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    “Princess Leia” #1 May Be Uneven, But It Sure Does Look Pretty [Review]

    By | March 5th, 2015
    Posted in Reviews | 2 Comments

    Marvel’s third foray into that galaxy far, far away is upon us as Mark Waid and Terry Dodson explore the first lady of the Star Wars universe, Princess Leia Organa. Read on for our spoiler free review of “Princess Leia” #1 to find out whether or not Marvel hit the hattrick with their Star Wars comics.

    Written by Mark Waid
    Illustrated by Terry Dodson
    • When Princess Leia Organa was captured by the Empire as a Rebel spy, she never betrayed her convictions, even in the face of the complete destruction of her home world, Alderaan. When her rescue came, she grabbed a blaster and joined the fight, escaping back to the Rebel Alliance and helping strike the biggest blow against the Empire—the destruction of the Death Star. But in the aftermath of that victory, the question remains…what is a princess without a world?

    • Writer Mark Waid (Daredevil, S.H.I.E.L.D.) and artist Terry Dodson (Avengers & X-Men: Axis, Uncanny X-Men) bring us a story of Leia’s quest to help her people and find her place in the galaxy.

    Marvel’s venture into Star Wars comics has, I would say, paid off so far. “Star Wars” #1 was a revelation in how to translate the aesthetic and tone of the franchise to comics while remembering to back it up with a well-constructed and interesting story. “Darth Vader” #1 took what was once an enigma of a character and, through careful reverence of the character’s entire history, create a hidden chapter link between two vastly different parts of the character’s life. Now, Mark Waid, Terry and Rachel Dodson and Jordie Bellaire are up to bat for Marvel’s first miniseries in their new Star Wars line: “Princess Leia”.

    However, unfortunately, “Princess Leia” isn’t quite up to par with its predecessors. This isn’t to say that it’s a bad issue or it fails at being a Star Wars, just that it’s a more uneven entry than the prior two first issues. It’s a pretty mixed bag in terms of quality with both some stellar elements and some that don’t quite hit the mark. One of the things that really works in the book’s favour, though, is the premise. Waid and Dodson dive right into a facet of Leia’s character that has long been overlooked: her reaction to Alderaan’s destruction. It’s an element strangely overlooked in the original film and then largely forgotten in the subsequent episodes, but Leia did watch her entire planet and family get destroyed in A New Hope and you would think that would affect her more than not at all. Waid and Dodson smartly use that as their jumping on point in how the explore Leia’s character.

    Yet, while that is a very smart way to explore the character, the issue lacks somewhat in the execution. A lot of that comes down to the dialogue in this issue. Mark Waid has demonstrated in the past that he is great at rather naturalistic dialogue and bringing out the humanity of the characters in what they say, so I’m not really sure what happened here. Throughout the issue, the dialogue is stilted and forced and sometimes doesn’t make all that much sense. For example, there’s a scene where Luke tries to say thanks to Leia for comforting him after the death of Obi-Wan and how he wishes he or someone would comfort Leia in her time of need. It’s a nice sentiment and the relationship we learn about the two having in the later films (you know, that whole thing about them being siblings? yeah, that one) adds a layer of depth to it and makes it a touch moment. However, the way the scene and Luke’s dialogue is worded doesn’t feel natural or like what a human would say and it kind of breaks the moment a little.

    Remember how in Attack Of The Clones — I know, I know… no one likes being reminded of that film, but just go with me on this one, okay? Remember how in that film, George Lucas kept using these quiet talks between Padme and Anakin throughout the film to try and establish this forbidden love they were meant to have and you knew you were supposed to feel something, but you couldn’t get past how neither character felt layered or deep to evoke that emotion through the dialogue? “Princess Leia” #1 isn’t quite that bad, but it’s in the same ballpark. Maybe it’s a reverence for the notoriously stilted and unnatural dialogue that George Lucas is infamous for that even plagued the Original Trilogy of films, but it doesn’t help the issue in any way.

