Princess Leia rounds out the trilogy of Star Wars titles that Marvel launched with early this year. Unlike Darth Vader and Star Wars, this book was designed as a five-issue mini-series that follows a single core storyline. Rather than trying to shoehorn characters into ongoing series, or launching yet another failed anthology, it looks like Marvel is going to fill part of their Star Wars publishing line-up like this book. Following it is Lando, and Chewbacca will start once that book is done. It seems like a solid publishing strategy, so long as they keep the quality high. Like most of the other titles in Marvel’s line Princess Leia takes place shortly after A New Hope. In the timeline of books it takes place just slightly before the events of Star Wars #1, which makes sense since Leia is a major part of that book’s cast. While the other books occur shortly after the end of A New Hope this one actually overlaps slightly with the movie’s ending.
After presenting Han and Luke with their medals, as seen in the movie, Leia gives a short speech in which she asks people to remember the loss of Alderaan, her home. This is the crux on which the rest of the series is based. The loss of Alderaan, and the billions of people who lived on it, was obviously a massive event that was often brushed over in the old continuity. It cropped up from time to time to provide Leia with something diplomatic to do (mostly involving finding new homes for the people who were off-world when it was destroyed, which is the same plot we see here), but given the sheer size of the old continuity library it is surprising how little it seems to come up. Marvel and Disney have decided to make it one of the corner posts of their new continuity, which is certainly an interesting decision — even more so when you consider that they could be spending this same time and money getting people ready for The Force Awakens instead (that will be starting soon). Their decision to stick to the time between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back (for the most part) is fascinating, to say the least.
As for the story itself, this is a pretty solid effort by an extremely talented creative crew. Given that artist Rachael and Terry Dodson are known more for their pin-up, cheesecake style artwork it would seem a bit worrying about the direction the book could take, but fortunately those tendencies are kept in check and we are instead left with their excellent, clean (if cartoony) line work. Pair them up with writer Mark Waid, who is one of the most reliable and consistently entertaining writers in comics today, and you have the recipe for a strong five-issue series. Which, thankfully, is exactly what we get.
The book starts off a bit slow in an attempt to establish our cast, which is primarily made up of Leia herself and fellow-Alderaanian pilot, Evaan Verlaine. In many ways this follows a buddy movie plot where Leia and Evaan start at odds, but come to respect each other as the story goes along. It may not be as pronounced as other stories that follow that path, but it is still undeniably part of the series’ foundation. Each issue adds more characters to the roster, but those two form the core. Along the way they also meet up with the character Nien Nunb, who you may recognize as Lando’s co-pilot at the end of Return of the Jedi. By the end of the series an entire fleet of Alderaanians has been recovered, but we only meet a few key players. One of whom may or may not be a traitor.
There is nothing in this book that is particularly noteworthy over any other, and its contribution to the Star Wars legacy is more in fleshing out the galaxy as a whole than in telling its own story. By the end of the book the survivors of Alderaan have started to come together, which is fairly significant, but its importance relative to the fight against the Empire is minimal. Honestly that is a nice change of pace for stories set in this time period, and it shows a willingness by Disney to tell smaller stories in between the sweeping epics. Not every story needs a Death Star or far reaching galactic impacts. So long as the quality of the story is high, which this one definitely is, then I hope we get more stories like this.
One of the book’s most significant contributions, and hopefully not a short-lived one, is the introduction of Evaan Veraline to the Star Wars stories. She is a pilot from Alderaan who seems to be extremely competent, and she fills different roles than either Padme or Leia did. Those two are born leaders who were meant to inspire others in battle (though they are pretty awesome in combat, too), whereas Evaan is more of a line soldier who is not afraid to speak her mind even as her upbringing makes her defer to Leia almost instinctively. Fortunately she is also a great fighter, so at least she has that in common with Leia. Her piloting skills also manage to impress Wedge and Luke in the first issue, which is a solid endorsement given that they are normally presented as the best pilots in the rebellion. All told she is an interesting character who I hope we see more of. The first test of that will be the upcoming young adult novel called “Moving Target” starring Leia, and apparently also features Nien Nunb.
If I were to level a complaint against Princess Leia it would simply be that there is not much to write about it. The story is well-executed, as you would expect from these talented pros, and each issue entertains individually, as well as part of the whole of the series. It may not cause much of a stir in terms of galactic importance, but it doesn’t need to. Even before the continuity reset there was a fairly large gap in how the loss of Alderaan was treated, and this book sets out to fill a good portion of that gap (and succeeds). The trade is also coming in at a pretty low price point, so there really are few excuses to not pick this up if you are a Star Wars fan.
Princess Leia will ship on November 3rd, 2015 from Amazon, or you can get the individual issues now through Comixology or your local comic shop.