So when Dark Horse first announced that Brian Wood would be starting a new ongoing series, simply titled Star Wars, back at Comic Con last July, and mentioned that Leia would be piloting an X-wing fighter, the two big fusses that popped up were about fitting continuity (isn’t it always?) and Leia in a role we hadn’t seen her in very often: fighter pilot. (Never mind that she’s been piloting starfighters since Splinter of the Mind’s Eye.)
Now that the first issue of the series is out for us all to enjoy, what’s all the hubbub?
For those who want to see Leia as a fighter pilot, we got that. And for those who want to see Leia with a gun, we got that too. And for those who want to see Leia be a leader, we got that as well – she’s carrying the weight of being the leader of Alderaan’s survivors as well as being a key leader of the Rebel Alliance, put in charge of a secretive mission by Mon Mothma. While we don’t necessarily get to see Leia as a senator and politician (it seems highly unlikely we’ll see her in her former role since she’s considered an enemy of the state, and part of a body that has been recently dissolved), I’m sure we’ll be seeing her bust out all Madeleine Albright soon enough on her mission, since many worlds sympathetic to the Alliance are pretty scared by what happened to Alderaan and might not want to take the Rebels in under their roof.
For all the fans who complained that Leia can’t be a pilot simply because she’s a girl, or because that’s what Luke and Han and Wedge and Chewbacca and Lando are good at, and having her be good at it too is just too much to handle, grow up. As pointed out by Brian Wood in interviews, it’s almost insulting to suggest that she can’t fly the mainstay ship of the rebellion. In the films, we see her fixing and piloting the Falcon, driving speeder bikes (with her brother as a backseat driver,) and her mom, another member of royalty in a time of war, was also able to fly her own ship. Wood does mention that her skill is on par to Wedge and Luke – is the issue that Wedge and Luke have been put too high on a pedestal for their piloting skills for anyone except Corran Horn or Jaina Solo to match? At this point, Luke, for all his atmospheric flight at home in his skyhopper, hasn’t logged that many missions in space, and Wedge’s main skill is simply being lucky enough to not have his fighter explode when shot by Darth Vader at Yavin. So maybe slide Leia’s piloting skills up a few notches where where you have it on her character sheet, drop Luke and Wedge each a point or not, and move on and enjoy the series.
As for continuity, yes, there’s a lot of material that takes place right after ANH, from Marvel comics to the X-wing video game, to the Empire comic series, and more, but ultimately, guess what – it can fit in. As I’ve gotten older, my desire to need to shoehorn every single story into one cohesive span of days has faded into more of Tia Dalma’s “same story, different versions. And all are true” sensibility. Let go and trust your feelings. If you want to view it as a reboot, since all you need to know is what’s in A New Hope, fine (and even then there’s enough of a refresher in the first issue to let you know where everyone is at in their lives). If you want to view it as part of the larger EU that it will tie into, that works too.
My main fuss with Star Wars #1: Where’s Artoo?! We got the big three, we got Vader, Chewbacca, Threepio, Wedge, Mon Mothma, Leia’s astromech, and Ben’s disembodied voice… but to quote his counterpart, “R2-D2, where are you?”
For more on my take on Star Wars #1, check out my summary and tag team review with Bryan Young at Big Shiny Robot!
27 Replies to “What’s the fuss with Star Wars #1?”
“As I’ve gotten older, my desire to need to shoehorn every single story into one cohesive span of days has faded into more of Tia Dalma’s “same story, different versions. And all are true” sensibility.”
It was a “long time ago”…maybe it’s gotten garbled in the handing-down via storytellers. ;)
Great review, James!
Interesting, although I think you’re overlooking the concern many people have with Leia as an X-Wing pilot. Speaking for myself, it just seems out of character. We’re never given any hint that she’s a fighter jock in the films and I’ve read almost all of the post-ROTJ novels and can’t ever recall her flying a starfighter (and don’t bring up Splinter of the Mind’s Eye – she was still in love with Luke back then). Seems like it should have come up at least once before if it’s something Leia really does.
