Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Top Ten Ladies of the Star Wars Comics

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It all started innocently enough with the Star Wars: Princess Leia comics.

Let me back up a bit. I’ve never considered myself a huge Star Wars nerd. I mean, I like Star Wars a lot. But when one of your best friends can name drop obscure characters from New Canon (and politely corrects your spelling of said characters names) and writes Jedi poetry, you tend to have a different perspective on what ‘Star Wars nerd’ means.

Still, everything I’d seen coming out of the new extended canon in print media—both books and comics—impressed me. My Star Wars nerd best friend gave me a list of ‘must reads’ for Princess Leia because I was starved for her content. I read Bloodline, which got so many things right about Leia. Then I read her comic book miniseries and then…well. I couldn’t stop reading the comics. As of today, I’ve read every single one available, and they’re so good.

So, in honor of my love of the new comics, and my love of interesting, diverse female characters, I compiled a list of my top ten favorite female characters from the Star Wars comics (some of which are also faves for other contributors, too). I chose characters original to the comics (rather than the films) to highlight just how many awesome, completely new female characters there are.

10. Queen of Ktath’atn

Screaming Citadel, a Star Wars and Doctor Aphra crossover miniseries, 2017 (completed)
Queen of Creepy, more like.

There are plenty of villains in the Star Wars universe, but the Queen of Ktath’atn might just be the creepiest. She’s a reclusive figure, but one with a lot of power. Every year she holds court where people bring her all sorts of oddities for her menagerie, and the one who wins her favor will have their petition granted. She’s also the queen of a hive of aggressively parasitic mind control organisms and sucks the life force out of people to keep her alive. Not quite bathing in the blood of virgins, but a girl does what she can in the galaxy she’s given.

She’s both terrifying and interesting. I also like that she’s a threat outside of the Imperials, as we so rarely get them, much less with female characters. As of the end of Screaming Citadel, she’s still around, so we might yet see her pop up again.

Other non-aligned female antagonists include Xev Xrexus, a crime cartel boss in Darth Maul; Jora Astane, Preserver of the Alderaanian diaspora on Sullust in Princess Leia; Mother Pran and Sera from Obi-Wan and Anakin; and Rook Kast, a Mandalorian warrior and leader of the Shadow Collective, an elite force of commandos during the Clone Wars from Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir.

9. Eldra Kaitis

Darth Maul, 2017 (ongoing)
Note that she’s restrained and facing down Darth Maul when she says this. What a bamf.

Eldra Kaitis is a Jedi padawan captured prior to the battle of Naboo and held prisoner by the Xrexus Cartel, to be sold to the highest bidder. Darth Maul seeks to purchase her so that he can test his abilities against a Jedi. She’s confident, calm, and cool under pressure even when faced with Maul’s taunts and aggressiveness. She’s one part Obi-Wan’s sass, one part Luke’s belief in others, and one part Mace Windu’s fearlessness.

Like the books and tv mini series Rebels and The Clone Wars, New Canon comics have sought to directly address the sexual exploitation of Twi’leks. Rather than downplay it, it has become a part of the worldbuilding of the Star Wars universe itself. Many story lines call out the exploitation specifically as problematic. But there’s also a concerted effort to depict Twi’lek females in occupations other than sex workers and eroticized entertainment. Eldra Kaitis is one such effort. Others include Nowk and Sotna, a pair of Twi’lek pilots in the Han Solo miniseries and Warden Luta, a calculating, business oriented Twi’lek prison warden in the Poe Dameron comics. Pre-existing Twi’lek characters get page time as well, like the Jedi Aayla Secura in Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir and the pilot Hera Syndulla in the Kanan comics.

Other Jedi/padawan/force sensitive female characters include Tai Uzuma, a Jedi youngling in the Kanan comic as well as Depa Billaba and Tiplee, also in the Kanan comics. The Kanan comics focus quite a bit on the Jedi, more so than the other comic series thus far, and include flashbacks to life before Order 66 (the order to kill all Jedi during the Clone Wars). It’s unsurprising therefore that we get the most force sensitive female characters in Kanan.

8. Zarro

Chewbacca miniseries, 2015 (completed)
What a glorious profile.

