Turn Back the Pages is a biweekly feature where I spotlight a comic that is not fresh and new. It may have come out a few months ago or even a few years ago. Maybe it was hyped and popular, or maybe it was an underappreciated gem. Whatever the case, it’ll be a great comic that’s well worth a read.
The best thing about expanded universes is that they fill in the gaps the original source material didn’t have time to explore. In the Star Wars short story collection A Certain Point of View, Nnedi Okorofor gives us the history and character of the monster in the trash compactor. Rogue One is basically a two-hour movie to answer the question of why the Death Star had that stupid weakness. And Star Wars: Princess Leia deals with the aftermath of the destruction of Alderaan.
Alderaan’s end is a huge moment in the original movie, but its repercussions are never dealt with, whether on the galaxy at large or Leia personally, who’s lost not just her home but her entire people. The characters in A New Hope are too busy with their immediate goal of stopping the Death Star from striking again to spend time mourning its first victims.
But that’s okay, because Star Wars: Princess Leia picks up literally right where A New Hope left off.
At the end of the ceremony where Leia awards medals to Luke and Han, she speaks in remembrance of the people of Alderaan and her parents, the late king and queen. She’s as dignified and composed as a princess should be, but that’s not grieving in the “right way” according to some of the rebels, particularly Alderaanian pilot Evaan Verlaine, who calls her the “ice princess.”
Going to the Rebellion’s leadership brings more bad news. Not only is the Empire hunting down the remaining survivors of Alderaan, but Leia is basically getting benched. Her superiors want to give her time to grieve as well as keep her safe and hidden now that the Empire has put a huge bounty on her head.
Leia’s basically like
She defies orders and gets Evaan to fly her out of the rebel base, evading Luke and Wedge when they’re sent to bring her back. Then she’s off across the galaxy to unite those Alderaanians who were off-world when the planet exploded.
It’s anything but a straight-forward quest. Leia has to dodge both the Empire and bounty hunters, convince some paranoid subjects that she’s not bringing the Empire to their door, and deal with racists who don’t believe those of mixed Alderaanian heritage are worth saving. Then there’s the matter of uncovering the traitor in her camp.
One thing I love is how this book gives us more insight into Alderaanian culture. The movie states that they’re a pacifist people, and that’s pretty much it, but in the comic, we learn that their culture puts a high importance on creativity and the arts. This could lead to a Planet of Hats situation, but the Alderaanian secondary characters all have distinct personalities and differing beliefs that lead to a lot of interesting conflict among Leia’s allies.
The most important of the new secondary characters is Evaan, and the ongoing subplot of Leia winning her grudging respect is a great one. This is Leia’s story, so if you’re looking for Luke and Han, you won’t find them in more than a few pages, which I think is perfectly fine. But if you’re looking for familiar faces, R2 is around and has some brilliant moments, and there are cameos from other movie characters, as well. One scene set on Naboo where Leia sees an image of Queen Amidala that seems to turn and look at her is particularly touching.
Above all else, this book is about Leia, and she’s amazing in it: tough, regal, clever, a touch impulsive, and incredibly compassionate. Mark Waid’s writing is top-notch, and I haven’t mentioned the art yet, but Terry Dodson draws a gorgeous Leia. She looks absolutely majestic in her flowing white gowns and perfectly at home with a blaster in hand and head-butting alien bounty hunters.
If you’re even a casual Star Wars fan, you owe it to yourself to read Star Wars: Princess Leia. The book is full of heart and hope and puts the essence of Leia’s character on full display. The Last Jedi may be Carrie Fisher’s last performance in the role, but the character she brought life to lives on. As Leia says in the book,
“We are Alderaan. We answer rage with wisdom. We answer fear with imagination. We answer war with hope. We are, each of us, important.”
Anybody else read this comic and have opinions and/or feelings? Who’s heading to Star Wars: The Last Jedi on opening night? Let me know in the comments!