In fact, the more I think about it, the less it makes sense. When would Leia ever have learned to fly a starfighter? It’s doubtful that’s something a princess of Alderaan would do in her spare time – she was already so busy learning the political ropes at such a young age. The movies and EU give her a strong role as a political leader and occasional operations officer. That keeps her pretty busy already!
Also, there’s no need to have every character try to master every single set of skills. Luke and Han aren’t diplomats (Wedge played the role a bit in X-Wing, but notably wasn’t very good at it). Both Luke and Han didn’t do very well as generals. I think it would be equally out of character to make Luke the ambassador to some new planet or chancellor of the Republic.
In real life, I don’t think anybody would think less of a leader for not also being a fighter. Nobody has ever criticized Hillary Clinton for not being a jet fighter jock. And it would sure seem odd and perhaps even phony if she dressed up as a fighter jock and posed for pictures (see, Dukakis tank photo). But that doesn’t diminish Hillary’s awesomeness.
So, at least for me, that’s why seeing Leia portrayed as a starfighter pilot seems so off. For me, it undermines her character. It blurs it almost to the point of the same absurdity as that Dukakis tank photo. It comes across as Wood not treating Leia’s skills as a leader and politician seriously and thinking the only way he can make her exciting is to put her into a flight suit.
Sorry for the long post, but this is something that does bother me a bit.
Dom: Using your analogy about Hillary Clinton: she may not be a fighter jock, but she probably knows how to drive a car or truck, even though she probably gets driven around a lot by others in her current position. In a galaxy where people travel in space routinely (especially if their lifestyle calls for it), it makes sense that Leia Organa can pilot a single-person spacecraft. An X-Wing is just a single person spacecraft with guns. Being a pilot may not be her job, but being able to get to and from work is a pretty basic life skill.
Why wouldn’t a princess of Alderaan learn to pilot a single-person spacecraft? That’s a like asking why Prince Harry can’t learn to drive a car? I’m pretty sure that her adoptive parents (one of whom loves his classic airspeeders) could afford piloting lessons along with the shooting lessons and hairstyling lessons. And you’d think that her adoptive parents realized that she might need to learn survival skills of all kinds just in case her real father learns about her?
It’s pretty clear that Leia has learned useful skills, like marksmanship and starship repair, so piloting an armed fighter craft is not out of the realm of things one learns when one is a politician and a revolutionary. Yes – she’s a Rebel leader in a guerilla war: she might just have the basic skills to keep herself and her fellow rebels alive when she’s wanted by the state for being a terrorist and spy. Probably her skills as a warrior are why General Solo was ok with having her be on the shuttle command crew for a covert strike mission to Endor – not exactly a mission where there’s room for dead weight, even if you’re hoping for romance.
She’s not a fighter jock in the sense of it being her job or temperment, but she’s a Rebel and a warrior.
As for having characters master every skill set? Somehow Luke manages to do pilot AND Jedi (and later in the EU, the equivalent of Dalai Lama) at the same time and no one has complained that he’s doing too much, or is taking Wedge’s shtick. or that Lando is just an administrator and gambler – no wait, he’s a pilot and an undercover agent, too.
I can see the argument for every Galactic citizen getting to learn to drive an airspeeder or shuttle at age 16, but I think that analogy falls apart when you extend it to an Alderaanian pacifist gets to learn to fly a combat snubfighter when they turn 16 as a rite of passage.
The bigger issue, I think, is that essentially the reader is supposed to buy that Leia is charismatic, a brilliant politician, a dead-eye blaster shot, combat pilot, military intelligence specialist, and worthy of her own (small) command. All around age 19 or so.
Doesn’t that seem like overkill?
I do get that this is a space opera, but at some point my willing suspension of disbelief does shatter. This isn’t a gender thing, either. If Luke were suddenly a charismatic and highly capable politician, I’d have the exact same problem.
Ultimately, I worry that this might be another case of a writer conflating the Action Girl trope with a central, well developed female character.