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    All it leaves us with are characters who wear their emotions on their sleeves, but don’t really do or say anything to explain why. There are multiple characters throughout the issue that criticise Leia’s apparent lack of grief over the loss of Alderaan, but Leia never really explains why she isn’t openly grieving and very few of the other characters establish why they care about how she expresses her grief. It leads to the emotions of the issue feeling jumbled and unclear and if it weren’t for the fact that we already knew Leia from the films, I don’t know if this issue finds a way to make the reader connect with her emotions.

    Now, this issue isn’t all bad. As I said, it’s largely just the dialogue that harms it. The actual structure of the writing of the issue is very well presented and feels firmly Star Wars. While this issue forgoes the flashy title splash page and subsequent credits crawl of “Star Wars” #1 or “Darth Vader” #1, it plants its feet firmly in the lore of the universe by setting itself directly after the events of A New Hope. The opening scene of this issue is essentially an extension of the ceremony in the last scene of A New Hope and it’s a really nice touch in setting the stage and establishing exactly where the characters are in their lives. Another nice touch is how, now that Alderaan is destroyed and the Senate disbanded, Leia feels useless in the Rebel Alliance and is almost directly told that, kicking that rebellious streak we see from her character in the films into high gear. This issue could be on par with Marvel’s previous efforts into Star Wars very easily as it looks like Star Wars, feels like Star Wars, it just doesn’t sound like Star Wars.

    While the writing of this issue maybe uneven, the artwork certainly isn’t. The art powerhouse team of Terry and Rachel Dodson bring the issue to life with their art. While it should come as no surprise that a lot of work and attention to detail has gone into this issue in making the visual representation of the universe feel distinctly Star Wars, it was certainly a surprise to me that Dodson’s lighter, less-realistic style of felt in line with how John Cassaday and Salvador Larocca have represented the universe. This issue also gives Dodson a range of storytelling methods to use throughout the issue as we see grand speeches, quiet and emotional character moments, heated political discussions and an escape in a starship. While the escape could have done with throttling back on the dialogue between characters and more than one page dedicated to the action of the scene, Dodson pulls it off well and it doesn’t feel boring. While it is obviously the first issue and much of the issue should be dedicated to introducing readers to the characters and story of the series, I hope Dodson gets more chances to play into the action side of things in subsequent issues.

    An interesting note for this issue is that Rachel Dodson is only credited as the inker over Terry Dodson’s pencils as she’s often also his colourist. Instead, Jordie Bellaire in this colourist of the issue and I have zero complaints about that choice. Bellaire’s colours go a long way in bringing vibrancy and, well, colour to the world of Star Wars that can so often, especially during the era of the Original Trilogy, descend into brushed metal backgrounds and dark and muddy environments. The colours make every single page of the issue come to life , so much so that I would not hesitate to call the artwork beautiful. It is, for my money, the best looking of Marvel’s Star Wars comics so far.

    Overall, “Princess Leia” #1 is, unfortunately, a very mixed bag. While the artwork is gorgeous and elevates the book into definitely something worth simply looking at, the dialogue really hurts the issue and makes actually reading it a difficult get through. It’s frustrating to me as someone who is a fan of all of the components going into this issue, from the established universe and the characters to the creators, that it comes off as so uneven. Still, there’s no real reason that the series can’t improve and for anyone already liking Marvel’s other Star Wars, you could do a lot worse than this. Even if you are just reading it for the art.

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    Final Verdict: 6.3 – It’s definitely the weakest of Marvel’s offerings in the Star Wars universe so far, but that doesn’t mean you should avoid it like the plague. There’s still elements to enjoy here, it’s just not the dialogue.

    Alice W. Castle

    Sworn to protect a world that hates and fears her, Alice W. Castle is a trans femme writing about comics. All things considered, it’s going surprisingly well. Ask her about the unproduced Superman films of 1990 - 2006. She can be found on various corners of the internet, but most frequently on Twitter: @alicewcastle