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‘Princess Leia’ Features a Strong Premise, but Weak Execution

Princess Leia - Issue #2 Cover

Princess Leia #1-5 (2015)
Written by Mark Waid
Pencils by Terry Dodson
Inks by Rachel Dodson
Colors by Jordie Bellaire
Published by Marvel Comics

When Marvel unveiled its first batch of Star Wars titles following its reacquisition of the license, the fact that Princess Leia was receiving her own series (albeit a limited one) was met with general applause, while the announcement of Mark Waid and Terry Dodson as the creative team buoyed fans’ hopes while showing that Marvel was committed to putting A-list talent on all the new titles. Unfortunately, in execution, the series doesn’t quite live up to either the lofty expectations surrounding it, the full talent of the creators involved, or its strong initial premise. The end result is an uneven series, peppered with strong individual moments but ultimately unsatisfying as a whole.

The series kicks off well, using as its starting point an opportunity for characterization left unexplored by the film. After all, in A New Hope, we see Leia consoling Luke over the death of Ben Kenobi, a man he’s known for all of a few days, while the massive grief she herself must be feeling at the time over the destruction of her entire planet, including her family, goes unspoken. With the Death Star destroyed and the Rebellion victorious (for now), Waid and Dodson kick off their story by exploring how Leia is dealing with the aftermath of her homeworld being obliterated before her eyes.

The answer, true to her character, is action, as Leia sets out on a (mostly) solo mission to gather up the surviving Alderaanians spread throughout the galaxy before the Empire can get to them (or her). That quest, to gather and protect the remnants of her people, forms the backbone of the series, and to Waid’s credit, he keeps the ensuing adventures mostly episodic, starting and ending in each issue, with the number of Leia’s charges growing with each successful mission. Unfortunately, the nature of comic book storytelling (and the fact that the series is finite) gets the better of him, as by the end, the story gets bogged down in resolving one specific plot thread (Leia’s attempts to help two Alderaanian sisters, one of whom unknowingly betrayed Leia to the other, a captive of the Empire), such that, while that thread comes to a satisfying enough conclusion, the greater arc of Leia uniting her people and dealing with her grief through positive action gets mostly rushed through, simply because the story ran out of issues, with Leia more or less ending up back where she started even though her quest is seemingly not over.

Princess Leia - ShipsTerry Dodson’s art (inked, as usual, by his wife Rachel), while overall effective, does little to elevate the story. The action is easy to follow,but the storytelling straightforward. Known as a cheesecake artist, Dodson was likely chosen by Marvel to inject a bit of comic book, albeit family-friendly, sexiness into its female-led series, but his smooth, rounded lines fit awkwardly into the harsher, angular world of Star Wars (especially in the Original Trilogy era; the second issue of the series, for example, takes place on Naboo, a planet whose design aesthetic in Episode I more naturally fits Dodson’s style). His ship designs in particular are needlessly complicated and clunky, and look out of place not only amongst the ships of the films, but also the newly-designed ships on display in concurrent Star Wars series.

The bright spot of the series, and the reason for reading it, is the new character of Evaan, a female Rebel pilot who also happens to be Alderaanian. Introduced as someone deeply committed to the ideals of Alderaan but frustrated by both Leia’s cool, seemingly-emotionless demeanor and her handling of affairs in the wake of the planet’s destruction, Evann becomes Leia’s reluctant bodyguard during her mission, gradually warming to the princess and her methods during the course of the story. While Leia doesn’t experience much of an arc in the course of the series, Evaan does, and she comes out the end a different character than when she started.

The other commendable element of this series is the fact that its remains, from start to finish, Leia and Evaan’s story. Luke and Han, the two men with whom Leia shares honors as the central figures of the Original Trilogy, are nowhere to be found after obligatory appearances in the first issue. No time is spent here developing or advancing the Han/Leia romance, and the only time Leia gets rescued, it’s by Evaan (and the rescue occurs in service of a larger plan devised by Leia herself). This is a female-led series in which the main characters are active participants in the story from start to finish, more than capable of taking care of themselves, and never once concerned with carrying on conversations about their relationships with men. That, in and of itself, is commendable.

Unfortunately, that’s a much more macro-level element of the series, something that works when looking at the series as a whole but doesn’t make the nuts and bolts of the issue-by-issue story stand out, and it’s those nuts and bolts that let the series down, both the way the larger arc fizzles into a quiet resolution of one plot thread, and the workmanlike but ill-fitting and uninspiring artwork. In Evaan, the series has a breakout character, one who hopefully will pop up again in the Star Wars Universe, and does experience something of an arc over the course of the story. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for its title character, who deserves better.

Other Notes (including spoilers)
The series is mostly devoid of guest-stars from around the Star Wars universe, though Nien Nunb, the Sullustan future co-pilot of the Millennium Falcon alongside Lando in Return of the Jedi, does pop up as an old smuggling friend of Evaan’s.

Admiral Ackbar is on hand in issue #1 as well, as a member of the Rebellion’s high command, which overwrites a bit of continuity from the old Expanded Universe, which had Ackbar joining the Rebellion later in the timeline.

Issue #2 takes place on Naboo, and though Leia of course is unaware that her birth mother is from that planet, it represents one of the few instances, in both the current continuity and in what is now the Legends continuity, that Leia is seen engaging, even indirectly, with her mother’s heritage.

At one point, there were rumors swirling that Evaan may appear (if not be the outright star of) Rogue One, the first Star Wars standalone film. It’s possible those rumors have since been thoroughly debunked, but hopefully that won’t stop the character from popping up again somewhere else.


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