Not sure where to go to find Princess Leia materials after reading Bloodline? (And if you haven’t read Bloodline yet, what is wrong with you? It’s amazing. Go read it.) Ahem. If, like me, you’re a huge Princess Leia fan, the lack of materials focused on her can be frustrating. One book is hardly enough. Well, I’m about to double your Princess Leia archive because Marvel has a Princess Leia comic!
Why Pick This Up?
Princess Leia, of course. Released from March to July of 2015 and collected in trade paperback in November of that same year, Star Wars: Princess Leia is a five issue miniseries focused on everyone’s favorite Dutiful Princess. Taking place after the events of A New Hope (ANH), the series follows Leia’s attempts to rescue Alderaanian survivors after the planet’s destruction by Darth Vader and the Death Star. There’s plenty of action laced with poignant emotional beats and colorful art. Plus, Leia’s right hand woman in the enterprise is the oh-so-shippable Rebel pilot Evaan Verlaine.
What I Loved
I could summarize what I love most in one sentence: this feels like the Princess Leia I love, the “real” Princess Leia (at least to me). The snark is there. She’s having none of General Dodonna’s protective paternalism and the social expectation to cry. She interweaves the personal and political and can give an inspiring speech about hope just like her mother.
Basically, Leia is the most dutiful of princesses. Right off the bat she’s manipulating her public image and sublimating her feelings in favor of doing her duty. This all takes place immediately after the medal ceremony in ANH, mind you. The trauma is still fresh, but the Rebellion is on the run after the destruction of the Death Star. She’s got shit to do. This entire comic is basically one long “Leia does her duty to avoid her feelings” arc. It’s prime Dutiful Princess Leia. She puts the Rebellion’s need to scatter and regroup to avoid detection above everyone’s desire to see her publicly mourn. Just look at how she describes her mission:
“I am attending only to my sacred duty, as the last member of the House of Organa, to find, gather, and protect every last surviving son and daughter of Alderaan.” (emphasis original)
Sounds exactly like Leia in Empire Strikes Back (ESB) and Bloodline, right? Side note, I just have to say that I love how in Bloodline, we see that this is an embedded character flaw for Leia. Even in her forties she sublimates her feelings in favor of duty and diving into the action. We see it here, too. Whenever she starts to shame spiral because of her internalized guilt (see below), she follows up with a plan of action. Which leads nicely into my next point.
Leia is an action hero who earns her position as a leader. She doesn’t like sitting idle when she could be useful. In fact, the comic calls out her more formal role in the films; the fact that she’s being deferred to without duties to back it up chafes her. Like Leia in Bloodline she wants to do something. In fact, her arc feels very much like an attempt to explain her position as a commander in ESB (too bad it doesn’t explain Return of the Jedi). Her informal outfit even looks like her ESB gear.
She acts in accordance with her ESB titles, proving that she earned them. We get to see her being strategic and tactical, though she loses a couple points for not realizing messages were being sent to an Imperial vessel. She’s backing up her projection of authority with command and combat experience. She leads the mission, she makes the decisions, and she eventually earns Evaan Verlaine’s respect because of it. Evaan begins the comic respecting Leia’s position, but not her person because she perceives Leia as cold and emotionless. By the end of it, she acknowledges Leia’s achievements and doesn’t want to lose her leadership. In short, Leia evolves from Princess to leader in the Rebellion.
Speaking of Evaan, Leia finally has a femslash ship. I suppose some people have done Leia x Mon Mothma, but that’s not even crumbs, that’s nigh-invisible shipping dust. Evaan x Leia feels like actual subtext, and they had me shipping it immediately. When her introduction is Luke telling Leia he wishes she had someone to confide in followed by a cut to Evaan standing alone in a courtyard, what can you expect? A few pages later we are treated to this gem:
Evaan actually looks a lot like Luke, both her physical appearance and her clothing choices, so it’s a ship that has everything ANH Luke offers, only with less incest and more femslash. Evaan’s equal parts loyal to Leia as a royal and not entirely certain of her in the beginning. This means we get awesome scenes of her defending Leia to outsiders, but bickering with her in the ship. It rings of “no one gets to sass her but me”, and I love it. The reluctant partner to friends thing doesn’t help me not ship this either. Evaan even cries when they have to part ways in the penultimate scene. Like, what’s not to love about this ship? I have headcanons about it already.
Weirdly enough, Evaan and Leia’s interactions reinforce the Han x Leia dynamic of ESB. We see that Leia is used to being on the move instead of settling down. She’s focused more on action than emotional attachments, especially if said emotional attachments might interfere with her work or other people’s perception of her authority. More than that, we see that Bail has instilled in Leia a sense of duty to others.
Young Leia Organa: “Other people get to do what they love! Doesn’t a princess get to think of herself?”
Bail Organa: “Sometimes. Of others? Always.”
This explains so much about her and Han. And no, Han doesn’t count as “others” in this context. For Leia, “others” means the people looking to her for guidance and leadership. You can see how she might perceive Han as an indulgence during a time of war, a way for her to get the “sometimes” Bail mentions. But he’s also kind of a distraction to the work she’s doing with the Rebellion, i.e., her duty. With her personality and the message that she must always think of others (and herself only sometimes), her commitment phobia makes sense. Well, that and her still mostly unaddressed trauma.
