By Steve Morris

Spoilers below, of course: we’re talking about the last issue of the run!

Marvel have tried a lot of different things since reacquiring the Star Wars license as part of Disney’s continuing imperial conquest through the IP galaxy. They’ve put big-name writers and artists (who can do near-enough likenesses to get approval) on both adaptations and new stories alike, retelling aspects of the mega-franchise in issue-to-issue form. The problem with a license like Star Wars, though, is that there’s only so much you can really do, because readers need to have a balance between enjoyment and importance. When we’ve already seen the big stories told by movies and now a series of decreasingly-entertaining TV shows, what reason is there to buy comics? There’s nothing new to mine, surely?

They’ve worked on the idea of telling stories which go bigger than the movies can – Jason Aaron and John Cassaday kicked things off by having Han Solo take control of an AT-AT, for example, followed by a scene where every character got given a lightsaber to fight with all at once. They’ve also worked on the nostalgia drive: you’ll never persuade Harrison Ford he wants to go back to the franchise, and several key original actors from the films have sadly passed, meaning comics are one of the few media which can replicate the likeness and personality of those performers in the modern age without getting really weird. As a result, we’ve seen several comics using characters who otherwise are essentially retired from long-form stories, which is a way to mine nostalgia without seeming quite as corporate as all those CGI recreations of deceased/unwilling actors have been. 

Most notably, they’ve also tried using the comics to fill in apparent gaps between the films, finding side stories and characters which they could use as the engine for a new story. This has ranged in quality from “here’s what happened to Poe Dameron’s parents, you’ll of course remember he mentioned them in one of the films right” through to the infamous “why has C-3PO got a red arm in this movie but then it wasn’t red in the next one?” It’s probably the best way to make the stories feel like they matter, or are worthwhile for long-term Star Wars fans who aren’t too interested in reading comics otherwise. Find something which hasn’t been covered yet and cover it somehow.

It’s an approach which formed the majority of Doctor Who fandom for decades, especially during the period where they weren’t especially making any Doctor Who. They’ve made “canonical” Doctor Who stories set between time jumps for a very long time, in audio dramas, comics, novels and more. It provides an escapade hatch (copyright: Colin Bell) for the characters to be used without damaging the precious golden Continuity, all praise its name, etc. But at the same time, you really need to make sure that when you’re operating in those dark periods between existing stories that you can make something actually good. 

Marvel’s Star Wars has sometimes struggled to balance between “fits into the timeline” and “is interesting to read”, and that’s probably best demonstrated with Lando by Charles Soule, Alex Maleev, Paul Mounts and Joe Caramagna. This miniseries was set before The Empire Strikes Back, and follows Lando Calrissian as he tries to pay off some debts and raise a big score so he can… I dunno, go on to own his own floating sky city at some point. Bespin doesn’t actually show up in the miniseries, surprisingly, as it turns out that the truly “important” part of the miniseries doesn’t actually pivot on Lando at all. Instead, it follows a glorified extra from the 1980 film, who is probably revered on Wookiepedia but forgotten about by most right-thinking people.

That’s right: Marvel published five issues dedicated to making you feel sad about Lobot. 

Who is Lobot? He’s that dude who stands around mutely and listens to Billy Dee Williams throughout The Empire Strikes Back whilst wearing a cumbersome computer-thingy round the top of his head. He isn’t named in the film, although towards the end of production the crew decided that the character should come across as having been lobotomised by that computer jammed into his head. “Lobot”-omised, you see? As with most Star Wars things, he’s taken on a second life following the films, with all kinds of semi-canon or suggested things about who Lobot is or what he’s up to. But when he shows up for the first time in the Lando miniseries, there’s one thing that’s really noticeable: he can talk.

Immediately we know what’s up here, and what the hook of the series is. Sure there’s a lot of fun in seeing Lando be Lando: he’s a hugely enjoyable character with a very strong voice (which was largely provided by the actor rather than script). But really, in terms of lasting change, Lando’s story is going to be told in The Empire Strikes Back, which chronologically is next in his timeline after this miniseries. Lobot, instead, is the one we’re watching here. It’s a bit like the recurring joke in Hot Tub Time Machine where the characters know Crispin Glover’s arm was cut off by something tragic, and when they go back into the past he keeps getting into situations which might cut his arm off. Which one will actually be the accident to cause the amputation? Similarly, when is Lobot going to lose control of himself to the computer on his head? It’s a morbid entertainment.

Fittingly for our column about final issues, it’s the final issue where it happens. Cornered on a spaceship, an injured Lobot plugs himself into the mainframe in order to help Lando escape all the people who want him dead. In the process the computer overwhelms him, and he doesn’t speak again. That’s it, that’s the end of Lobot. It’s exactly what we were expecting to happen… and yet the thing is, it happens with two pages left to spare. 

Clearly Lobot’s sacrifice was set up from the start as the major plot point for the miniseries, and something which could move the scoundrel version of Lando into the antihero he becomes in the first film, but turning to hero in the longer-term. But along the way the creative team got lost in all the excitement of doing some Star Wars. They introduce a lot of new characters all at once, some of whom are space panthers with lightsabres, and as a result run out of time when it comes to telling their final part of the story. It’s a bit of a surprise to see this from Soule, who usually has that lawyerly sense of structure which makes his comics feel well-rounded and complete. Sure, the final moments with Lobot just about work in making readers feel sad that the inevitable has happened, and the last two pages after the character have essentially died are smart in the way they line up Lando for what’s coming next.

But it is rushed.


Several characters are killed off or taken out of the series in the issue, and they don’t get a grace period for readers to reflect on it. Similarly, at the end of the issue Lobot’s apparent love interest (who is designed to look almost exactly like X-O Manowar, Alex Maleev I see you) makes an incredibly hasty exit. Soule only gets a panel or two to try and convey the loss of Lobot from everyone’s life, and as a result it takes away from the major beat he wants to use to bring tragedy into the story. He just about manages to make Lobot’s sacrifice feel meaningful, and to impart a moral on Lando, but it really feels like this could’ve done with a few less pages of lightsaber battles and a few more pages focusing on the actual heart of the story. 

Then again: who cares anyway? The Wookiepedia entry won’t have any subjective interest in how good the ending of Lobot’s story was. It’s just another tick on the “unanswered questions” list that Star Wars fans have had in their hands for forty years. But the other half of comics readers will care, and it’s a shame that such a neat hook for Lando Calrissian’s story was lost in the chaos of everything else. 


Star Wars: Lando #5
Writer: Charles Soule
Penciller: Alex Maleev
Colourist: Paul Mounts
Letterer: Joe Caramagna


Steve Morris runs this site! Having previously written for sites including The Beat, ComicsAlliance, CBR and The MNT, he can be found on Twitter here. He’s a bunny.


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