How many kids do you know that can boss around a Wookie, take on a gangster/slaver, and trick Imperials without batting an eye? Well, now you know one, and her name is Zarro. When a gangster named Jaum enslaves her people to harvest beetles to sell to the empire, Zarro’s father sneaks her out of the mines. Zarro then turns around and enlists the help of Chewbacca to help free her people, fight off the Imperials, and take down Jaum.

She’s passionate, determined, and full of heart. Stubborn as can be, she won’t take no for an answer, even when the person telling her no is an 8 foot tall Wookiee that could break her in half without breaking a sweat. She’s also clever and a decent speeder pilot. Not bad for a preteen! Having a child hero is rare, much less one who is both clearly non-white and a girl.

There aren’t that many children in general in the Star Wars comics, but we get a few other young female characters. Tai Uzuma is a force sensitive youngling at the Jedi temple in Kanan. Then there’s Tula and Tace, twin teenage girls in the Princess Leia comics and Kolara, a teenager with green hair who helps Anakin in Obi-Wan and Anakin.

7. Chanath Cha

Lando miniseries, 2015 (completed), and Darth Vader, 2015-16 (completed)
She and Leia have the same high opinion of Lando, I see.

Have you ever thought that what would make Boba Fett actually cool is if he were a woman of color? I give you: Chanath Cha. She’s a renowned bounty hunter who has worked for Vader, crime cartels, and even the Emperor himself. When Lando was hired to steal the Emperor’s yacht, the Imperialis, Cha was tasked with retrieving the craft, with or without Lando alive. Palpatine himself calls her his “sharpest needle”, indicating the high regard he had for her intelligence and skill.

She’s the kind of character who will decapitate a droid to prevent it from attacking her but keep it’s head working so she can use it. She’s direct, strategic, and thinks in terms of success and failure rather than right or wrong. Skilled in armed and unarmed combat, she was able to defeat a lightsaber wielding enemy—no mean fighter himself—with only a knife. If Disney had decided to make a Lando film instead of a Han Solo film, I’d demand she be a part of it because she’s badass. Really, just imagine Boba Fett, but actually interesting.

6. Shara Bey

Shattered Empire, 2015 (completed)
Rebel angel.

Shara Bey is one of the most decorated Rebel pilots in canon. She flew in numerous battles, including the battle of Endor, and won commendations for her skill. She was Princess Leia’s personal pilot on a mission to Naboo to stop the Imperials from destroying the planet. Luke Skywalker also utilized her piloting skills to help him find and return pieces of the tree that used to belong to the Jedi Temple. When two of the heroes of the Alliance want you as their pilot, you know you’re pretty freaking awesome. Talented female rebel pilot for the win!

She’s loyal and hopeful. She believed in the Rebellion and dedicated her life to freedom and a better life for her family. To her, the call to fight for freedom mattered more than her individual skills, no matter how prodigious they were. Oh, and she’s also Poe Dameron’s mom, and the likely source of his own impressive piloting skills.

As with Twi’lek diversity, New Canon tries hard to make up for the lack of female Rebel and Resistance pilots in the films. Evaan Verlaine assists Leia in her mission to gather the Alderaanian diaspora in Princess Leia. The Poe Dameron comics include not only Jessika Pava (seen in The Force Awakens), but another female Resistance pilot named Karé Kun. Note that all but Evaan are depicted as non-white, which is pretty damn cool.

5. Queen Trios

Darth Vader, 2015-16 (completed)
I mean, this has Leia all over it.

Or, as I like to think of her, the Princess Leia foil. Youngest daughter of the King of Shu-Torun, she never expected to rule. But when her family’s assassination plot on Darth Vader failed, Vader spared her life and set her up as a vassal queen of the Empire. Her ascension caused civil war to break out on her planet, so Vader is sent to quell the rebellion and help her re-take control of Shu-Torun’s mining facilities.

Like Leia, she is a princess in a monarchical system that values tradition and courtliness. Hers is a culture of privileged lords and ladies who follow strict rules of conduct and politeness. Her more ruthless and calculating behavior flies in the face of it, as does her independent thinking and refusal to be controlled by her father’s advisors. She’s a politician, but prefers action and being in the middle of it, a lot like Leia.

Even Trios’s relationship with Vader has a paternal component to it. Vader has other daughter figures in his life both before and after his fall (e.g., Ahsoka, Aphra) but Trios is the one that most closely parallels his own daughter’s life. The fact that she has a positive mentorship relationship with Vader whereas Leia’s only memories of her father are traumatic and hate-filled keeps me (and my Star Wars bestie) up at night.

