Lando by Charles Soule and Alex Maleev – A Book Review

This is the Lando book you never knew you wanted.  Trust me.  I like Lando.  You like Lando.  Everyone likes Lando.  The only problem is, most of us don’t have much exposure to Lando beyond the two Star Wars movies he’s in.  Well, this book changes all of that.  This graphic novel features our favorite space pirate doing what he does best: stealing, charming, plotting, and fighting.

In all seriousness, Lando proved a breath of fresh air as it breaks from many of the Star Wars graphic novels and books in that it does not feature a main character saving a world, a village, or a child.  I love those other books, but they seem fairly formulaic in that regard.  This is a heist book, through and through.  Who’s Lando trying to loot?  None other than the Emperor himself, though Lando doesn’t know that.

Taking place well before The Empire Stirkes Back and at only five collected issues, the author, Charles Soule, manages to deliver a lot of story, back story, and characterization in only a brief amount of time.  Remember Lobot?  He’s in Lando, and I’m positive his character will surprise you.  We’ve also got an Ugnaught — you know, the little pig creatures.  Furthermore, there are Royal Guards, a new bounty hunter, two new assassins, and an Imperial governor who makes a short, yet potent, appearance.  Oh, there are also a few Sith relics that will prove quite interesting to you.

Lando really is a page-turner.  It’s fun.  It’s got an interesting plot that doesn’t take itself too seriously yet has actual ramifications.  Lando is a swindler, no doubt, but this book also shows us he has a heart of gold.  It cuts to the absolute core of his being.  It’s easy to believe that the Lando in this book will one day become a general in the Rebellion and beloved hero.

I’d also like to mention Alex Maleev, the artist.  Maleev won me over long ago with his seminal work on Daredevil.  I wondered how the understated artist would transition from the streets of Hell’s Kitchen to the world of space fantasy.  Not to worry, Maleev is top-notch and he can pretty much draw anything and make it look great.  Make no mistake, the art in this book is distinctly Maleev — his style is unmistakable.  Yet, even with his realistic depictions and moody tone, this absolutely looks like Star Wars.

Lando is due for a major resurgence with Donald Glover playing the famous character in the new Han Solo movie, and if Glover interprets him anything like the Lando in this book, I know he will reclaim his previous glory.

Like I said,  this is the book you didn’t know you wanted.  If you love Star Wars, you will love Lando.

(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

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New Super-Man #1 – A (Comic) Book Review

I won’t even pretend to be objective during this review.  I am a Gene Luen Yang fan.  I first discovered him when I started teaching American Born Chinese, and he just keeps winning me over.  After all, the guy is the official National Ambassador For Young People’s Literature!

So, it’s probably obvious I’m going to sing New Super-Man praises.

Yang is no stranger to Superman, having written the character before, but New Super-Man is a world away from everyone’s beloved Clark Kent.  New Super-Man is Kong Kenan, a young man in China who is not particularly nice, humble, altruistic, or, well, heroic.  He’s a bit of a bully, doesn’t get along with his dad all that well, and has attitude to spare.

So how does he become New Super-Man?  You’ll have to read the book to find out, but, as one would expect, Yang lays the groundwork for a very rich, complex character that I’m sure will become even more layered as time progresses.  After all, Yang excels at depicting relatable characters overcoming internal turmoil.  There are some fun bits of action, moments of quirky Yang humor, and the last page will force a double-take.

I love the entire premise of what Yang is doing with New Super-Man — I’m frankly surprised DC went for this idea.  It’s funny, but even though this book literally uses the name of the most famous super hero in the world, it is by far the most original comic I’ve read in ages.  Sure, Yang borrows from Superman mythology, but he does so with a wink and a nudge.  Anyone who believes this book is a ripoff is not paying close enough attention.

Packed full of characterization, action, humor, and heart, Yang’s New Super-Man is off to an exhilarating start.

