Illustrated by Carlos D’anda
Colours by Gabe Eltaeb
Lettering by Mike Heisler
Covers by Alex Ross
Published by Dark Horse Comics • £2.20
As you may have read here , I and my fellow blogger Al Stuart conducted a little experiment this week. We each wrote a piece on the idea of the forthcoming Princess Leia Star Wars comic based on just our initial reaction to a promotional news report without having read anything else.
Now we move on to part two of the experiment wherein we reanalyse our thoughts having read part one of the book in question.
Review by Steven Ellis
To begin with I should say that I really enjoyed this comic. The art, by Carlos D’Anda, is lovely. It’s full of fantastically-drawn X-Wings and other shiny Star Wars ships. The character depictions are good too and the action is clear and concise. I was, however, struck by something that I’ve noticed pops up a lot with any Star Wars comic and that is that no-one can ever seem to draw a stormtrooper’s helmet correctly.
Brain Wood’s script is very good and his grasp on the characters seems spot on. There is far more going on here than just Leia being made some sort of special-ops solider. If anything, the news report I read sold it short focusing on just the sensationalist news of Leia as a hot-shot pilot. A girl driving a space ship! Shock horror!
Set just after the destruction of the first Death Star, the story starts with Luke, Leia and Wedge on a mission in search of a new base for the Rebel Alliance. The book also has some interesting introspective stuff from Darth Vader who is still reeling from the loss of the Death Star and is not exactly in the Emperor’s good graces at the moment. And we also get Han and Chewbacca setting off on an as yet un-revealed mission.
It’s a very talky, thoughtful book with several of the characters pondering the events of A New Hope and wondering what the future might bring. I will admit it was interesting to see this very early time set just months after the end of A New Hope . This book had a little feel of the ’80s Marvel comics in both tone and look. Although the Star Wars “Expanded Universe” fan in me knows just how busy Leia’s life was in the year immediately following the Battle of Yavin and the planets subsequent evacuation, so I did have a little trouble reconciling the established history with wedging yet another adventure in there.
As a set-up this was a great opening book. Unfortunately I spent most of the book waiting for the reveal of Leia as hot-shot pilot special-ops girl to kick in. There’s even a little joke where one of the deck hands has a pop at Leia about not really being a pilot where Luke jumps to her defence. It still all smacks of stunt casting. That the writer gives a nod and a wink to this doesn’t diminish that feeling.
I still stand by my initial reaction that placing Leia here as the founder and leader of a small secret special-ops group feels a bit out of character; why would one of the figure heads, and most recognisable people in the Rebellion, be given such a job? But, as I said, this is a far more interesting and complex story than the news item I had read suggested. I do still feel Leia could be replaced by any number of other female characters and the final panel did make me groan a little. As did the implication that Luke would be joining her in this secret group. Next thing you know we’ll have Boba Fett turning up too.
All that said, I would recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of Star Wars just for it’s focus on the post New Hope setting because it is an interesting time in the franchise, and although once again I was struck by the idea that Star Wars needs to stop looking to the past and trying to wedge new things in amongst the old and they really should leave the more well know characters alone, I do realise that a lot of that comes from my general feeling of tiredness with the Star Wars as a written franchise. But I do still feel that the main characters have been used far too much and really do need a rest. Their lives are pretty much mapped out with giant crisis after giant crisis for the entire length of the 50 odd years of the “Expanded Universe” and filling up every tiny moment in between is really getting a bit silly. Even a supposed “fresh take” like this doesn’t feel that fresh to me.
Review by Alasdair Stuart
Dark Horse has been keeping Star Wars comics alive for years but for the most part its work has fallen after the principle trilogy or way, way before any of the movies. It’s a pleasant surprise, then, to see the company running with this as the first of their two big Star Wars launches this year. Called, simply, Star Wars , the title is set immediately after Episode IV and before Episode V . It’s also, quietly, one of the most innovative Star Wars titles in some time.
The reason why is obvious from the first page; this is a story about a scrappy insurgency fighting near impossible odds. Not only are the Rebels still on the run after the Battle of Yavin but their desperate search for a new home base is constantly being harried by the Empire. The only, chilling, conclusion to draw is that the Rebellion, little more than a small battlegroup of ships at this point, has a spy in its midst.
This first issue uses a scouting mission by Wedge, Luke and Leia to set the situation up and it does so very neatly. Putting Leia in the front lines like this has attracted a lot of criticism, some irrelevant, some with real weight to it and Wood cleverly hangs a lantern on her unusual status as a pilot throughout the issue. Deck crew grumble about how she’ll never be one of them, Luke and Wedge are both a little over protective and it’s only Mon Mothma who sees her status as a pilot as a positive. Leia is a diplomat, an ambassador and when called upon to be, a warrior. Having her as a pilot, especially in the unusual circumstances described here, seems a natural evolution of the character.
It’s one of two evolutions, in fact, the first of which is hinted at in the opening conversation between the three characters. Yavin, and Alderaan, still weigh very heavily on all three pilots’ minds and Luke in particular is struggling to believe he’ll ever achieve the level of serenity and power he wants as a Jedi. Wedge, as Luke points out, lost pretty much everyone he knew in the assault on the Death Star and Leia, for her part, admits that flying is a welcome chance to not be an officer for a while. She’s tired and numb and scared like the others but she doesn’t seem especially affected by the events of the first movie. Then, as the running battle the three are engaged in concludes, Leia does something, silently, that drives home just how much the loss of her home has hurt her. She’s not grieving, she’s enraged and the scene where she lets that out is powerful, silent, and despite what I suspect will be many people’s kneejerk reaction, utterly in character. It’s a fascinating, well-rounded approach to all three characters and Leia in particular hasn’t been this interesting for a while.
The rest of the principle cast get small roles here, and, I suspect, Wood’s setting up the next storyline with Han and Chewie. But all of them are present enough for this to feel like Star Wars . Threepio in particular has a very interesting new job, and Mon Mothma is both a figurehead here and a fiercely pragmatic, increasingly desperate leader. Vader, meanwhile, finds himself on the outs with the Emperor for the vast loss of time, equipment and credits that the destruction of the Death Star caused. It’s a fascinating place to take the Dark Lord, troubled by his encounter with Luke and desperate to regain his Master’s favour, he’s equal parts tragic anti-hero and cornered animal, a situation that can’t end well for anyone.
This is the most assured, distinctive debut for a Star Wars comic I’ve seen in years. Wood’s script takes in the practicalities of war as well as the high adventure the series is known for and is built from the characters upwards rather than fitting characters to situations. D’anda’s art is precise and spot on with characters and designs whilst Eltaeb’s colours are rich, vibrant and suitably alien. If you’ve ever been a Star Wars comics fan, give this is a try. It’s great.
So there you go, Star Wars comics reimagined for a new… old… and new again audience. Do you agree with Leia’s new found Spec Ops status? Are you bored of the whole thing? Are YOU the director of Episode VII ? If so (especially that last one), let us know what you think here and on the forum.