Princess Leia, written by Mark Waid and drawn by Terry Dodson, is the first Marvel series after Darth Vader to feature a single original trilogy character as its main protagonist. It is also the first Star Wars comic that I know of that looks like it’s being marketed specifically towards girls and women. From the many and beautiful variant covers and tasteful interior art to the two female protagonists who headline this first issue, Princess Leia #1 promised an adventure for girls with very little of the associated stereotyping, and it did not disappoint.
(As always, I’ll avoid giving too many spoilers.)
What we have in this first issue is the beginning of what appears to be a very character-driven story. It picks up literally right where A New Hope left off, in the throne room on Yavin IV. It shows Leia struggling to assert herself under the over-protectiveness of Rebel leaders who see her (and wish to preserve her) as a symbol of survival. As a consequence, the Leia we see seems a bit different from what many were probably expecting. It almost seems like the Rebel leaders are treating her like a child, which isn’t necessarily in keeping with our perception of Leia’s overall importance and place in the Alliance. But, in retrospect, this treatment is logical to me. Not only is Leia a princess of Alderaan and therefore a symbol of the fallen royalty, she also was once a senator. In all likelihood, she was little more than a political figure who probably didn’t see much of her influence take hold in the senate due to her age and the Emperor’s own dominance over the other senators. However, her tenacity, wisdom, and courage, along with her extreme bravery throughout all of the events that took place in A New Hope, should garner her more respect. I think that by the end of this miniseries, she will have more than earned that respect. I think her arc in this story is the next phase, both in-universe and from a storytelling perspective, in her becoming a true, acknowledged leader of the Rebellion.
But Leia not only has the Alliance leadership to deal with, she has the subclasses to deal with, as well. Some of the Rebel pilots start calling her “ice princess” after her speech in the throne room because of her apparent refusal to be more visibly and emotionally grievous for the deaths of her parents and most of her people. One such pilot is Evaan (I’m not sure how that’s pronounced, but I’m guessing it’s pronounced like Yvonne), the new character we’ve seen in previews for the series and one that I’ve been looking forward to reading and learning more about. She doesn’t disappoint, either. She seems like a well-rounded character, without any stereotypes surrounding her personality. Loyal to her native Alderaan and the Rebellion, and determined to protect Leia , even though she doesn’t approve of the princess’s hard front about the destruction of their home planet, she’s respectful yet opinionated, clever without being outspoken about it. She also sticks to protocol, calling Leia “ma’am” and refusing the latter’s request to be friends. Despite her calling Leia the ice princess, it feels like Evaan is a bit icier, at least with regards to her relationship with the former. I’m interested to see how she develops further. In the beginning of the comic, Luke comments that he wishes that Leia could lean on “anyone,” like he was able to lean on her after Ben’s death. I’m wondering if Evaan will be the one that Leia leans on, if she will become a friend that the princess can truly open up to.
There have been mixed reactions to the art for this comic series. I like it, because it’s unique and different, and because it evokes a feminine aesthetic that matches the style of the protagonist as well as the target audience. As I said earlier, this comic seems to be targeted at girls and women, and I think that the art expresses that. There’s a soft, pretty quality to it that is more “girly” in nature; coupled with the two strong female protagonists, who are also pretty (and fit without baring much skin or having ridiculously inflated breasts), I think it’s a good move toward having material that is more appealing to girls, in both look and content. This might be a comic book that a casual female Star Wars fan or even just a casual female passerby might look at, be intrigued by for its less gritty and more woman-centric comic cover, and actually pick up and read.
By the way, when I say that the art matches Leia’s style, I’m referring to her actual style of dress, her appearance. She and Padme have the same sort of fashion sense, in that they wear outfits that are pretty in a soft kind of way, but are also (mainly in Leia’s case) utilitarian. Their makeup, as well, looks natural and attractive. Dodson’s artwork for this miniseries, I feel, really showcases all of that, and I think it should. It’s a new and bold choice for a new story and a bold heroine.
But of course, regardless of who or what Marvel is trying to appeal to with this first miniseries, Princess Leia #1 can be read and enjoyed by anybody, just like any other comic series. It featured a good story, an interesting take on Leia’s position in the rebellion post-Episode IV, and a new female character that we can only hope won’t end up dead by the end of her (hopefully first) canon adventure. And the art, though it won’t appeal to everyone, is something unique that we’ve never seen before in a Star Wars comic series and is therefore an interesting visual experience.
Princess Leia #1 is available on comic book store shelves and digital comics apps (i.e., Comixology) TODAY!