In terms of a modern mythos, complete with philosophical, psychological, and cos-playing implications, Star Wars is the standard by which all others are measured. Few other sagas, from Marvel's ever-evolving continuity of reboots and retcons to multiple eras of Star Trek, even come close. It manages to be both incredibly expansive, yet remarkably concise. It's themes, emotions, and drama create a perfect blend that gives it a special place in popular culture.
Given the sheer breadth and scope of Star Wars, it's easy to forget that there are various parts that remain unexplored. Ever since Disney and Marvel began expanding some of those unexplored areas, new elements of that mythos are emerging. Given the iconic status that Star Wars has for generations of fans, it's a careful balancing act. There are only so many ways that Star Wars can be expanded without undermining the larger narrative. Even an iconic mythos cannot withstand the force of too many Jar Jars.
Jason Aaron manages that balancing act better than most, taking full advantage of the gap between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back to flesh out elements of Star Wars that never get a chance on a movie screen. One element that never gets much development is the relationship between Luke and Leia. Even without knowing their secret sibling connection, so much of the drama is centered around Leia's constant clashes with Han. It's easy to forget that her story is closely tied to Luke. Aaron, with the artistic talents of Salvador Larroca, use Star Wars #33 as an opportunity to explore that story.
The setup is simple, if not unremarkable by Star Wars standards. Luke and Leia get stranded on a planet that's mostly water and dotted with a few small islands. The circumstances are fairly generic in that it's not part of some larger story arc. It's just another case of a routine mission going horribly wrong, which seems to happen at least once a week for the Rebellion. There's nothing about it that rattles the continuity of the original trilogy. It's basically the sci-fi equivalent of Cast Away, but with more sea monsters and fewer volley balls.
This bland, but simple setup does serve an important purpose though. It puts Luke and Leia in a position where they have to work together and rely on each other to survive. They know they can survive an onslaught of storm troopers and escaping the Death Star. They've even shown they can survive working with Han Solo for more than two weeks and survive. However, their strength is often defined by their ability to be part of a team. They're rarely in a situation where they can only rely on each other.
It makes for some compelling moments, exploring some of the inner struggles within both characters. It's easy to forget between blowing up the Death Star and falling in love with a smuggler that Luke and Leia are still processing some major upheavals. A part of Luke still sees himself as a farm boy and a part of Leia still sees herself as a princess, complete with all the ceremonial formalities. What stands out in Star Wars #33 is just how uneasy they both feel with their previous roles.
There's a distinct sense that being a farm boy never sat well with Luke. Leia shows a similar sentiment. She reveals that at one point, she ran away to escape some of the formalities that come with being a princess. While this puts her at odds with most traditional Disney princesses, it reveals an important element to both characters.
On some levels, they sense that their situations in life aren't right. They sense that they're meant for something else. Aaron gives the impression that the Force is somehow letting them know that their story is tied with that of Darth Vader and the legacy of Anikan Skywalker. They don't know this, given the story's place in the existing Star Wars timeline. However, they do feel it. If it is a manifestation of the Force, then Yoda himself would be proud.
Beyond the personal exploration, there's also some reflection on recent events, relative to the outcome of A New Hope. Leia is still mourning the destruction of Alderan. The emotions don't get too heavy, though. Leia comes off as more hardened than most princesses. She's no Cinderella, but she's no Elsa either. If she ever broke into song, it wouldn't be very uplifting.
These moments of personal insight and inner character struggles are the highlight of Star Wars #33. While they succeed at providing greater insight into Luke and Leia, as characters, the rest of the narrative falls somewhat flat. Their struggles for survival on the island never create much strain. At most, they only ever seem inconvenienced by their situation. There's never any despair, anguish, or strain. Despite one of them being a princess and the other being a farm boy, their outlook on the situation is remarkably dispassionate.
There are some elements that keep the story from becoming too much like Cast Away. They eventually find out that the planet isn't as desolate as they think. That helps put them in a position to escape and even make a few new allies. However, that story is lacking in terms of detail and insight. It comes off as just a simple, convenient way to get Luke and Leia off the planet before readers can start making incest jokes.
There's nothing about the story in Star Wars #33 that feels out of place, out of character, or inconsistent with the larger mythos. Even if parts of the story lack details, it never comes off as flawed or incomplete. The primary strength of the narrative is the deeper exploration of Luke and Leia, as characters.
When all is said and done, they both come off as more complex characters, which can only give greater weight to the iconic narrative that is Star Wars. While that won't stop some fans from cracking incest jokes about Luke and Leia, Star Wars #33 will give them a greater appreciation for who they are as characters. Anyone hoping for more than that, though, is asking too much of the Force.
Final Score: 6 out of 10