Andy’s Read Pile: Princess Leia
Howdy everyone! It’s your old pal, Andy, back to talk comics in hopes that someone out there will end up reading for themselves something I’ve chit chatted about on this blog and thus this entire endeavor will not be a colossal waste of time.
For December’s set of my weekly read piles, I decided to again throw in a common theme like I did in September with all my “Versus” books and in October with all the Supernatural/Horror Books. Now I know what you are thinking, its the holidays so all my book selections for this month must be about Christmas, right?
Nope. Even I’m not crazy enough to tackle that kind of obscure challenge just yet. Give me a year to do my homework and maybe I’ll do something like that for next season. Ooo…there was that issue of ASM I had as a kid where Petey and MJ get kicked out at Christmas time…no…stay focused, Andrew…
However, other than the holidays, December in recent years has always become synonymous with something else as well: Star Wars! Well, that is until this year when we’ll have no new Star Wars film on our movie screens ruining what was becoming a very nice end of the year treat. I’m still of the opinion that it was one of the major reasons Solo: A Star Wars Story did not as well as it could have at the box office. Poor release timing. If they had just hung on to this film and released it in the next couple of weeks, it would have ran unopposed for those Christmas break dollars plus had the extra benefit of enough time to wash the taste of Last Jedi from some of more vocal fans mouths (Personally I didn’t mind Last Jedi…but that’s for another article).
Star Wars is not something the general viewer can have cramped down their throats every couple of months. It’s an event, and as a result, you need at least a year to rebuild anticipation for an event, just like an annual holiday concert or something. But oh well, things happened the way they did and as a result we’ll probably never seen Solo 2, which is sad since as you can listen to below on our official GotS Solo Movie review episode, I thought that movie had a lot of great things going for it.
In any case, the point of this post is not to talk about Solo. Again you can do that by clicking on the link above. The point of this post is to announce that for my read piles in December, I’m going to be trying to fill that Star Wars hole in my holidays by reviewing some of the more recent Star Wars books Marvel has been putting out over the past couple of years.
And so for the first of these books, I thought I’d start with one that was written by one of my favorite comic writers, a gentlemen I had the great pleasure in meeting in person a couple years back, the great Mark Waid. Together with terrific art by the insanely wonderful Terry Dodson, the two tackled the very necessary job of bringing some much needed additional backstory to the often overlooked member of the original triology’s holy trinity of heroes: Princess Leia.
Sure, we’ve been given so many extended universe tales about Han Solo and Luke Skywalker that you would be hard pressed to swing a dead mynock without hitting one. But Leia, she is rarely given a chance to shine in a story, let alone a story by herself without again either Han or Luke to play off of. So I was pretty pumped to finally sink my teeth into a decent tale about this character that is so insanely important to the Star Wars mythology, but hasn’t really got a chance to flex her muscles with a meaty solo story (no pun intended about her future hubby).
Starting moments after the end of the New Hope, we find a Princess Leia still struggling with the destruction of her entire planet of Alderaan and her role as the last ruler of displaced people. But instead of sulking, Leia faces this new challenge head on with the same take charge attitude that we came to love from her movie appearances. especially when she finds out through a fellow survivor of the planet’s destruction, the feisty rebel pilot, Evann, that the Empire plans on finding and wiping out any survivors of the planet’s destruction thus completing their goal of the genocidal elimination of Leia’s entire people. When she’s forbidden by ranking Rebel Generals to mount a rescue mission to find and unite the isolated pockets of Alderaanians who were living off world at the time of the destruction, she bucks their orders and with the help of Evann, flies off in a race against the Empire to bring the remains of her people under the Rebel Alliance’s protection. Thus over the course of the remaining issues, we get to meet the variety of people that hail from this destroyed planet, their shared culture, and get some pretty great little insights to Leia’s character all with some classic Star Wars action, melodrama, and sweet space battles in the process.
Things I Liked:
Well I couldn’t start this section without talking about the tremendous art by Terry Dodson. Although I might have mentioned on the podcast how pretty I think Terry’s art is overall, especially when given ladies to draw, but here it’s just gorgeous. I read an interview with him in which he said he didn’t want to just draw Carrie Fisher photocopies, but wanted to instead do his own renditions while capturing the “essence of the character. With a unique combination of elegance, beauty, composure under pressure, and just tough as nails grit, he nails Leia so well that you can tell that this master craftsman knew exactly what he was doing. But it’s not just Leia, but all of his characters in this space opera are done so well, that my biggest regret is that we don’t have a regular Star Wars series by Dodson as I would seriously buy the crap out of that.