… That last page.  This is going to be interesting.

 

 

Justice Society of America: Thy Kingdom Come (Part I) – A Graphic Novel Review

I’ve always enjoyed JSA, mostly because Geoff Johns has made a point to keep one foot in the past with the title while keeping the other foot firmly planted in the future.

With the Justice Society of America re-launch, the team has a new mission statement of making sure the world has better heroes, and so they are first tracking down legacy heroes and training them to deserve the mantle they’ve assumed.

Thy Kingdom Come is particularly fascinating because it reintroduces Superman from Mark Waid and Alex Ross’ Kingdom Come series.  In expert juxtaposition, Johns makes a point that while the Earth-2 Superman thought Earth-1’s heroes weren’t heroic enough, the Kingdom Come Superman finds Earth-1’s (New Earth’s) heroes inspiring and invigorating.  Any writer will tell you that good writing means making use of unusual perspectives, and Johns does just this with KC Superman.

Furthermore, I love the KC Superman because he has an edge to him.  He’s damaged goods.  After all, he watched his world’s heroes demean and destroy themselves and did nothing until the (relatively) very end.  He wants a fresh start as well, a chance at redemption, and that makes him very compelling.

But among such heavy themes and dangerous adventures, Johns also brings about quite a bit of joyfulness.  Boxing matches between Wildcat and his son, fundraising at the local firehouse, and ski trips are just part of what makes this team such a delight to follow. 

Johns also mixes established, semi-established, and brand new characters in this book and gives each a chance to shine in an appealing and engaging manner.  To have characters over half-a-century old such as Flash and Green Lantern interacting with brand new legacy characters such as Wildcat II, Cyclone, and Citizen Steel brings an unpredictability that is missing in several other DC titles.  Throw in semi-established characters using familiar names like Hourman, Liberty Belle, and Starman, and you’ve got something exciting, amusing, and captivating.

For me, Justice Society of America continues to be a must-read and I really look forward to where the title is heading with its heavy referencing to Kingdom Come and multiple-subplots.

Justice Society of America, Vol. 1: The Next Age – A Graphic Novel Review

Geoff Johns gets it. He just does.

There’s really nothing else to say, but since this would be a weak review without more exposition, I’ll keep going.

In my mind, there’s no truer paradigm of the mainstream superhero than Johns’. If you want proof, read his entire run of The Flash; or, read his work on JSA; OR, simply read his JSA reboot, Justice Society of America: The Next Age.

The Next Age picks up right where JSA left off. Most of the fan favorites are still around, as well as some inspired choices for new teammates. Furthermore, Johns has found a new mission statement for the Justice Society of America, one that is trying to teach the new generation of heroes how to be just that.

Johns understands the superhero team dynamic. He understands the archetypes necessary for such a team to be charismatic. Johns realizes how to make us care about his characters, how to present edgy–but not gratuitous–stories, and, best of all, Johns comprehends how to manipulate pace, deliver great dialogue, and present captivating foreshadowing.

In The Next Age, the Justice Society of America round up some young heroes who may need some positive role models and training, deal with a mysterious entity killing off the bloodlines of other heroes, and are introduced to an element that forces Wildcat to get out of the ring and into the human race. Since monthly comic books are by nature serialized, it also sets up oodles of possibilities for the months to come.

Consequently, let’s not forget about artist Dale Eaglesham. I love comic books equally not just for their stories, but also for their art. It’s a visual medium, and Eaglesham renders heroic looking, but not hyperbolic, figures. He chooses gripping angles within his panels, and, like Johns, he seems to have an innate sense of what makes a superhero comic both tense and fun. The hardcover edition of The Next Age even offers some breathtaking pencil sketches from Eaglesham during the design process.

We can debate all day as to whether or not Johns is the best writer in the comic book industry, but as far as pure super heroics and team dynamic go, there is no one better, and Justice Society of America: The Next Age is proof positive of that.