Anyway, Trios is a fascinating character. Other Imperial aligned female characters in the comics include Aiolin Astarte and Tulon Voidgazer bio-engineered fighters in Darth Vader; Captain Tolvan in Doctor Aphra; and Commander Malarus in Poe Dameron.

4. Pash Davane

Star Wars Annual 2, 2016, part of Star Wars, 2015-present (ongoing)
Punch me in the face, please.

Looking for butch representation? Pash Davane’s your gal. She’s buff with a capital B. U. and FF. Han Solo’s shirts don’t fit her and she has to rip the sleeves off buff. She’s also a talented engineer. Not that she gets to use those skills since the war destroyed the trade on her planet. She works mostly as janitor and pack mule, lifting crates above her head that it takes two or more characters to lift normally.

Seriously, she’s ripped.

She’s one of the characters through which we get to see how the Rebellion has affected the ‘little people’. The loss of her livelihood resulted in her having equal disdain for both the Rebellion and the Empire. To her, the war itself devastated her planet and both sides are equally culpable. She’s less concerned with ideals than she is with survival. A beacon for the “both sides are equally to blame” philosophy.

She’s an isolationist, but she’s not heartless. She protects Princess Leia from the Stormtroopers, creating an opportunity for both of them to examine their perspectives in light of the other’s. It’s a fascinating political conversation, and Pash carries the arc deftly on her massive shoulders. She’s a near perfect foil for Leia as Dutiful Princess, being one of the people Leia believes herself to be acting Dutiful for. Stubborn, blunt, and soft-hearted where her droid is concerned, Pash Davane is the best of Kaylee from Firefly‘s smarts and tenderness for machines mixed with Rick Blaine’s (Casablanca) staunch neutrality turned reluctant heroism, and Brienne of Tarth’s (A Song of Ice and Fire) brute strength.

If you can’t tell, I love Pash Davane. I hope she comes back in later issues and gets to kiss Princess Leia.

3. Loo Re Anno

Han Solo miniseries, 2016 (completed)
Look at this wise fish-faced goddess. I love her.

To be honest, I didn’t expect to like the Han Solo miniseries, but it’s one of my personal favorites. The art is stunning and the story well done, as I would expect from Marjorie Liu. And then there’s Loo Re Anno, the wandering philosopher of the stars. Patient, and wise, she values loyalty and heart in a racer as well as skill. She’s the oldest and greatest pilot in the galaxy and last of her kind. Her grandmother created the Dragon Void run, a deadly, exhilarating race that tests the best of pilots on their skills (including Han Solo).

Hers is a sorrowful story that unfolds over the five issues into a breathtaking meditation on the value of community and the dangers of total isolation. Loo Re Anno chose solitary self-discovery over a community that sought betterment through challenging each other and a shared love of exploration. When her species left the galaxy, she stayed behind and became the last space-farer of her kind. Though the best racer of all time, she was still alone and that eventually wore down even the exhilaration of the race. I don’t want to give away the ending, but it’s poignant, exultant, and full of yearning all at once. As a highly introverted person, I love both her as a character and what her story represents.

Other than the ones already mentioned above in the discussion of Twi’leks and Jedi, another pretty awesome alien character is Suralinda Javos from the Poe Dameron comics. She’s an investigative journalist turned Resistance member who can spit venom and stretch her limbs like Mr. Fantastic. Then there’s Korin Pers, a female Ugnaught (the porcine-looking aliens), a former sava/professor of antiquities and expert in Jedi lore in the Lando comics.

2. Sana Starros

Star Wars (including Screaming Citadel), 2015-present (ongoing), and Doctor Aphra, 2016-present, (ongoing)
What an introduction.

Remember back when the Han Solo movie was testing Zoe Kravitz, Tessa Thompson, and Naomi Scott to play the female lead? That’s when the rumors started that the lead would be none other than Sana Starros, a black female character who had a history with Solo in the comics. Unfortunately, the film when in a different direction, but Sana Starros still remains an awesome female character who deserved to be in that movie.

Who is she? She’s a smuggler, con artist, and former associate of Han’s prior to the Rebellion. She’s just as much a pirate and scoundrel as Han is. She can outwit, out-shoot, and even out-fly him, too. And she doesn’t mess around when it comes to getting what she wants. She’s the kind of woman who will fake marry Han Solo for a scam, then maim and kill anyone who gets in her way trying to track him down. In short, she’s the kind of woman who can keep up with Han Solo and give him what for when he deserves it.

