The Star Wars saga’s greatest heroine Leia Organa is often thought to be unbreakable, but the Empire DID manage to break her hope – once.
This article contains spoilers for Star Wars #8, by Charles Soule, Ramon Rosanas, and Rachelle Rosenberg.
Star Wars has finally revealed how the Empire broke Leia Organa. Played by the late, great, Carrie Fisher, Leia Organa is one of the greatest fictional heroines. She was a trailblazing feminist icon right from the start, proving to be no mere damsel in distress when she took charge of her own rescue in the first Star Wars film.
Leia has an unparalleled ability to endure almost any trial. Captured by Darth Vader, she was subjected to horrific physical and psychological torture courtesy of an Imperial Torture Droid, and yet still refused to crack. When her entire homeworld of Alderaan was threatened, she gave the Empire dud information that led them to an old Rebel base rather than the current one on Yavin IV. And after watching Alderaan’s destruction, losing all her loved ones courtesy of Grand Moff Tarkin, she retained the sheer strength of will to push through the grief and strike back against the Empire. Leia has an incredible force of will. Little wonder she became a symbol of the Rebellion.
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And yet, for all that’s the case, it seems there was one occasion when the Empire did successfully break Leia. Star Wars #8 sees Grand Moff Tarkin’s protégé, Commander Zahra, launch a cunning strike against the Rebel Alliance. As battle rages, she leads a boarding party to attack the Rebel flagship. Once aboard, she heads straight to the engine room, and rigs it to blow – offering to spare everyone if Leia will come down to face her. “I am here for Princess Leia Organa,” Zahra declares over the intercom. “Send her to the engine room alone. She can bring any weapons she likes. It won’t matter. The moment I see her — again, alone — I will reactivate the limiters on your reactor.” When questioned, Zahra insists there is only one thing she wants; a conversation.
Zahra is actually telling the truth – after a fashion. She blames Princess Leia for Tarkin’s death, because Leia was the one who engineered the attack on the First Death Star. Zahra aims to get her revenge by breaking Leia, not merely defeating her, and she uses this brief encounter as an opportunity to do that. She demonstrates her skill to Leia, disarming the Princess with ease and demonstrating that she is powerless before her. At the same time, Zahra allows her hatred to shine through, shaking Leia to the core. The mismatched fight is thankfully interrupted by Luke Skywalker, who comes to the rescue, but he is too late; Zahra has already accomplished her objective. She escapes the ship, and later explains her plans to a subordinate. “I did more damage to the Rebellion in that engine room than a thousand Star Destroyers could,” she observes. “In that moment, in the darkness, I took away her hope.“
It’s a curious fact that, as celebrated a character as she may be, Leia Organa has never had a true nemesis. Charles Soule has just changed that, creating a phenomenal villain who will prove a true challenge to Leia. Already Zahra has struck a devastating blow, with Star Wars #8 suggesting her boast – to have taken away Leia’s hope – is true. The Princess must somehow regain her hope – even though Zahra’s mission has only just begun.
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