I guess it depends on what technology is like in Star Wars ;)
I know in real life, I would NOT simply assume that somebody could drive a tank, much less pilot a stealth bomber, simply because they know how to drive a Toyota or even an SUV. In fact, you need a separate license rating just to drive a truck. Likewise, I would not assume that the pilots who flew my Southwest flight this morning could just go and fly a jet fighter tomorrow. They’re totally different vehicles.
I’d always imagined that landspeeders are like cars, so everybody would know how to drive them. Larger star ships, like the Falcon, are reasonably common but do require skill. After all, in ANH, Han Solo said flying through hyperspace isn’t like “dusting crops”, so we have some indication that it’s NOT a skill everybody picks up. Finally, I’d imagine that flying military fighters is even rarer.
For my part, I don’t think of Luke as somebody particularly skilled at flying bulk freighters like the Falcon, or Han as particularly good in a starfighter. The part of the Brian Daley Han Solo Trilogy that seemed most out of place for me was when Han becomes an expert at flying Z-95 Headhunters.
For his part, Luke is a Jedi and a pilot, but NOT a diplomat or politician. Lando is a gambler and administrator (who often fails in his ventures) and a freight pilot, but again he’s not a politician, diplomat, starfighter pilot, etc.
For me, Leia being a pilot was just one of those moments that took me out of the story. Like when Han became a humanitarian worker in “Balance Point” – that always struck me as odd and a bit out of character.
Lane, you expressed my concerns better than I did, thanks. I know at 19 I didn’t have any of those skills!
I would comment on the this further, but Dom and Lane covered this all perfectly. I will add, as a note, that Padme’s “do everything” button hardly counts as flying. But yes to everything, especially the whole flying a fighter plane and driving a car are not compatible, and that needing to get from place to place in the Star Wars universe doesn’t mean needing to fly a fighter. I certainly don’t hop in an F-16 to get to Europe for vacay.
” I will add, as a note, that Padme’s “do everything” button hardly counts as flying.”
Forget the yacht. Padme flies a starfighter at the start of Episode II.
Lane: Re: Pacifist: I think you’re confusing her personally versus political policies of her planet. She clearly shows in ANH that she’s a shoot-first type of person, and that her role in the rebellion doesn’t have anything to do with steering it toward nonviolence.
So far, we only have Brian Wood’s words equating Leia’s piloting skill to Wedge’s and Luke’s. He doesn’t necessarily say that the lads are super aces. In the first issue, the trio come under massive attack in space, and while they are fleeing, Leia gets 1 kill (using her ship’s advantage in atmo, which was someone else’s idea) but gets damaged and crashes her ship, while the boys get nothing.
As for the driving a car analogy: It’s not like being able to drive a car then having to drive a tank. It’s like being able to drive a car, then being able to drive the Batmobile or Bond’s Aston Martin. Still handles the same, but it has a few more buttons.
If Luke is miraculously a fighter ace in space with his only flight experience being in at atmospheric craft with no weapons simply because the controls are similar and never attending flight school, then I’m sure Leia can also do just fine in an X-Wing with only knowing how to pilot a single person spacecraft or atmospheric craft. The only difference is that is has extra buttons for lasers.
As for her roles being overkill? in ANH, she gets caught for using her day job as a politician as cover for her espionage for a revolutionary group. she shoots people. she doesn’t break under torture (is that just will or is that training too?). When she gets rescued and back to her people, does she take a break after being a prisoner? Nope.
Is Leia worthy of her own command? Apparently, she’s able to represent her entire planet in the Senate and be a key leader of the Rebel Alliance.
Is she able to be a military intelligence specialist? Apparently, she knows how to be a spy for the Rebel Alliance in Imperial space (in their own Senate) and is trusted enough to receive stolen data plans to courier back to Rebel analysts. And not break under torture.
is this too much to ask of someone at age 19?
Padme: queen, senator, pretty handy with a gun, and as Pablo points out above, in a starfighter.
