS: LANDO #1 is a valiant and fun effort from Marvel Comics. The story has its issues. The over-the-top nature of the lead character and the lack of stakes left me feeling lacking. However, what you get with this story is a light-hearted, entertaining read full of fantastic characters. Lando had me laughing a number of times throughout this issue, and his interactions with his shipmates couldn’t have been better. Most importantly, these elements pulled me deep into the narrative of this new series. After reading the first issue, I can’t wait to see what happens to the Galaxy’s greatest smuggler.

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