Be­fore the Em­pire struck back

SFX - - Reviews - A five- is­sue Chew­bacca minis­eries has just launched, and De­cem­ber brings a C- 3PO story which ex­plains his new red arm…

Marvel’s bold rein­ven­tion of the Star Wars comics line is con­tin­u­ing to grow, and along­side the two flag­ship monthly ti­tles, we’re also get­ting char­ac­ter- cen­tric minis­eries that give spe­cific cast mem­bers a mo­ment in the sun. The re­cently con­cluded Princess Leia story was an ex­am­ple of tie- in comics at their best, and the stan­dard re­mains high in the latest five- is­sue ad­ven­ture as the spotlight shifts onto ev­ery­one’s favourite smooth- talk­ing du­plic­i­tous rogue from Cloud City, Lando Cal­ris­sian.

Set be­fore the events of The Em­pire Strikes Back, this is a highly en­joy­able heist- goes- wrong tale fol­low­ing the life of Lando be­fore he set up shop in Cloud City. It starts with a crim­i­nal debt that just won’t go away. In or­der to clear it once and for all, Lando has to as­sem­ble a team for a seem­ingly sim­ple job to hi­jack a plush plea­sure craft from an Im­pe­rial space­dock. All goes fine – un­til they dis­cover the space­ship in ques­tion be­longs to Em­peror Pal­pa­tine, and he’s left some nasty sur­prises on board…

The writ­ing tal­ent Marvel has hired for its Star Wars ti­tles has been im­pres­sive and here they’ve made a great choice with the pro­lific Charles Soule, who brings the same kind of wit and edge to these first three is­sues that he added to his crim­i­nally un­der- read re­cent run on She- Hulk.

Soule’s ver­sion of Lando cap­tures the cor­rect mix of suave charm and slip­per­i­ness, while he also adds un­ex­pected depth to the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Lando and his cy­ber­net­i­cally- en­hanced side­kick Lobot. Even the sup­port­ing char­ac­ters are given strong, dis­tinc­tive mo­ments, and the pacey di­a­logue crack­les with energy through­out. There’s no dis­guis­ing that the plot is very much a tra­di­tional tale of crim­i­nals in over their heads, but Soule makes it feel fresh enough that the fa­mil­iar­ity barely mat­ters.

It also helps that he has artist Alex Maleev on the vi­su­als, pulling off a welcome depth and grit. Maleev is best known for his work on street- level Marvel comics like Dare­devil, and here he uses plenty of dark­ness and shadow to give the story a noir- ish at­mos­phere. He also han­dles the ac­tion se­quences with style, while colourist Paul Mounts does equally im­pres­sive work, util­is­ing a vivid palate of blues and reds to con­jure up a lush, pulpy sci- fi vibe.

This could easily have been a throw­away, for­get­table romp, but in­stead Soule and Maleev have de­liv­ered a tightly struc­tured sci- fi crime caper. The tone fits per­fectly with the darker style of The Em­pire Strikes Back, and the end re­sult is a thor­oughly sat­is­fy­ing jour­ney into the more dan­ger­ous edges of the Star Wars uni­verse. Saxon Bul­lock

The pacey di­a­logue crack­les with energy through­out

Don’t worry, they’ll prob­a­bly miss.

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