Joan of Arc: politically astute enough to win over the French court. militarily astute enough to win over the French military strategists. handy with a sword and led her troops from the front. theologically astute enough to avoid entrapment efforts at her trial. Only lived to age 19 and was an illiterate peasant.
Heh. West End Games’ old RPG stats.
Leia (as of Battle of Yavin): Starfighter piloting 5D
Wedge (as of Battle of Yavin): Starfighter piloting 5D+2
I don’t think I’m being entirely clear so I’ll try again.
While I maintain that the flying-as-a-rite-of-passage is a weak analogy, I’m not saying that it’s impossible for Leia to be a charismatic, politically savvy, skilled pilot, intelligence operative that’s been given her own command all at the same time. Yes, within this universe and given the things we know from just the films, it’s possible. I’m -not- saying that she absolutely can’t be all of these things or that it’s impossible based on what we know. All of this is possible and plausible and can be explained. But even though it’s plausible may not necessarily mean it’s a good narrative idea.
What I’m trying, very clumsily, to say is that portraying Leia so explicitly as being good-to-great at all of these seemingly unrelated disciplines is where some readers have a problem. Just because you can use a character as storytelling Swiss army knife doesn’t necessarily mean that you should.
From the quarters I frequent, that’s the fuss.
Well that is a different point entirely (whether Leia should be used as a pilot and squad leader, and not can she be a pilot and squad leader), although these “seemingly unrelated disciplines” all work together when one is a spy and revolutionary in a war, and you do whatever you need to do to get the job done despite limited resources.
And we don’t see where this is going yet – she may not be the jack-of-all-trades or most qualified candidate that she has to be for her new assignment. We’ve only got Brian Wood saying that Leia is as good an X-wing pilot as Wedge and Luke. As of now, she’s gotten one kill and crashed (but walked away from) one X-wing. Not exactly a great record. Nothing has been said about her ability to run a black op. But why is she put on this mission (with two very different aims)? Because Mon Mothma cannot trust anyone else in the Alliance with it.
In all honesty the easiest argument you can give to the fact that Leia can fly a starfighter is this. She is growing up as the daughter to Bail Organa. WHO knew her mother and Her father who currently is a Lord of the Sith. Now, growing up during a time when the Rebellion was starting when she would become in more danger because she is going to have the same views as her adoptive father and want to fight the empire. Why wouldn’t she know how to pilot a ship. And X-Wing…. is still a star fighter. There is no reason Leia would not know how to fly one.
Also you can still count splinter of the minds’ eye. Your excuse of “She still liked Luke back then” doesn’t work because …. in case you didn’t notice…. um EMPIRE happens after that book, when she kisses Luke right in front of Han to make him jealous. She still liked Luke for a good while as more than a friend. She didn’t know it was her brother until Jedi.
Also what makes it not in Leia’s character to know how to fly a ship? Please explain that one to me.
Overall I agree the biggest problem with this is the fact that R2 is nowhere to be found besides the cover lol.
Anyone who objects to Leia piloting PURELY because she’s a girl isn’t even worth reacting to.
I think the concern is continuity in relation to what’s out there already.
Looking back to Splinter of the Minds Eye, that also starts with Luke and Leia in spacefighters and crashing on a planet. In there it’s clear she’s a capable pilot, but I never got the impression that she’s a fighter ace or anything (love the use of the WEG stats Pabs, good call)
Similarly, Luke has grown up in Skyhoppers, which have similar controls to T-65’s and Wedge was raised on a space station, so logically they’d be more familiar with space flight (especially with Luke’s added edge – a’la Anakin – of accessing the force, something that at this point I assume Leia isn’t doing).
Leia was raised a diplomat and is a far more mature and sophisticated character than Luke, who has seen nothing of the galaxy compared to Leia who has travelled with her father, stood in the Senate and been mentored for leadership (including most likely some piloting lessons).
BUT, the thought that everyone in the SWG can fly ships just doesn’t work for me. Sure, driving landspeeders or swoops and speeder bikes makes sense, but flying an X-Wing or a TIE Fighter is like flying an F-16. Prince William can fly a helicopter as he’s in the RAF but Harry can’t, he is in the Army – he can’t fly a fighter craft, that requires specific knowledge, training and skill.
