Without a doubt the strongest of Marvel’s four Star Wars comic lines so far, Princess Leia continues to offer the perfect blend of adventure, character and emotional weight in its third installment, giving us a glimpse into a new corner of the universe while staying true to its themes of family and betrayal.
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Leia, the Alderaanian Rebel pilot Evaan and R2-D2 are en route to the planet of Sullust with a handful of Alderaanian refugees liberated from Naboo, but unbeknownst to them, the Empire is hot on their trail after one of their passengers reveals their destination.
The women and the droid make contact with a cell of Alderaan survivors hiding underneath the planet’s surface in a rocky, volcanic lair, but they’re initially greeted with skepticism and distrust by the enclave’s leader, the Preserver Jora Astane. When the group learns that Imperial troops have arrived, Leia and Evaan are blamed for the attack, forcing them to escape the clutches of their Alderaanian hosts.
While stormtroopers stage an assault on the hidden base, Leia, Evaan and R2 retaliate with the help of cave-dwelling creatures called rockrenders, and together they defeat the Imperial offensive. The Alderaanian survivors, including Jora, drop their suspicions of Leia and recognize her as their leader. But the Empire has not given up the chase, and Leia knows they’ll have to find the traitor in their midst.
Part of this issue’s strong appeal is its fascinating setting in the Alderaanian hideout underneath Sullust, a planet that’s already been earmarked to appear in the new canon universe as a playable level in the upcoming video game Star Wars: Battlefront. But at the same time, it’s a canny move by writer Mark Waid to locate the action underground and avoid spoiling what Sullust looks like above the surface.
The depiction of the secret base and the design of the new rockrender creatures is all stellar. And the artwork by Terry and Rachel Dodson and Jordie Bellaire captures the claustrophobic, threatening atmosphere of the planet’s interior, which has clearly taken its toll on the Alderaan survivors. When Leia and Evaan meet up with them, they’re paranoid and fearing for their lives, which prevents them from accepting an outsider’s command, even if it is their princess.
Throughout the series, Leia has been struggling with her new leadership role as well as the lengths her people have gone to to survive. This entry ties in nicely to that theme, as Leia and Evaan are disgusted that their fellow Alderaanians have been forced to turn into smugglers and criminals to elude the Empire.
There’s a reason this series had the best-selling comic of March. It’s kept a consistent focus on Leia’s internal conflict without letting its external action get bogged down, and that balance has propelled the comic to the height of Marvel’s Star Wars repertoire.