Written by: Mark Waid
Art by: Terry & Rachel Dodson
Chronology Placement: Set immediately after “A New Hope”
This graphic novel collects the following stories:
- Star Wars: Princess Leia (2015) # 1 – 5
Taking place immediately after the medal ceremony at the end of “A New Hope”, Star Wars: Princess Leia addresses unanswered questions about the survivors of Alderaan – those lucky enough to be off-world when the Death Star struck – and deals with Princess Leia’s survivor’s guilt in a way that the films never did. Mark Waid’s script focuses on the direct aftermath of “A New Hope”, providing some detail on how Leia transitions from Senator and Princess into the freedom-fighting general we see in “The Empire Strikes Back”. Brief flashbacks highlight the duality of Alderaan’s adopted Princess as she displays tomboyish attitude despite Bail Organa’s attempts to mould her into a public role model for his people – ultimately, these two diverse personalities converge to create the Princess Leia that we know and love from the films. She is portrayed as fierce, yet regal – something that Terry Dodson’s artwork brings to life perfectly – giving the character her femininity without making her into a cheesecake model.
Moving away from the recognisable male protagonists of the Star Wars franchise, Waid pairs Leia up with a fellow female Alderaanian by the name of Evaan Verlaine, a blonde-haired blue-eyed opposite to Leia in both looks and attitude. The pair clash frequently throughout the five-issue miniseries, building up a complex and intriguing relationship as they attempt to rescue fellow displaced survivors of their home planet. Extinguished in a single scene without any real context, Alderaan is the literal definition of cannon fodder in the Star Wars universe, but through this storyline Mark Waid manages to better convey the sense of loss felt by Leia and other inhabitants of Alderaan. Shown through flashback, the planet is cultured and artistic – a holier-than-thou sacrifice to demonstrate the deadly capacity of the Empire’s latest weapon. After reading this graphic novel, I have new appreciation for that line uttered by Obi-Wan, “millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced”.
The first stop on Leia’s quest to protect the remaining Alderaanian survivors is the planet of Naboo, which unbeknownst to her is also the birthplace of her biological mother. There’s a lovely moment where Leia experiences a ghostly apparition of the late Queen Amidala, which made me yearn for a miniseries set in the aftermath of “The Return of the Jedi” where Leia discovers more about her birth parents, especially her mother. Perhaps that story already exists out there in the many EU materials – both Legends and Disney Canon. I really liked how Waid characterised the different groups of Alderaanians encountered throughout the miniseries, highlighting bigotry through the Preserver character when she is repulsed by the idea of Alderaanians breeding with indigenous aliens. This is an interesting plot development, and unfortunately one that isn’t given appropriate breathing space. The Preserver was an interesting addition to the cast, yet it felt like she didn’t truly reach her potential and her Machiavellian storyline was brushed aside in favour of a more action-led conclusion.
I have been a fan of Terry Dodson’s comic work for the past decade or so, especially his work on Marvel Knights: Spider-Man, Uncanny X-Men and Harley Quinn. He has a distinctive style that suits female-led stories and there is a light-hearted tone to his work – brought to life through his wife Rachel Dodson’s excellent inking – that really suits this adventure. The scene mentioned above where Queen Amidala looks down upon her daughter gave me goosebumps, and that was due to Dodson’s fabulous attention to detail and the way he captured Natalie Portman’s likeness in those panels. In terms of Leia, while she may not be an identical visualisation of Carrie Fisher, she definitely embodies the persona of the Princess with the recognisable cinnamon-bun hair rolls and the white hooded garments. The opening sequence of the comic, which borrows heavily from the final scene of “A New Hope” feels like a worthy replication of the film and captures the essence of the main actors and the mise-en-scene. Dodson maintains that sense of authenticity throughout the miniseries from the planet Naboo to the mines of Sullust – he even gets to draw scenes with Nien Nunb, introducing the Sullustan arms dealer to Princess Leia and the Rebellion. Again, these scenes add context between the movies – giving readers a glimpse into how some of the recognisable supporting characters become involved in later films.
There is a noticeably episodic feel to the story, which isn’t surprising considering that it was originally a miniseries, but each chapter seems to be clearly segmented as opposed to a free-flowing adventure. While this doesn’t matter so much when released across five monthly issues, it does distract slightly when the story is read as a whole. That said, it does provide the series with a sense of scale and structure with each sequence contributing to a wider narrative. Actually, in retrospective it feels a bit like a side-quest in a computer game at times due to this checkpointed template, and is similar to how the “Han Solo” miniseries was written. Regardless of its structure, Waid manages to capture that intangible Star Wars feeling in his script and adds plenty of easter eggs and references to the trilogies to please fans.
This miniseries is a fantastic character examination of Princess Leia, giving us glimpses of her childhood and the weight of responsibility she feels on her shoulders as both a member of the Rebel Alliance and as a member of the Alderaan Royal Family. The series addresses her coldness and reluctance to grieve her losses, which dovetails nicely into the way that Carrie Fisher played the character, even in the sequels where she resists her emotional attachment to Han Solo. It is a tragedy that we’ll never get to see Fisher finish the character’s journey, although rumours are that there is enough unused footage from “The Force Awakens” to ensure her presence is felt within Episode IX.
“Princess Leia” acts as a worthy tribute to the late Carrie Fisher, showcasing the fearless Princess kicking ass across the Galaxy without needing a man to save her. Beautifully written and illustrated, it works perfectly as an epilogue to the “A New Hope” storyline, providing a sense of closure for the Princess after the destruction of her home planet.