Today, Michael and Patrick are discussing Princess Leia 2, originally released March 18th, 2015.
Michael: Having just started its sixth season, Community is a completely different show from what it was in its first three seasons. Series creator Dan Harmon was fired after season 3, but returned for a 5th and now 6th season. The show has wisely tip-toed around most developments from Season 4, which, for it’s Harmon-less-ness, is universally considered to be the worst season of the series. While Harmon has salvaged some ideas from that season, it is probably best to leave Season 4 alone for the most part, not having its particular stink effect the future storylines too heavily. I’d argue that Disney and Marvel should take the same approach to the dreaded Star Wars prequels. I’m not gonna go on a huge diatribe about why the prequels were bad, the internet is full of such litanies. Listen, I get it. I was 10 years old in 1999; The Phantom Menace was my jam and I played ridiculously hard Star Wars games on PS1 like Jedi Power Battles. But let’s call a spade a spade: the prequel trilogy = not so great. So when examining a book like Princess Leia 2, where our heroine visits her birthmother’s home planet of Naboo, it’s hard not to think of less pleasant experiences in a galaxy far, far away.
Princess Leia 2 sees our eponymous protagonist, pilot Evaan and R2-D2 continue their quest of tracking down all the remaining Alderaanians in the galaxy; which when you type it out, seems like an incredibly difficult plan to pull off…but I digress. After we get some backstory as to why Leia doesn’t eat her vegetables, we find ourselves on Naboo, where a “cloister group” of musicians from Alderaan has been performing. Leia’s host Lord Junn arranges a meeting with the group and will most certainly betray Leia. After Leia and co. betrayed by Junn, Junn is in turn betrayed by what I’d call the “Alderaanian band manager,” and the day is saved. Leia confronts Junn, takes his ship: even Steven. As our heroes take off with more Alderaanians in tow, we discover that the Empire is hot on their tracks!
Sorry if I’m flippant with the plot recap, I actually really enjoy the concept of Princess Leia thus far, but this issue felt like it was pretty by-the-numbers as far as stories go; more on that later. As I mentioned earlier, the inclusion of prequel stuff kind of hurts Princess Leia 2. Taking our heroes to Naboo for a spell is no crime in and of itself, but coincidentally, the script feels as stiff and bloated as that of any of George Lucas’ Star Wars prequels. The father-daughter memories that Leia recounted didn’t really take up many pages, but the rhetoric and royal decorum within seemed to grind things to a halt. And I guess I’ll leave alone the scene where Leia pauses before the stained glass (?) image of Queen Amidala, because while it is a bit hokey, it is also 100% Star Wars. So far, Marvel’s Star Wars titles have captured the classic Star Wars vibe that they are aiming for: that of swash-buckling fun-loving adventures in the face of overwhelming odds. Princess Leia 2 detours into prequel vibe territory: that of exhausting amounts of exposition and very particular sets of customs and culture. With that in mind, how pray tell, does this Alderaanian “cloister” band work exactly? They’re from Alderaan, so presumably they showed up on Naboo, and set up camp inside somewhere, never to leave there ever again? Say whaaaaat?
Predictability isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I could smell the ambush/betrayal plot coming from a mile away. Just look at this guy Lord Junn: he’s got the villainous twirly mustache for Christ’s sake! Dude’s shady as all hell. Alright, I’m being a little hard on Mark Waid and Terry Dodson, I admit. Like I said, I actually really like the book. It seems like it won’t have the problem/obligation to interact with the happenings of the other Star Wars titles, either. I was disappointed that new character Evaan Verlaine didn’t get more face time in this issue, however. I think the inclusion of Evaan in this series is great for a lot of reasons, but most importantly because she takes the place of Han Solo. One thing we’ve talked about a lot here at RP is seemingly how little the Star Wars titles can accomplish story-wise; given the established events of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. While she’s not a carbon copy, Evaan stands in well for Han Solo as the figure who butts heads with Princess Leia. We don’t have to be concerned with the pace at which the Leia/Evaan relationship advances in the way we would with Leia and Han.
