The third title in Marvel’s relaunched Star Wars line debuted this week with Mark Waid’s Princess Leia #1. This issue is the first in a five-part mini-series. The book is written by veteran comic scribe Mark Waid with pencils by Terry Dodson, inks by Rachel Dodson, colors by Jordie Bellaire, and letters by Joe Caramagna.
Opening during the medal ceremony seen at the end of A New Hope, Waid spends the issue exploring Leia’s reaction to the aftermath of the destruction of her home world, the common rebels perception of her and the relationship that Leia establishes with fellow rebel and Alderaanian survivor, Evaan.
The book doesn’t features epic space battles, strange aliens or even any villains. This is a book all about Leia trying to find something, anything to do to prevent herself from stopping and processing what has just happened to her planet and her family. Leia shuts down emotionally, dialing her regal bearings to eleven. Waid uses the conversations of the award ceremony crowd, the perceptions of Luke, and the paying of respects by Evaan to Bail and Breha to illustrate how closed off Leia is emotionally.
We are introduced to a limited supporting cast in this book, most prominently General Dodonna and Admiral Ackbar. Interestingly Ackbar provides effective comic relief in the book, but I am not sure this caricature of Ackbar serves the character well going forward.
There are some odd bits of conversation in this book, particularly a throw away line about Mon mothma being “at sea” in other words lost without her official title as Senator. I am not sure what Waid is entirely driving at with all the talk of roles and titles in the book. We don’t really have a clear picture of the Alliance leadership structure at this point and perhaps that is the point, presuming Bail was undisputed leader of the Alliance before his death, what we may be seeing is a leadership vacuum with no clear succession plan.
I consider myself a pretty savvy reader, but it took me multiple readings I think to get to what Waid was seeking to accomplish with this book. On the first reading the dialogue, particularly the class based friction threw me off. If I have to work as hard as I did to enjoy the story of a comic as I did with the beginning of this book, I think it is a less than successful issue.
While I am talking about what threw me off with this book, I have to get to the art. Tastes in comic art is highly subjective given the varied styles that artists use. I have largely enjoyed the art in both the new Star Wars title and even more so in Darth Vader. In this book however I have trouble with the way that the Dodsons depict the characters. Neither Leia nor Luke look like their film counterparts. Leia in particular has a look that varies greatly from page to page. Meanwhile the new character of Evaan looks like a 1950’s Hollywood starlet, a look that is definitely attention-getting but I am not sure how it fits with the visual aesthetic of what I expect in Star Wars.
Where the comic really hits its stride is in building the relationship of Evaan and Leia and setting the building blocks for Leia’s new mission. Evaan is an Alderaanian patriot and self-described “Royalist” who trained directly under Leia’s mother Queen Breha. She gives off a very aristocratic vibe and it is clear that while she respects Leia’s position she doesn’t respect Leia personally when they first meet. Yet she attempts to follow Alderaanian cultural traditions and pledge herself and her blaster to the protection of Leia there is an underlying friction to that relationship. This friction is at least partially resolved from Leia’s end by the close of the story, but it is not entirely eliminated.
The major redeeming quality of this issue for me is the introduction of concept of Alderaan’s Children and Leia’s new role as Queen and her new goal of gathering the surviving Alderaanian diaspora together. The Imperials are seeking to take retribution for their defeat at Yavin out on Alderaanians wherever they can be found, and Leia is now set in a race against this genocide to preserve what little is left of her people and their culture.
This is a storyline that we saw explored much later in terms of in-universe timeline in the Legends novels, but in taking this concept and applying it directly after the events of A New Hope, Waid has set up a potential storyline that allows for Leia to process grief both internally and externally in the comic page through this quest. Truth be told this is probably a more interesting adventure than simply having a Leia mini-series set during the same time period where she is on random rebel mission against the Empire # 1,560.
In the end I think Princess Leia #1 is the weakest of the three Star Wars titles so far released by Marvel, but the potential for where there story goes may have the strongest narrative lure for me as a reader. This issue is very much about setting up the story and would be much more effective if you were reading it as part of a graphic novel or trade paperback. As a stand alone issue the problems that I feel are present make it hard to recommend. I will be picking up issue two to see if Waid can start to payoff on the Alderaan’s Children story but if I react the same way to that issue that I did to this one I would be hard pressed to stay with the series.