Remember how, at the end of the first Star Wars movie, Leia Organa is the one giving out medals? She doesn’t get one herself. That odd metaphorical distance between her and the other Star Wars heroes is a crucial part of her new comic series.
The events in Princess Leia #1 start right at the finale of A New Hope, during the ceremony where the Rebel Alliance’s unlikely heroes get honoured for their deeds. But Leia, as a function of her station, has to stand apart. She’s the royal figurehead of the resistance movement, after all, and the speech that follows the medal ceremony gives her an eloquence that was hardly seen in the films where people first got to know her.
Though she’s just as responsible as Luke Skywalker or Han Solo in helping pull off the Alliance’s biggest win, the aftermath is much different for her. Leia has to grieve and do it publically, leaving her open to criticism to soldiers who think she’s not being emotional enough. Scenes where she’s called an ice queen sting in cruelly effective fashion, especially because the insults are being slung by the soldiers she wants to fight alongside.
So many characters have suffered loss in the Star Wars saga that it’s easy to forget that Leia has arguably lost the most. Her entire planet was obliterated by the first Death Star, leaving her without a mother, a father or a place to call home. The first issue of her comics series — written by Daredevil scribe Mark Waid and drawn by Terry Dodson — finds her searching for purpose as the fight between Alliance and Empire rages on. She’s supposed to be on the fast track to vengeance and glory but any hopes she has of being inspirational and special are being stifled by the domineering General Dodonna’s instinct to coddle her. Her idea to re-assemble the remnants of her homeworld’s populace is just the kind of thing that she should be doing. But, again, it’s her symbolic status — which makes her different than Luke or Han, who stumbled into their heroic destinies — that gets in the way.
Of course, Leia’s a symbol outside of the Star Wars fiction, too. The reason that she’s one of the franchise’s most popular characters isn’t just because she’s The Girl. It’s also because she’s multifaceted in a way that other characters aren’t. Just when it seems like she’s going to be yet another damsel in distress, she picks up a blaster and holds her own. The same film where she became a sex symbol to an entire generation was also the one where she choked Jabba the Hutt to death. Waid deftly juggles Leia’s wise-cracking, compassionate and authoritative sides with grief and yearning. She’s not the lost son of a prophetic figure like Luke, nor does she have loads of boast-worthy capers under her belt like Han. She’s more mundane at first blush, a politician pulled to the frontlines of war. But Leia is the Star Wars hero who defies expectations the most. She doesn’t have as many feats to brag about yet but, by the end of this well-handled first issue, you can tell that will change.