She’s the unstoppable force to Leia’s immovable object. When they first meet, Sana quickly susses out the nature of Han’s feelings for Leia, something neither of them have acknowledged since this is soon after the events of A New Hope. She then uses it to try and drive a wedge between them, and it works for a while. She’s quick to distrust and holds long grudges. Like Han, she initially prefers not pick a side, but her work alongside the Rebellion eventually lends her a de facto Rebel status despite verbal protestations otherwise. If you’ve ever wanted a female counterpart to Han Solo, Sana Starros fills that qualification while also being more than that.

She’s not the only female smuggler either. The Poe Dameron comics include Perrili, a Xexto smuggler who dresses like she lives in the old west and sells fuel to the Resistance.

Did I mention Sana Starros is queer? And her ex is also on this list? What, Sana’s ex is the next character on the list? Well, let’s get to it, then.

1. Doctor Chelli Lona Aphra

Darth Vader, 2015-16 (completed); Doctor Aphra, 2016-present (ongoing); Star Wars (including Screaming Citadel), 2015-present (ongoing)
I adore this asshole.

First appearing in the Darth Vader comics, Doctor Aphra graduated from supporting character to lead in her own miniseries in less than two years. It’s a testament to how beloved she is by fans and how fascinating a character she is.

What’s not to love? She’s a rogue archaeologist who specializes in ancient weaponry, masks her feelings in snark, and lives for adventure and interesting assignments. Her sidekicks 0-0-0 and BT-1 are C-3P0 and R2-D2 if they loved torture and blowing shit up. She’s funny, quirky, multi-talented, and her stories have a surprising amount of emotional depth for how deadpan and sarcastic they are on the surface. Plus, she’s both queer and Asian, so she’s one of the most intersectional and diverse characters in the comics, alongside Sana Starros.

If Indiana Jones and Felicity Smoak had a child, it would look a lot like Doctor Aphra. She’s the Kate Kane of the Star Wars comics, complete with a complicated relationship with her dad, lots of guilt, a dead mom, a penchant for collecting gadgets and weapons, and a love for the ladies. It’s not a perfect match—she’s not Jewish nor does she have Kate’s military background—but it’s a good analogy nonetheless. If you like Batwoman, Doctor Aphra will fill that void in the Star Wars universe while offering her own unique story and personality.

More than anything, I appreciate her position outside of the traditional Rebel-Imperial alignment spectrum. While there are other characters who inhabit this space (e.g., Pash Davane, Sana Starros), most end up joining the Rebels not long after their appearance in the story. Aphra not only begins her run working for Vader, she’s resisted moving into the Rebel camp thus far in her run. Now, I have no doubt she’ll end up with the ‘good guys’ in the end. But at the same time, I enjoy seeing the space between ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’ explored with such depth. Through her, we get a more neutral look at both sides of the conflict because she has inhabited both worlds.

Her inner world is equally rich and complicated, and it’s only getting richer the longer her series continues. I greatly look forward to the her next issues coming out in the next few months and would love to see her show up in a stand-alone anthology film. Perhaps played by Constance Wu or Bingbing Fan? Make it happen Lucasfilm story group. I will give you all the monies.

So basically, if you’re looking for more female characters in the Star Wars universe, read the comics. It’s worth pointing out just how varied this list of 10 women are. We have aliens, women of color, queer women, older women, children, villains, Imperials, Rebels, Jedi, and rogues. There are women in all kinds of careers and with varying personalities, skills, and body types.

In fact, one of my favorite things about New Canon is how much effort Lucasfilm story group is putting into creating more diverse characters. Whether it’s characters of color, women, aliens/non-human, or LGBT+ characters, New Canon is bringing them into the spotlight and giving them space to have their own stories. Would I like more neurodivergent and differently abled characters as well? Yes, and I have every hope that the comics will deliver. Because they really are that good.

So, if you like Star Wars and you want diverse female characters, come to the comics. You won’t be sorry.

Not a single human in this picture and only one male (that little guy off to the far left). This is the glory of the Star Wars comics. From, Star Wars: Han Solo.

What about you? Do you have any faves from the comics I didn’t include? Bring them up in the comments!

Images Courtesy of Marvel and Disney Lucasfilm

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