And remember, Luke only got a shot at the Death Star over Yavin because they were so desperately short on pilots. Red Leader had to be convinced by Biggs (who would know a thing or two about this subject and his life-long friend).
So as long as Leia isn’t made out to be the galaxy’s best pilot, I think it’s cool that she’s involved in this aspect of the Rebellion.
That said, I’ve always railed against Han Solo being considered the best pilot/smuggler/with a blaster in the galaxy. I always saw Han as being the best at shooting his mouth off, and a great self-publicist. Chewie keeps him on the straight and narrow (as I said in my Jedi News review – http://www.jedinews.co.uk/news/news.aspx?newsID=9777) and obviously while Han is reckless and foolhardy, maturing as the trilogy progresses he is skilled. But THE best at everything? Never bought that (and because of his flaws and growth he’s my fave character by the way)
Really excited to see where Wood takes this, and how he develops these young characters from where they are in Star Wars to the more mature characters in Empire. And I REALLY hope he uses judiciously chosen issues of the Marvel series as waypoints to tell the story and as examples of that development.
“Anyone who objects to Leia piloting PURELY because she’s a girl isn’t even worth reacting to.”
Coop, nobody has suggested that, not even remotely!
Really, the question is more about whether having Leia fly an X-Wing is helping build her character or making her into “generic action girl”. I think Lane said it best when he though it would be just as odd if Luke became a politician.
Of course, as reestablisher and eventual Grand Master of the Jedi in the EU, Luke *did* effectively become a politician.
I think it’s always been pretty clear that in Star Wars, every important character can effectively do everything, even if they all have their specialties. If you have a name and more than one appearance, you can reliably shoot a blaster, understand any alien language, and–most certainly–pilot a starfighter.
Does anyone contend that Anakin or Obi-Wan as young Jedi Knights aren’t capable of serving as pilots, warriors, operatives, counselors and diplomats during the movies? Not really, or the whole premise is blown for the movies.
Obi-Wan has been trained for these things his whole life, and therefore he can perform well at most anything he’s called upon to do. Plus having Force skills doesn’t hurt.
Anakin started his training later, and has some failures along the way, but he still serves in all of those capacities, which is fleshed out better in The Clone Wars.
Leia’s father knew from the moment he adopted her who she was, and it’s not a stretch to assume he trained her accordingly, just as Obi-Wan had been trained his whole life. Plus it doesn’t hurt that she uses the Force (and just doesn’t know it yet.) There is no wild leap of faith expected of the reader, just a simple parallel drawn back to the movies that allows the reader to understand how Leia would be capable of serving in many roles.
She has plenty of weaknesses, that I am sure will come out or that we can take away from ANH. This is a set-up issue, the opening act, for the conflict that will follow.
I don’t think for a second (unless I’m misreading this) that folks have an issue with Leia doing ANYTHING because she’s a female. I’d like to think the folks who read this and similar sites are way beyond that kind of narrow mindedness.
And I agree, Leia being who she is, with the hidden talents of the force that she has, the resources her foster parents had and the bloody-mindedness of both her biological parents, could do pretty much anything. Flying a ship? – big deal, of COURSE she can do that, it was established in Splinters, the very first EU novel back in 1978.
What could potentially bother people is contradicting 36 years of chronology. At the time of ANH, Luke couldn’t hope to stand up in front of an assembly of people and make an impassioned speech as well as Leia could, because he was still a farmboy and she was a young politician, already trained for that. Similarly, I don’t believe Leia could have destroyed the Death Star, because she’d not received any level of training (however brief) from Obi-Wan.
The twins ultimately developed quite similar skills, but at different speeds. Leia was a bureaucrat, Luke a diplomat but Luke’s force skills developed (or were cultivated, depends on how you view it) earlier. Leia’s came after the reveal that she was ‘the other’. Luke became a leader later, but at the time of ANH because of her upbringing Leia is already there.
