Marvel’s five part series, Princess Leia, isn’t perfect—despite how much I wish it was. As the industry sits, there aren’t an overwhelming number of female protagonists in the well-known Star Wars canon. A comic centering on women was a welcome, refreshing tide to the often stagnant diversity pool.
If you haven’t read it, the comic portrays Leia’s life between “A New Hope” and “The Empire Strikes Back.” It details her grief over losing Alderaan, and her struggle to keep her culture alive. (A responsibility she takes very seriously as the princess, yet one she seems to blow off once she’s ready to move on.) Through the story, Leia is accompanied by the ever-faithful R2-D2 and a new face, Evaan. That’s a 2/0/1 ratio of women to men to droids. It was a little bit exciting, to say the least.
Perhaps that’s why I had such high expectations. After all, if you’re going to do something, you need to do it well. It’s evident that a large amount of planning went into the storyline, but there are moments when it falls short. As your eyes grace certain pages, it’s almost as if you can hear the makers debating the plot.
“How do we get them out of this situation?” they say. “What if we included yet another last-second, un-foreshadowed, confusing rescue sequence?”
That, paired with the lack of panels depicting what and how many of the rescues actually happen is almost inexcusable. Instead, the story opts to flash forward to after the battles. In one of the worst instances, we’re given a single panel of Leia, summarizing what happened with dialogue that sounds unnatural. Disappointing much?
The character arc of Evaan was severely underdeveloped from what I had hoped. Her personhood and ideals changed in a single panel, as she sits and explains to Leia how exactly she has changed, and what’s even worse, how the reader can go back and see it happening over time. Apparently, the change should’ve been apparent through Evaan’s beginning to call Leia by her first name. That plot device would’ve worked on a mediocre level, if the authors hadn’t pointed it out to us with a strobing road sign. Evaan had such a strong potential, and I was so excited to see how her character would grow. Unfortunately, the integrity of the arc was compromised in favor of anything and everything else.
The comic does have strong points, however. The world-building and exploration of Alderaanian culture brought a fascinating element to the story. Watching the destruction of the planet on screen, with no cultural background, it’s sad and a crime against humanity. After learning about the way Alderaan society operates, the ideals its people hold dear, and the deeply ingrained traditions, the world came alive to me, and I found myself mourning its passing in a deeper way.
Additionally, we were provided with some colorful and sweet insights into Leia’s childhood. Though the series did seem a little flashback-heavy, the flashbacks were all events I wanted to see.
If the comic’s purpose was to enlighten the reader on Leia and the culture of her homeworld, it did a rather decent job.
However, if the comic aimed to illustrate a story of a race finding their way to each other, it was shoddily done. A more focused story goal would have benefitted the series, as the completion of this goal is brought about in a hasty, awkward way through a group of people that the reader has seen very little about. In fact, the large group of Alderaanians that join Leia are not introduced as a story concept until the last issue. After escaping by the skin of their teeth through yet another rescue, Leia decides to return to the Rebellion. As she leaves, she gives Evaan little information on how to proceed with the large group of Alderaanians seeking guidance on rebuilding their culture.
It was too vague and far too shallow to buy into. As a reader, I suspend my disbelief enough as is when reading science fiction. I know these things are not possible, but, if the events cannot really happen, the characters need to live, breathe, and feel as real, humanistic beings. I need to relate to them because their changes and emotions ring true.
Princess Leia failed me on that front, though I am very open to seeing any future works that center on her work with rebuilding Alderaan’s spirit.