But who shot first?
“Star Wars: Last Shot,” by Daniel José Older, focuses on Han Solo and Lando Calrissian in three distinct eras. The bulk of the novel takes place several years after “Return of the Jedi” as the rebel heroes’ efforts to build their lives after the fall of the Empire are interrupted by a threat each encountered in the past.
The nature of that threat is slowly revealed via flashback sections, which show us the exploits of Lando and droid ally L3-37 in the time before the upcoming “Solo: A Star Wars Story” and a separate escapade involving Han, Chewbacca and Sana Starros (a character introduced in recent Marvel comics).
Both groups run into villainous droid master Fyzen Gor — whose origins are revealed in yet another series of flashbacks — and his mysterious superweapon. Gor proves suitably intriguing and menacing, but takes far too long to enter the picture in a meaningful way.
Hello, what have we here? “Star Wars: Last Shot” allows fans to mix things up with a reversible cover featuring either Lando Calrissian or Han Solo.
The scope of the flashbacks might sound confusing, but they are presented in a clear enough manner that readers will easily be able to keep track of where they are in a given chapter. They also dovetail nicely into the post-“Return of the Jedi” plotline in the novel’s closing chapters.
However, this jumping around creates another problem — it frequently robs the main narrative of any sense of pace and it often seems like the characters are stumbling between each situation in an arbitrary manner.
Additionally, there are a few moments when sudden, mysterious incidents occur and the explanation comes later, but it can seem a little too late because a flashback is placed in between. This issue crops up several times, dragging the reader’s mind back to a situation that has resolved itself and slowing the pace even further.
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Despite these structural problems, Older — who contributed the excellent “Born in the Storm” to 2017’s “From a Certain Point of View” anthology — employs a quirky writing style that captures Han and Lando wonderfully. We haven’t seen enough of the galaxy’s smoothest gambler since the 2014 Legends reboot, but he really steals the show here.
Beyond this familiar pair, we are introduced to Twi’lek strategist Kaasha Bateen, pilot Taka Jamoreesa, Ewok hacker Peepka and Ugnaught mechanic Florx Biggles. With the exception of Florx, all of these are well developed and used cleverly.
The novel also handles two very different relationships excellently — Lando’s uncertain romance with Kaasha and Han’s wrestling with his role as a husband and father. The latter offers us some tantalizing glimpses of Ben Solo as a toddler.
The exclusive L3-37/Chewbacca cover will be available at Phoenix and Denver Comic Cons.
It’s hard to know how much reading this novel will add to the experience of seeing “Solo: A Star Wars Story” and the pacing problems make it slightly less smooth than it could be, but Lando fans will certainly be pleased to see him back in action.
“Star Wars: Last Shot,” written by Daniel José Older and published by Penguin Random House, is available Tuesday. “Solo: A Star Wars Story” hits theaters May 25.