We’re less than a month away from another new Star Wars movie with another new woman in the forefront. If Jyn Erso is half as awesome as she looks in the Rogue One trailer, then Rey will have some stiff competition as my favorite new Star Wars character. For so long, the only woman we had in Star Wars was Princess Leia. As great as Leia is, she was all by herself for a long time. Padme Amidala did little to help relieve Leia, but that’s no fault of the character.
Star Wars post-Disney-buyout has been doing some great work bringing new awesome women into its narrative, and I’m not just talking about the movies. The new EU Marvel comics have been doing a bang-up job as well, and if you haven’t been reading them, you might consider taking a look at some of these new series. There is no Mara Jade (yet) but what they do have are some amazing new women characters in the Star Wars universe.
OK, I will admit I didn’t like Sana at first. From the pages of the main Star Wars ongoing comic (which takes place immediately following Episode IV) by Jason Aaron (Thor, Doctor Strange) with art by John Cassaday and Stuart Immonen, Sana is introduced to us as Han Solo’s wife. Whaaat!? Yes, Han Solo is married! Mind blown!
This is the Oops I forgot I was married! Trope at its worst. “Who is that crazy lady?” “Crazy lady?! I’m his wife!” DUN DUN DUNNNN! *sigh*.
As tired as that trope is, Sana turns out to be a pretty good character and a BAMF in her own right. She’s a smuggler turned bounty hunter who used to work with Han Solo. They staged a wedding in order to pull off some wacky heist or another (the details are vague). The nuptials had to be realistic down to a tee in order to work, to the point that it basically was real. Of course Han (that lovable scamp) skipped town and made off with Sana’s half of the payoff, so she’s been hunting him down as Sana Solo, woman scorned.
Of course, the wedding wasn’t real, as she later admits, but not before some super awkward moments between Han and Leia, including a brief plan to give Leia over to the Imperials.
As much as her introduction leaves to be desired, Sana’s arc is great fun. She has a ship, the “Volt Cobra” that she boasts is even faster than the Millenium Falcon, and she can hold her own in a fight. Later issues of the series has her teaming up with Leia for some excellent girl-power butt-kicking moments.
When Marvel started releasing their new EU comics, one of the first titles on the rack was a Princess Leia miniseries from Mark Waid (All New All Different Avengers) and Terry Dodson (Wonder Woman, Uncanny X-Men). This miniseries was a bit overshadowed by the new Star Wars ongoing series and the Darth Vader ongoing (which we will get to in a bit), but it is a fun story and a worthwhile read.
This comic begins at the awards ceremony on Yavin at the end of Star Wars. We are treated to the reactions of the crowd as Leia hangs medals around the necks of Han and Luke. Not all of those reactions are favorable, however. There are some Alderaan natives who don’t think their princess is showing the proper amount of grief at the destruction of their homeworld. Among these is Evaan Verlaine.
Evaan is a pilot of the rebellion, and it’s clear she doesn’t think much of the princess, which becomes increasingly awkward when Leia chooses her to go on a mission to rescue the remaining Alderaanians (Alderaanites?) from Imperial territories. Evaan isn’t just a gifted pilot, she’s also tall and strong, and acts as Leia’s hired muscle on the ground. She is cold and formal to the princess, calling her Ma’am and generally acting like a soldier would to a superior officer, though it’s clear she cares about Leia’s safety and their mission.
Over the course of the comic, Evaan softens to Leia and begins to understand why she keeps people at arm’s length. By the end she has dropped the subordinate routine and acts more like a friend to Leia. It’s pretty clear that she would go to great lengths for her princess, and not just out of her sense of duty.
By the end of the series, the Alderaan people, though small in number, are united together. Since Leia has obligations to the rebellion, she sets up Evaan as their de facto princess. It would be interesting to return to this character again to see what has happened to her and the remnant of Alderaan.
The Chewbacca miniseries is one of the stand-outs of the new Star Wars comics. Charles Soule (She-Hulk, Red Lanterns) can write some pretty great stories, and the art by Phil Noto (Black Widow, Poe Dameron) is gorgeous in this book. The story begins with Chewbacca on his own, shipwrecked on his way to Kashyyyk after the battle of Yavin. He has crash-landed on a planet that harvests some local subterranean fauna as a source of energy. The nefarious owner of the mining operation has brokered a deal with the Empire, but he’s a bad guy, so he’s also used his mine as a sort of debtor’s prison for people who owe him money. Among these is Zarro, a young girl of maybe 9 or 10 years, and her father.
Zarro is impulsive and resourceful, so rather than stay in the mines, she escapes to get help, and finds it in the form of a certain tall hairy fellow known for pulling people’s arms out of their sockets.
Zarro is a cute and fun character despite the direness of her situation, and her rapport with Chewbacca (who she can’t understand) is part of what makes this miniseries really endearing. She wants to save her planet from the iron grip of the Empire, and seems willing to do whatever is necessary, though being a child it’s clear she doesn’t always understand the consequences of her actions.
Chewbacca is the reluctant hero and Zarro’s voice of reason, but he has her back all the way no matter how hair-brained her schemes seem to be. She is the only one of her people who haven’t fallen into complacency, and is willing to fight for what is right. With Chewbacca’s help (and an insane amount of luck) she manages to keep the Empire away and dispose of their tyrannical leader before Chewbacca heads for home.