My point is, in relation to this promising new series, it needs to be consistent with what’s been presented before in classic books and comics. Having Leia fly an X-wing IS consistent, no doubt. Having her suddenly be a crack pilot able to take on Baron Fel head to head isn’t. But I don’t think for a second that’s where Wood is taking the story. Having her fly a ship is simply a plot device to have her in that predicament and not look like a ‘damsel in distress’ who needs a ride because she so isn’t.
It’s going to be VERY interesting to see how this develops over following issues and I can see a lot of future conversations on this series and topic.
The rebellion would never let one of their main leaders fly an X-Wing. Then again, they did let their main leader fly off with a smuggler of ill repute, and wear a bounty hunter disguise to infiltrate a crime lord’s evil lair. Hmmm. Now that I think about it, Leia does whatever the crap she wants, so this actually makes total sense :)
@Tricia: “Does anyone contend that Anakin or Obi-Wan as young Jedi Knights aren’t capable of serving as pilots, warriors, operatives, counselors and diplomats during the movies?”
Being a Jedi always seemed like being recruited into boot camp early on and for your entire life, 24/7. While I’m sure being part of the royal family of Alderaan isn’t all fun and games, nor would I expect Leia – or any royalty anywhere – to get general military training. Think Colin Powell vs. Queen Elizabeth – both very smart, capable people, but very different set of skills.
That said, I would have trouble imagining either Anakin or Obi-Wan going into politics and doing what Padme or Leia does. And I’d really have trouble imagining Anakin as a diplomat.
One other thing I’ve always thought Luke can’t do very well: serve as a general. We see Luke as a general in Shadows of Mindor, which was kind of odd for me. However, Stover does portray Luke as a bad general, unsure of his decisions and falling into a trap. By contrast, I’d have no problem imagining Leia commanding a sizable force (we even see her give a pep talk to the troops in ESB).
Ultimately, I’m fine with Leia as an X-Wing pilot as a long as it serves to build her character, not to just make her into a “generic action hero”.
@Dom: “While I’m sure being part of the royal family of Alderaan isn’t all fun and games, nor would I expect Leia – or any royalty anywhere – to get general military training. ”
Real world examples: Prince William is a search and rescue helicopter pilot and Prince Harry is in his fourth month of deployment in Afghanistan, his second active duty combat deployment there. Both went through the full regular military training for their respective skills. Princess Anne and her daughter Zara Phillips were Olympic-caliber athletes in three-day eventing, which has its roots as the ultimate test of a calvary officer.
The EU has established that Naboo’s handmaidens are highly trained in combat and intelligence operative type skills, and across Star Wars women are generals, commanders, soldiers, pilots, and trained agents. From the beginning, Bail knew Leia would have to play a military, not just political, role in the Rebellion eventually. It only makes sense he would have ensured she received thorough training in both.
@Tricia, you’re right about William and Harry. Sorry, I wasn’t clear before, I mean that not all royals receive military training as a matter of course. Royals can elect to receive military training, but it’s not like one would automatically expect a member of a royal family to receive training. But maybe Bail was foresighted and encouraged Leia to flight training as well.
Of course Star Wars has females in many roles (e.g., Jaina as a crack X-Wing pilot), but the question is whether having Leia as a pilot and action hero enriches or diminishes her character. I have an article on my blog discussing why I’m worried – in short, Leia has a fascinating role as the primary Star Wars political character and I’d hate for that side of her to get ignored by transforming her into a generic action hero.
See my blog post here:
Leia is both an action hero and a political hero. Most characters are complex and have many facets, and most male characters are afforded that complexity without people handwringing that it’s uncharacteristic.
Somehow Leia–a wealthy girl with resources and established military training–piloting X-Wings is more unrealistic than dirt poor Luke Skywalker blowing up the Death Star having never flown an X-Wing before. Or heck, Annie Skywalker blowing up the Trade Federation ship in his first run in space while having no idea what he was doing. Wait–isn’t she related to those two?
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