To it’s credit, Star Wars: Princess Leia actually acknowledges that she has trauma. It’s a low bar, I know. Within the first few pages it points out the unevenness in her giving Luke space to mourn while she was experiencing her own trauma (props for that). Luke flat out tells her that he wishes she had someone who could be there for her the way she was for him (and then cuts to Evaan…oh, my shipper heart). Would it be nice to have even more exploration of her trauma? Absolutely.
Then again, Leia is the kind of person who distracts herself into avoidance of pain and justifying it as her duty and the greater good of her people. That’s the Leia we get here. And she does acknowledge her pain at some level in the form of her internalized guilt. She blames herself for the destruction of Alderaan. If she hadn’t joined the Rebellion, maybe they would all be alive (not sure how this fits with Rogue One, but that’s a different story). She failed her father, her people, Tula, Sullest. Basically, if anything goes wrong on the mission, she internalizes it as her fault. Because that’s what Dutiful Princesses do.
So there are pieces of her coping with her trauma in the form of guilt and avoidance. Her trauma is fresh as well (weeks if not days after the destruction of Alderaan), so I can forgive the lack of depth. I like to think Leia was in survival mode and didn’t have a chance to really cope with her grief and loss until after Return of the Jedi (ROTJ). And we have Bloodline to make up for all three of the films’ failure to address her trauma.
Other highlights include: racial diversity, amazing secondary lady characters with distinct personalities and varying levels of authority, a mixed race prejudice subplot that was handled well, an artistic headnod to A New Hope, child Leia flashbacks, and Leia getting really excited about firearms. They also snuck in a ‘moment’ between Leia and Luke near the beginning that resonates later when Leia confesses her desire to have a sibling. It’s nice to have a few tidbits like that to show that the sense of connection between the twins started before ROTJ.
I also really appreciate the acknowledgment of Padme Amidala when Leia was on Naboo. For all that she’s Anakin’s wife and the mother of the Skywalker twins, Padme doesn’t get enough recognition in the Star Wars universe. Leia not knowing the (Force?) vision was of her mother only heightened the emotion. Last but not least, the final page has lovely OT3 (Luke x Leia x Han) feels that I appreciate (please, no ship hate; it makes me tired) and an image of Evaan Verlaine that makes me want to fic.
Ack! Leia’s necklace. Too much spoilers for me to go into detail, but Leia’s necklace from the opening scene (which is the closing scene from A New Hope) makes an appearance again in issue 4, and it’s poignant. Basically everything about this comic is poignant because of what Leia is trying to do: save the last remnants of her people and culture from utter annihilation.
Full confession, the art is not entirely my favorite. I love the use of color, and the cover art images placed between issues in the collected volume are stunning. But, the art overall can be inconsistent and sometimes downright wonky. Character’s features aren’t always rendered consistently from foreground to background: someone’s nose is a bit wider here, their face might be shaped differently there. Leia’s face suffers most of all, which is unfortunate for the titular character. Sometimes, Carrie Fisher leaps off the page, others, I don’t know who the person is I’m looking at but it ain’t Leia. I understand that she need not look exactly like the actor who played Leia, but at least she ought to be drawn consistently. And she’s not.
Interpreting the action in some of the fight scenes, especially hand to hand combat, can be difficult. They’re also a bit too campy for my taste. I prefer visual over verbal action, or at the very least minimal sound effects. A giant red “Koonnk”, “Krak”, or “Kradash” (why is it always ‘k’???) feels more like 60s era Batman than 2015 Star Wars. It’s just too cheesy for me, and very distracting. And do we really need six or seven “peeyow”s in a panel already featuring blaster bolts all over it? The climactic battle scene is the worst offender. Perhaps some people would enjoy the plethora of written sound effects more than I would, but I found them more than a little hokey.
I also have to mention the use of ableist language in one scene. Issue three features one of the Alderaanian diaspora groups being called “insane” and their compound a “sanitarium”. I didn’t mind the mention of insanity as much, since Leia points out that it’s probably a misinterpretation of the group expressing grief. She also mentions that she and Evaan would be susceptible to as well since they also lost their world. Having Leia then turn around and call the colony a sanitarium did bother me, though. It wasn’t necessary, added little, and felt out of character. Thankfully, this is a single, unfortunate slip up rather than a pervasive problem.
None of these are enough to deter me from the comic, or from recommending it, however. Put them down as minor annoyances in an otherwise really well done character exploration of Leia. Would I prefer they weren’t there? Sure. But none of them are enough to make me put it down and walk away, not even taken altogether.
Is It Worth Reading?
Yes!! But I’m still going to break this one down because my answer isn’t as straightforward as it has been for other comics.
10/10 for characterization and storyline. 7/10 for art.
- SO much Dutiful Princess Leia (why must she be everything)
- Evaan Verlaine, a.k.a. finally a viable femslash ship for Leia
- Interesting female secondary characters
- Diverse Alderaanian characters
Eh, I Could Do Without It
- Inconsistent art, especially Leia’s face
- Campy action scenes
- Brief ableist language
Images Courtesy of Marvel
Star Wars: Princess Leia Credits
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Terry Dodson
Inker: Rachel Dodson
Colorist: Joe Caramagna
Letterer: Jordie Bellaire