Princess Leia and the Royal Ransom
Scripting: Jeremy Barlow
Art: Carlo Soriano
Coloring: Michael Atiyeh
Lettering: Michael Heisler
Cover: Sean McNally
Reviewed by: JF Boivin (01/25/2010)
Han and Leia escape from Fallowan after stealing important data from an Imperial base, and Han then decides to deliver a cargo to nearby Kishpaugh Spaceport in the Nelvana Gas Cluster. Tookra the Geonosian is not happy to receive his parts eight months late when he no longer needs them, and he sends his war droid K1L-R to crush the two Rebels. Fleeing the droid, they run into Grintlok, an old acquaintance of Han's who unbeknownst to him has kidnapped Princess Mi of Orocco. Grintlok hires Han to deliver a drum of engine solvent to Raltac III and on the way there Princess Mi is discovered inside the drum. Meanwhile, Grintlok receives a new job from his boss Raze who wants his friend King Arturo's kidnapped daughter found and has also hired the bounty hunter Dust. Grintlok plans to get to Han first to eliminate him and blame the kidnapping on him. When the Millennium Falcon arrives on Cataalda, they find the Rebel base there abandonned after a recent Imperial attack. Han and Leia are then attacked by Tookra and his droid who followed them there, and the bounty hunter Dust. After they escape and reach the Falcon, they find Grintlok and his henchmen waiting for them. But King Arturo and Raze arrive and capture the real kidnappers, and Arturo offers his daughter's hand in marriage to Han as a reward. But then Han runs back to the Falcon and Leia where he really belongs.
First off, it is set "approximately one year before Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back" which means roughly 2 years ABY. This would be while Echo Base was being constructed on Hoth, therefore the need to introduce a different base for the Rebel Alliance, an outpost on the main island of Cataalda. While Han is diverting from delivering Leia's stolen data to them, the base is attacked by an Imperial patrol and evacuated, according to a holorecording left behind by Luke.
The story opens in media res, with Leia and Han running for their lives from Imperial tanks on Fallowan where they stole vital data about Imperial shipping hyperlanes from a secret base there. Most of their encounters are told between them while they bicker on their way back to the Millennium Falcon. Then normally they should go deliver the data right away to the Rebels, but since they are close to one of Han's delivery areas he decides to drop off a shipment he was supposed to deliver months ago somewhere in the Nelvana Gas Cluster. The area could be a reference to Nelvana from the Clone Wars cartoon micro-series, but they land in Kishpaugh Spaceport, which could be a space station since no planet is named. This new hive of scum and villainy is home to a surprising amount of shady people from Han's past, and they all end up wanting to kill him. First there's Tookra who paid in advance for the parts Han is delivering. Problem is, he needed those parts eight months ago. Now it's too late and Tookra wants Han's hide, sending his giant robot after him and Leia.
Then Han runs into another acquaintance who seems to help him first by hiding them from the robot. But Grintlok has an ulterior motive for doing it: he needs a pilot to smuggle a kidnapped princess to his safehouse on Raltac III while her father comes up with the ransom money. He convinces Han by duping him into delivering a drum of very toxic engine solvent that would be dangerous to open. Han loads the drum aboard the Falcon and lifts off. The container is not soundproof, so when Han and Leia hear a wimpering sound coming from it, they open it to discover Princess Mi of Orocco hidden inside. They still decide to continue with their mission and deliver the Imperial data to Cataalda and take care of Princess Mi later.
Meanwhile, back at Kishpaugh Spaceport aboard Dhoro's Sorrow Grintlock is contacted by his boss Raze (who last appeared chronologically over a year prior in Rebellion #10). Apparently this little kidnapping and ransom job of Grintlok's was done without Raze's knowledge because the crime boss reveals that he's friends with King Arturo of Orocco and wants to hire Grintlok and his crew to rescue her. Furthermore, Raze has also hired a mysterious bounty hunter named Dust as extra insurance. So Grintlok now has extra motivation to beat the competition to Han Solo before the smuggler can reveal Grintlok's involvement in the whole scheme. Plus, Tookra wants his credits back from Solo so he also goes after them in his ship along with K1L-R. So it's going to be a big showdown on Cataalda, although it is not explained how all of these separate parties manage to find Solo's destination so quickly and all at the same time.