As for Mark Waid and his story, I did love the fact that he took what could have been a simple Leia tale and instead makes it about what it means to be an Alderaanian. It is a serious discussion of what made up this once proud people who valued art and culture more than anything else. To Leia’s statements in New Hope, these were a peaceful people with no weapons, and the Empire slaughtered them for being particularly effective political dissidents.
Just let that sink in for a second. This wasn’t the destruction of a city, or a country, but an entire planet of people. The eradication of everyone on the planet Earth for example. In a blink of an eye. What would the survivors think? How important would it be to come together in that moment and do everything they could to set aside differences for the common goal of protecting whatever collective memory or history they had. It’s often mentioned that a land doesn’t make up a people, but a people makes up a people and the Alderaanians have the tragic plight of proving that to be true. They have no land to go back to, in the most complete and total way of thinking of that concept as you can.
And under Waid’s watch he does manage to weave Leia’s personal story of her responsibility to her people, with the responsibility her people have to each other. Whether that be in the growing respect and friendship between Leia and Evann or the introduction of all these different factions of Alderaanians and their own personal biases against each other and how those have to be overcome, the series serves as sobering reminder especially in this day and age that everyone has to look for the best in each other. Sure it would be wonderful to have such inspirational leaders like Princess Leia to help bring people together, but at the end of the day, it takes all of us remembering that we are all the same people, and collectively we can accomplish great things.
Things I Didn’t Like:
Although the series dealt with some serious topics as I mentioned above, The actual nuts and bolts of the story was somewhat repetitive at times. I mean it seemed like ever single issue dealt with Leia and Evann getting captured or almost captured by someone, the two gals fighting, tricking, or blasting their escape away from their pursuers, rinse and repeat. I think the only difference is in the actual pursuer as they are some times the Empire, other times Bounty Hunters, or even other Alderaanians. I mean I understand that many of the real Star Wars films had pretty much the same plot what with them being based on old movie serials with the cliffhanger escape motif, but for some reason this series seemed even more blatant with it.
It’s almost like watching an action TV show from the 80s, like the A-team. You know the bad guys are gonna capture Leia and Evann in a warehouse with a bunch of tools and dynamite and let them build some massively elaborate device to defeat them with sweet car flips.
Okay, so maybe that exactly didn’t happen, but you get my drift that a similar almost formulaic capture/escape happens in every issue of this series almost like clockwork. It almost made me sigh and curse the book a bit for the lack of originally.
There are a ton of fun Easter Eggs in this story. The most important being Leia’s trip to Naboo, the birthplace of her mother Padme, although she doesn’t know it yet. There’s a fantastic little scene with a portrait of a young Padme from Phantom Menace who seems to look forlorn at Leia, but only Leia can see it for a brief moment. It’s a very moving exchange in the power of a mother’s love from beyond the grave albeit helped by Leia’s strong but latent force powers. Speaking of family there are a couple nice little nods to her relationship with Luke including some comments about Leia “wishes she had a sibling”.
But of course, my favorite Easter egg is again the fact that Lando’s wing man from ROTJ, Nien Nunb plays such a vital part in the latter part of this series. It’s wonderful to see this character get a little more backstory and helps explain a lot as to why he’s selected to be the co-pilot of the Falcon during that second assault on the Death Star, Plus it’s cool to see the fact that he was a smuggler too.
It reinforces the notion that the Rebel Alliance is made up of a hodge podge of renegades and misfits, and that’s what makes it so awesome. It also makes me wonder that if the moment the universe heard that the uber cool Han Solo had joined up all of the other smugglers said “Hey if Han’s doing it, it must be the thing to do” like when the most popular kid in school joins the student council and suddenly everyone thinks that’s the bees knees.
I feel like this particular series was a long time coming. As I said, the fact that there haven’t been more Princess Leia solo stories is a great disservice to one of the absolutely essential characters of the original trilogy. It almost reinforces this notion that women haven’t been very important to the Star Wars story over the years. I think that’s a topic I might touch on with another article later this week as I think I could write a whole blog on that.
However, if it has been a long time coming, it does deliver pretty well. It’s got solid action, engaging characterization, some deep exploration of what makes up a people and a culture, and of course that gorgeous gorgeous art by Terry Dodson. As I also mentioned though, some of the set pieces tying the story together seemed repetitive and that did distract from some of those bigger concepts Waid wants to relate to the audience.
But overall, this is an extremely solid and necessary entry into the Star Wars collective backstory and one I would recommend to any fans out there. I feel more rounded having read it, and have a deeper appreciation for this character that will “always be royalty” to me.
Andy’s Read Pile Grade: B+