In Review: Lando #2

A frustrating reading experience on many levels. This is how not to produce a Star Wars comic.

The cover: Sitting comfortably in a very familiar chair, Lando Calrissian tosses two chances cubes in his hand, as Lobot leans uneasily onto the iconic piece of furniture. This is an outstanding cover by interior artist Alex Maleev. Having Lando sitting in Palpatine’s chair is an excellent way to establish his personality (For who else would have the audacity to do so?) and to hint what this story is about. I love his posture, legs crossed and dice thrown indifferently in the air, and Lobot’s consternation perfect. Good backgrounds colors as well. Overall grade: A+

The story: In the Castell System, near the Sienar Fleet Systems Orbital Shipyard CC-24, Lando and his compatriots have just stolen Emperor Palpatine’s personal ship. In classic smuggler fashion, as Calrissian tells Lobot he thinks they’re going to make it away unscathed, three Imperial Star Destroyers appear behind them. Within those vessels Commodore Idel is speaking with Captains Shan and Conro, telling them that they’ve been instructed to retrieve the Imperialis, but first they are to make an “object lesson” of those responsible in the theft. All three ships open fire and destroy the shipyard. Gravity mines are then dropped to attach to the fleeing ship so that it will unable to go to hyperspace without detonation. Something then occurs that has Lando thinking he’s definitely stolen the right ship. The first half of this issue written by Charles Soule deals with the protagonists’ attempts to evade the Imperials. This goes on for far too long. I know Lando and Lobot will survive this encounter intact, as they must live to get to Episode V, and I’ve barely been introduced to the other three aboard, so I have no connection with them. The group escapes and then things move to Amethia Prime. I hate when Star Wars stories employ this type of character. It’s been a trope too long. Individuals such as the one shown on Page 12 require a generic set of skills that can be dumped into any story for a predictable action sequence. I would be in heaven if an embargo were placed on such characters for a year in Star Wars comics. Even the main Star Wars title couldn’t help but include the one that started this writing crutch. I’m dreading seeing this character’s impending meeting with Lando. The final three pages return to Calrissian and company, with an excellent cliffhanger. This was a drawn out story that introduced a painfully overused trope. Overall grade: D

The art: The A-story of this issue severely limits what Alex Maleev can do with the visuals: Lando and Lobot are in the pilots’ seats trying to fly out of danger, while Idel is standing on the bridge of his Star Destroyer watching the pursuit. What’s he left doing is a lot of talking head panels, which is what Pages 5 – 9 are comprised of. They look fine, but visually are just unexciting. Additionally, Lando’s ship is operating under red alert (All I can hear is William Riker’s voice…), so there’s a lot of atmospheric effects done by darkening many characters far way from the ship’s dashboard. I think I would have liked these panels better had they been in black and white. An opportunity presents itself for an exciting moment when there’s some action between the ships, but it’s fairly rudimentary — there’s no dramatic angles to increase the tension. The incident that happens on Page 10 has no visual punch. I couldn’t tell what had occurred until it had been explained on Page 18 — that should not have happened. The scenes that occur on Ametia Prime fare better, but feature the archetype I’m sick of seeing. This character’s design is too simple to be arresting, and too similar to a famous character from the films.  The action on these pages is good, with the movement of the primary character being really well done. Back onboard the Imperialis, things again go dark with the visuals or are sketchy; Page 19 shows this with its first two panels. This looks rushed. I’m not liking these visuals. Overall grade: C-

The colors: Paul Mounts must have blown through every shade of red for this issue. This is the primary color used on the main characters and I felt like I was looking at a lost Star Trek comic. I can’t recall any ship’s control room going crimson during a battle. It works on Star Trek, but it was really distracting here. It seems to be done to increase tension that the art is not communicating. The exterior sequences look well done — the lighting on and behind the ships, such on Page 2, is strong. The laser blasts that the destroyers emit are fantastic. The Amethia Prime sequence is also neat looking. Here Mounts really gets to stretch and he combines colors that are engaging and alien. It’s a really beautifully colored world where some nastiness is going down. His coloring of holographs is also solid. The last page has very muted colors and I would have thought to make them much brighter to increase the surprise and draw focus as to who is causing such violence. This final page and those out of place reds stick in my craw. Overall grade: C+

The letters: VC’s Joe Caramagna contributes scene settings, dialogue, sounds, yells, and transmissions for this issue. I’m still not liking the thin lines chosen for the dialogue, which makes everyone look frail when they speak. I do wish that he were allowed to contribute sound effects to the space sequences. For all that occurs in the openness of space, the only sound that is heard are tractor beams which hits the heroes’ ship. It is so frustrating to have the iconic sounds of Star Wars muted by Marvel. Ben Burtt has won four Academy Awards for sound, and his first was for the original Star Wars. How many people imitate this franchise’s sounds? Yet in space, this book — this line — is a void. This isn’t Caramagna’s fault, but he’s more than capable of creating excellent sounds as shown on Amethia Prime. When did sound effects become the pariah of comic books? So damn frustrating. Overall grade: C

The final line: A frustrating reading experience on many levels. This is how not to produce a Star Wars comic. Overall grade: C-

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer’s Guide for several years with “It’s Bound to Happen!” and he’s reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He’s taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.

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