The first one to attack is Tookra's giant droid. While Han and Chewie are busy trying to stay alive, the bounty hunter Dust arrives on speeder and captures Leia and Mi. He brings them to his ship where Leia bargains for their escape by offering to give the decrypt codes for the Imperial data that she stole. Dust accepts to give them a one hour headstart, but as soon as the two princesses get outside to meet with Han, the bounty hunter changes his mind and starts firing. He is interrupted by K1L-R wrecking his ship while pursuing Han, and Dust ends up battling with the droid while the Rebels escape on a speeder bike. But their troubles are not over. As Han, Chewie and the two princesses reach the Falcon, they are met by Grintlok and his three associates. Soon, a starship lands and Raze and King Arturo exit, ordering their guards to capture all parties involved. Fearing being discovered, Grintlok and his men try to kill Han and the princesses but they are stopped by the Raze. With Princess Mi still alive, she is able to reveal the identity of her kidnapper and Raze promises to deal with Grintlok himself. The King then offers his daughter's hand in marriage as a reward to Solo for rescuing her, but the smuggler runs away back to the Falcon and Leia, where she reveals that she gave bogus data to Dust. So they can now finally return to the fleet with the stolen data.
The story is a fun adventure and introduces a bunch of new interesting characters and locales. Tookra is a pretty interesting addition to Han's list of former employers (although the time period indicates Han was still smuggling while he was with the Alliance), and his droid is a fierce opponent. Grintlok and his men Kubla the Devaronian, Geddy the Dressellian and an unnamed Feeorin are typical thugs, while their boss Raze is the only returning character from a previous series. The bounty hunter Dust is very cool and mysterious, much like Boba Fett used to be. His polarized helmet reminds me of another bounty hunter, Beylyssa, and at one point when it gets smashed we see that Dust appears to be of the same Gen'Dai species as Durge (as seen in Obsession #3). Dust is left stranded on Cataalda, so he can easily be used again in future stories. The final new characters are Princess Mi and her father. Mi is a typical spoiled daughter of a rich official who finds herself in distress and is willing to do anything to get back to her life. Arturo is the typical father who wants his daughter safely returned. No innovations there. Then of course among the familiar characters, I wonder why the story is called "Princess Leia and the Royal Ransom" while it's more about Han. Maybe it's because the previous issue was about Han. I found that Chewie has a very minor role as usual in most Han stories not handled by Brian Daley, and while it's refreshing to have a Rebellion-era story without Luke, he does have a small camero as a hologram.
Story-wise, I think it's a very average plot. The adventure aspect is balanced by the lack of originality. And there are some plot holes such as how did Tookra, Dust and Grintlok all follow the Falcon on their own? Only Grintlok had an idea where Han would go and that was Raltac III not Cataalda. Also, Leia sometimes seems to act out-of-character. She does remind Han several times that they are supposed to deliver the plans to the Rebellion and complains when he takes on a side job, but she doesn't do anything about it. Han just about put the whole mission in jeopardy, and at the end Leia just makes playful jokes at his expense. I think the real Leia would never have let this happen. Maybe it's because Han's actions made them avoid the Imperial attack on the base which they would have to have evacuated anyway, but who knows. I do like the format though, and the potential for stories is almost limitless.
I found the art very plain. Characters are barely recognizable and look different from one panel to the next. In fact, I'm not even sure what species Grintlok is supposed to be (a Barabel or a Trandoshan maybe?) Princess Mi is supposed to be an attractive young female according to the narration, but here she looks like a cartoon character. On the plus side, Soriano is able to create some cool poses, and the droid K1L-R's design is amazing. The coloring definitely improves on the whole thing, but this is a case where inking would have benefited the artwork instead of just rough line art. And I don't like the cover much. Han looks like Michael Richards. I much prefer the solicitation cover.
An average story with some interesting new characters and subpar artwork.
Rating: 6.5 / 10