This Star Wars article contains spoilers.
By the time the credits rolled on Star Wars: The Last Jedi, we were sure of one thing: Leia is incredibly strong in the Force! We won’t spoil anything here, but there are one or two things we learn about Leia in Episode VIII that completely change our perception of the character.
Leia’s tale in the Sequel Trilogy has been one of transition, brought about by an evolution in her leadership role. For one thing, she’s not called “Princess” anymore. Now she’s the General of the Resistance. This isn’t the first time she’s taken on a new role in the history of Star Wars either. In the Legends timeline, she was also Chief of State several times during the New Republic Era and even picked up a lightsaber once or twice and joined Luke Skywalker’s Jedi Order.
Her role in the new film, plus the miniseries, inspired me to take a look back at one of my favorite moments in Princess Leia’s long comic book history. While many will call to your attention her original appearances in the classic Marvel comics or her post-Return of the Jedi adventures in Dark Horse’s legendary run, I direct you to a series that imagined the Leia that we all deserved: Leia, the mother of the New Jedi Order. Best of all, the miniseries wasn’t even canon BEFORE the Legends rebranding…
Star Wars: Infinities was a three-part series released between 2001 and 2004. In the same vein as the Tales series, which ran roughly concurrently from 1999 to 2005, Infinities stories were never presumed to be canon. Think Marvel’s What If? series or DC’s Elseworlds. Star Wars Tales and Star Wars: Visionaries had similar premises, and contained everything from Legends canon stories to outright parodies, but the Infinities series stuck specifically to the Original Trilogy and told longer alternate universe stories.
In Star Wars Infinities: The Empire Strikes Back, written by Dave Land and drawn by Davide Fabbri, we receive the gravest galaxy far, far away of all: Luke freezes to death on Hoth and Leia travels to Dagobah to train as a Jedi. And believe it when I tell you that things really get out of control. That’s the sort of twist that Infinities uses as its thesis. What’s the absolute most ridiculous way to turn these stories on their heads?
(For example, in Infinities: A New Hope, Leia becomes a Sith Lord after the Rebels are defeated at the Battle of Yavin…)
Because Luke dies in the ice after hearing Obi-Wan Kenobi’s voice, a new potential Jedi must take up the young Rebel’s mission to restore the Jedi Order. Before Luke perishes, he manages to tell Han to train as a Jedi and bring balance back to the Force. Han, who suffers from a bad case of delusions of grandeur, likes the idea. In fact, Han runs the first half of the miniseries pretty much, since he, hilariously and perfectly in-character, thinks that he’s the one with Jedi powers.
More things that happen because Luke is dead:
– Wedge Antilles and Wes Janson, members of Rogue Squadron, die during the assault on Hoth;
– Han doesn’t go into the asteroid field, and instead travels straight to Bespin;
– Lando prevents Han’s capture on Bespin, so Vader blows him up along with the rest of Cloud City;
– Han, Chewie, Leia, 3PO, and R2 travel to Dagobah to meet Yoda, who bluntly tells Han that Leia is the new chosen one;
– Han and friends leave Leia with Yoda to begin her training.
Much of the rest of this miniseries could be categorized as really bad fan fiction that thankfully never made it onto the big screen. After all, who could see The Empire Strikes Back happening any other way? But it’s a noble effort to try and make something new out of an already perfect film. And it’s with Leia’s journey that the true gift of this series is revealed.
Some scenes of her Jedi training are beautiful. They paint Leia as a scintillatingly powerful Jedi lacking only some common sense. She earns praise from Yoda, and then gets messy when her lightsaber strike causes an attacking swamp slug to explode. The scenes of her Jedi training work – and they do, even though they’re brief – because Leia takes to the training like she was destined to do, with a combination of Padme Amidala’s smarts and patience and Anakin Skywalker’s ferocity and bravery.
Leia is a fast learner, and you begin to see the difference between her and her deceased brother. She is more obedient, more open to the ways of the Force, and ultimately more successful in her training because she is patient. While Luke craves the adventure, Leia has seen enough death to make her wise to such urges. That is perhaps the true essence of her character.
Luke was taken by his boyishness in The Empire Strikes Back into a defeat that cost him his hand and his spirits (for a brief moment), but Leia is already a true leader by the time she begins her Jedi training. It fits together quite well. It almost makes you wonder if that should have been the true outcome of the Trilogy.
The comic contains one of Leia’s great moments: fresh from acquiring a lightsaber crystal, she faces Darth Vader on Dagobah, which has become a battleground. Leia dons a purple blade and fights valiantly. She doesn’t win, of course. Just like Luke, it takes someone else’s assistance for her to kill Vader. In fact, characters who aren’t even from the same trilogy come forward to save her.
The spirits of Qui-Gon Jinn, Obi-Wan, and Mace Windu all attack Vader, and Han, who manages to return to Dagobah on the Falcon after a lot of trouble back in Jabba’s Palace, delivers a killing shot with his blaster. With his dying breath, Vader recognizes that he had a daughter.
And thus, the Star Wars saga came to an abrupt and less satisfying end. But it’s really what we learn about Leia in this alternate version of the tale that stands the most true. Even if Luke hadn’t died and Leia had learned to use the Force, she might have still been a more effective student and leader than her brother. She definitely wouldn’t have spent so much time chasing Han around…
A dying Yoda tells Leia to find more Jedi. “Teach them as I have taught you,” Yoda says, and this, perhaps, is the most powerful result of the Infinities story – that Leia was directly instructed to become a teacher. Maybe she could go on to create a Jedi Academy like Luke’s. A better one, in fact.
Leia is presented as a legendary warrior in the Sequel Trilogy. She is dutiful, hardened, and perhaps a bit angry and frustrated with the result of her battles with the Empire and how little the galaxy has changed since the fall of the Emperor. But despite her doubts, she remains brave, decisive, and intelligent. Leia can be a well-characterized leader, like the end of Infinities version of The Empire Strikes Back story implies, even if she isn’t a Jedi. It’s a shame that Episode IX will not be able to explore Leia’s Force powers further, as Carrie Fisher passed away unexpectedly in 2016, but at least we got to see a wonderful tribute worthy of the character before we said a tear-filled goodbye to the great leader from Alderaan.
*A version of this article ran on March, 2, 2015.
Megan Crouse is a staff writer.