As fun as the Chewbacca miniseries was, my favorite by far was Lando by Chales Soule (again) and art by Alex Maleev (Hellboy & the B.P.R.D). This series catches up with our titular hero some time before he became boss of the gas mines of Bespin. He’s got some gambling debts to settle, and only needs one big score to get away clean. Unfortunately, this score comes in the form of stealing Emperor Palpatine’s personal yacht, which is just chock-full of Sith artifacts.
Needless to say, Palps is eager to get his stuff back, and when his Imperial Navy fails him, he brings in a private contractor in the form of Chanath Cha. Chanath is a bounty hunter in what appears to be Mandalorian armor, but it is in much better condition than Boba Fett’s. She is cold and calculating, and has no compassion at all for her target. She is goal-oriented.
It is clear that Chanath is a favorite of Palpatine’s and he’s used her before. One wonders what other black ops missions he has sent her on in the past. She is frighteningly efficient and capable, and easily finds the missing yacht and gains access. She plans to capture the thieves alive if possible, or failing that, blow the whole thing to pieces.
When she finds Lando, however, it is obvious they know each other. She has a soft spot for the smooth-talking gambler (who doesn’t?) and his sidekick Lobot, and offers to spare them so long as it doesn’t interfere with her mission. It seems that she and Lobot have a past history, and we get some fun and interesting backstory to Lobot, a character that appears in something like 3 scenes in Empire Strikes Back. There are some twists and turns as Chanath’s pilot betrays her, and a few of Lando’s associates are possessed by dark side forces, but with the help of Chanath, Lando and Lobot are able to get away.
Chanath Cha is a fantastic character (I love bounty hunters) and I would love to see her return in future adventures.
Honorable Mention: Loo Re Anno
In the Han Solo comic by Marjorie Liu (Monstress) and Mark Brooks (Champions), of which the final issue is out today (and I haven’t read it yet), there is a really unusual character named Loo Re Anno. Han Solo focuses on an interstellar race that pits the best pilots in the galaxy against one another. The race itself is countless generations old and super dangerous, and of course, Han Solo is in it, but as part of a covert mission for the rebellion. Loo Re Anno is one of the last of the species who founded the race. She is an alien humanoid with vaguely reptilian features, and has a very sage-like philosophical air to her. She is accompanied by floating orbs that glow which she calls “witnesses”. Really the coolest thing about her is the character design. She’s freakishly tall and blue with four arms and huge reflective eyes. Her race seems very ancient and mysterious, and her motivations aren’t really clear. I like her a lot, but I’m not sure how her story will wrap up in the 5th and final issue (In stores now!).
Saved the best for last. From the pages of Darth Vader by Keiron Gillen (Wicked + Divine) and Salvador Larroca (X-Men) comes Dr. Aphra. This is by far the best new character introduced in the new EU Marvel comics. In her first appearance in Darth Vader #3, Dr. Aphra was introduced as something of a reverse Indiana Jones. She breaks in and steals ancient or prototype weaponry that is either outlawed or was deemed too dangerous for use. She steals them from the museums or storage facilities where they are kept in order to fix them up and put them to use.
Darth Vader, who is out hunting down the pilot who humiliated him and blew up the Death Star, takes notice of Dr. Aphra’s talents and recruits her for his off-the-books missions. Joining Dr. Aphra are her two droids, 000 (Triple Zero) and BT-1 Blastomech (Beetee). These two are like an alternate universe version of C-3PO and R2-D2 if that alternate universe was murderworld, because these are some homicidal droids. Triple-zero in particular is as funny as he is disturbing, as all he wants to do is torture and drain people’s blood and play 3D chess (which he is terrible at because that programming was removed to make room for more torture). Beetee is essentially just an R2 unit loaded down with bazookas and flamethrowers and every type of weapon imaginable. They are like Laurel and Hardy, but with a much higher body count.
Aphra herself is a great character. She loves her work, and though she has no love for killing, isn’t above it if called for. She is somewhat infatuated with Vader even though she knows that working with him is probably the last thing she’ll ever do. It isn’t a romantic interest as much as major thrill issues. With each mission, she has to prove that she’s still useful enough to make it to the next. She knows that it will end badly, but she’s having a good time with it nonetheless.
Aphra’s partnership with Vader adds some humanity to a series that might otherwise have been too serious or flat with just Vader stomping around, applying jackbooted foot to every neck in the outer rim. Having her do some of his dirty work frees him up to perform more official duties like squelch rebellious uprisings and receive lectures from Palpatine. It’s clear that Aphra has affected him when halfway through the series she is captured and taken to space-jail. Vader goes out of his way to find her. (Incidentally, this trip to jail leads to a three-way girl-power team-up between Aphra, Leia, and Sana Starros, which is one of the highlights of the main Star Wars series). Vader maintains his cold distant demeanor, but it’s impossible not to feel like deep down he likes Aphra.
Dr. Aphra and her droids have been such a successful addition to Marvel’s Star wars that this winter she will be the first original character from the new EU comics to get her own ongoing series. The chaotic neutral archaeologist and her pair of murderbots are a worthy addition to the Star Wars universe, as are all of these ladies. Together they are enriching the Star Wars EU and injecting it with a much-needed dose of girl power (a thing Star Wars has been sorely missing since forever). There is hope you’ll be seeing them in the near future in your Netflix queue, or a theater near you, kicking butt and taking names.