Patrick, what did you think of Waid and Dodson’s second Princess Leia outing? Am I off-base with my prequel association diagnosis? Do you like the inclusion of creatures and concepts from the prequels in the traditional trilogy setting?
Patrick: Ah, man: the prequels — such is their poison that it can blind a body to both the innovate new ideas and the clever acknowledgement of the metatextual struggle of a writing new Star Wars stories. This was easily my favorite issue of Marvel’s new Star Wars stuff, largely because it is so aware of the baggage represented by episodes I, II and III. Here’s an uncomfortable fact: in reducing the Star Wars canon to six movies and an animated series, Disney has essentially declared that the amount of Star Wars I like is outnumbered by Star Wars I don’t like — which has always been the case — but now the amount of material is so small, it’s sort of impossible to ignore the movies I dislike. I trust that’s true for Waid as well: as much as he’s inspired by A New Hope, Empire and Jedi, there is no escaping Phantom Menace, Clones and Sith.
That’s where the story about a young princess not eating her vegetables comes in to play. Michael, you mention that scene, but then blow right past it. It does kind of come out of left field, doesn’t it? The crucial bit of that story is how Bail convinces her to eat her Ruica.
Leia knows she doesn’t like Ruica, but her father tells her that she’s not afforded the luxury of disliking it. She’s a champion for the culture of Alderaan, and sometimes that means being a booster for a vegetable she doesn’t particularly care for — because her people worked hard to make it happen, because someone likes it, but mostly just because it’s part of her culture. If you’re in the business of telling more Star Wars stories, that’s exactly the boat you’re in too. There may not be much to love about the prequels, but, goddamn it, you’re preserving a culture, which means hanging on to the good with the… less good. After all, it’s not necessarily the mythology of episodes I – III that I dislike, it’s the execution (acting, directing, scripting, plotting, pacing, special effects — there’s a lot to dislike there).
For my money, the inclusion of those prequel details here serves to illustrate that Waid and Dodson are game for bringing concepts from these weaker movies into their stories because it’s Star Wars, dammit. Did you notice that we saw a motherfucking Gungan in this issue? We did, but it’s amid the introduction of the cool folk-artsy street market city of Keren.
I love the idea of seeing different corners of the planet Naboo — just so long as they’re not rolling grass fields populated by giant-assed cow monsters. If the capital city (which… is that just called Naboo, too?) is a place of high art, architecture and culture, then there has to be a place like this that caters to a more bohemian cultural experience — one that’s also more inclusive and cosmopolitan. This issue’s one big fight sequence is essentially Leia and Artoo (representing the old Trilogy) fighting some big four-armed bug-men (representing the new Trilogy) with an assist from Evaan and Madame Pareece (representing the new arm of the Star Wars Universe: the comics). It’s an inclusive mix of all three, and I don’t even think we need to give up our Prequel-phobia to buy into the moment either — check out how the characters representing the Old Trilogy and Comics are able to work together to defeat the characters representing the New Trilogy!
I’m also in love with the idea of the cloister of Alderaanian musicians. There’s so much backstory there that Waid purposefully keeps us in the dark about, but the vaguest outlines are fascinating. Apparently, Alderaan had been treating musicians like the religiously enlightened and removed them from society in order to focus them on their craft of making music. That conflates Alderaanian culture with religion, and further supports the idea that Leia and Evaan would fight so fervently to preserve it. Plus, being able to apply monastical language to a band of holographic musicians? Sign me the fuck up.
Also, Michael, I’m not sure we should hold the inevitable betrayal at the hands of Lord Junn against the issue. There are a lot of ways that Leia and Evaan’s arrival on Naboo echos Leia and Han’s arrival on Cloud City, right down to one of the characters expressly asking if they should trust their new host and Leia specifically not introducing herself as a princess. We’re meant to see this connection, and it’s illustrating that Leia is still more trusting than she will be by the events of The Empire Strikes Back. And for as obvious as that reversal was, I was genuinely surprised to discover that one of the cloistered musicians was being tricked by her own sister to give up information about their location. (Though, why you’d make that holo call in uniform, I’ll never understand.)
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