Lando Calrissian isn’t one to stick his neck out…unless there’s credits to be had for it. So, when he finds himself fighting for oppressed workers in a droid junkyard, they’d better hope their freedom is worth something to him…
Writer, Rodney Barnes has a host of screenwriting credits and Marvel comics credits under his belt. His most abundantly known work is probably co-writing the first six episodes of the series, the Boondocks, and various episodes thereafter. Although Barnes’ comic credits aren’t as lengthy as his screenwriting credits, he does have some practice in the medium, penning “Birth of a Patriot” under Marvel’s Secret Empire, and the current Falcon series under Marvel Legacy which is about seven issues deep.
Accordingly, it shouldn’t surprise a reader that Lando: Double or Nothing achieves quite an artful cross-over from film to comic. What many Solo viewers probably wanted more of was the bickering relationship between L3-37 and young Lando Calrissian. Fortunately, Lando: Double or Nothing delivers just that. Lando carries his third-person referencing self with an air of such high esteem and vanity that L3’s slights to his ego are a perfect foil. The underlying respect for the other member of the duo’s skills is what makes this such a charming relationship. In this issue, Barnes has taken this relationship and given it ample time to show through in between the plot development. Lando postures to their client, Kristiss, and L3 immediately cuts him down to size at every turn. Early on, Kristiss addresses the third person narration Lando uses in his chronicles, asking “Why do you refer to yourself as yourself?”. “No one actually knows, but one theory is a man who wears a cape suffers from several self-image issues,” L3 interjects with a laser-precision slight. This type of dynamic dialogue keeps the reader moving through the action at a comfortable pace without a whole lot of loss of momentum.
Some of Barnes’ more daring lines from Lando actually tended to land, given the context they were put in. While pulling the Falcon out of a fiery planetary descent, Lando tries to allay the fears of his passenger and co-pilot: “Freak my vibe and coast while we glide.”
In terms of plot, there is not much development in this issue alone, but plenty of foreshadowing and movement in the right direction. In general, we have a sort of modified Kessel heist from Solo. A reverse mine heist if you will. Conventionally, I suppose we would just call this a breakout. Lando, Kristiss, and L3 each part ways in an ad hoc plan befitting the warring egos vying for leadership of the scheme. Inevitably, each member ends up in dire straits. With a cliffhanger, we’re encouraged to pick up issue 3. This is pretty classic serialized comics fair, but expertly executed here. On the negative end of last page cliff-hangers, the reader is left rolling their eyes asking “do I care enough to shell out $3.99 to resolve this?” On the positive end, the reader can’t help but get excited and eagerly anticipates the next issue for a month. Happily, this issue is pretty far over on the positive end of the spectrum. Three separate threads to the scheme, each heightening in suspense.
In terms of character development, the Falcon’s crew is pretty much status quo from Solo. Lando’s relative moral compass is flickering between the love of money and doing what’s right for the galaxy. L3 is cast as the droid rights activist we know and love from the film. When landing in the Kullgroon Wastelands, a place the empire doesn’t care about guarding, L3 mutters “No, its a place where those droids who have rendered eons of service are simply forgotten.” Lando’s silent moral quandaries and L3’s palpable disdain towards humans creates cross-medium consistency that makes this series seem like it fits and really adds to canon. Little touches, like Lando’s fur cloak he strong-armed off a lounge singer, add depth to each page. Is Lando embellishing again?
The art boasts strong line-work filled with bold colors in warm yellows and oranges off-set by cool blues. The palette fits with the groovy vibe of the Lando and L3 era Falcon adventures and the snow-swept planet they find themselves exploring. The wastelands of planet Kullgroon have some easter eggs placed in the wreckage for eagle-eyed fans. Expired Phase 1 Clones lay scattered among battle droid carcasses in the leftover detritus of a clone wars era skirmish. A nefarious native also appears to be riding a salvaged AT-RT in the final page splash. These types of unifying touches in the background context is what I am loving about current canon development. The more the Original Trilogy can be tied into the Clone Wars, the better, in my humble opinion. It’s a treat to see that a lot of the screen dressing for the prequels and clone wars didn’t just disappear between Episode III and IV. There are some nice dutch angle plays on perspective with the splash pages. One in particular is particularly nice, displaying twin moons with lense flare in the background, casting a back-lit Lando in agile form.
Taken as a sum of its parts, issue two of Lando: Double or Nothing is a strong entry giving me high hope for the remainder of the mini series. If Barnes can keep up the twists and turns dished out in this issue, we should be in for a fun read, beginning to end.