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Hair growth: Princess Leia & Vader Down

I want to talk about Leia’s hair in the Star Wars/Vader Down comics. A subject I’ve been meaning to talk about for a couple of weeks. Hair! Leia! Spending far too long assembling caps of Leia’s hair.

At the moment the Marvel Star Wars comics are halfway through their Star Wars/Darth Vader Vader Down crossover. For me so far it’s been so eh. But one thing really threw me off: In the first two issues (Vader Down, Darth Vader 13) Leia had her cinnamon buns (as seen in the second to last row of images.) This just… doesn’t feel right for Leia.

The only times – canonically (as in the current new canon) – that Leia has had her buns back was in the Dodson pencilled Princess Leia mini-series (second row of images). At this point she was undertaking a ruse, allowing herself to be captured to facilitate a rescue operation and then  few minor pieces of business in her role as Princess of Alderaan, last living member of royalty. It was a calculated re-adoption of the look, and she is shown moving from a braided ‘do to the buns whilst plotting and scheming with Evaan. Otherwise… she spends the mini in a number of up-does that callback to the buns, then finally ending with the Hoth braid back at the rebel base. The looks are, generally, more formal and elaborate than those she’s been shown with in other titles, but she is operating in an official capacity as she gathers the shreds of her people and seeks a new home from them. They have a ceremonial purpose intended to evoke her heritage and status that needs to be recognisable and accessible, and yet she never goes for the buns except when she has to walk into a complicated Imperial situation. They are a strategic look.

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Over in the main Star Wars title, Leia has spent the entirety of the run sporting a braided ‘do. It’s hard to tell if she’s had two different styles under Cassaday and Immonen, or if it’s just the same one drawn and interpreted differently. Immonen has a tendency to silhouette. (Sure, I could have picked a better Cassaday cap but that would mean taking the time to look for one. Leia’s expression here pretty much encapsulates how I feel about his art. And him.) The point is that not once has she been shown with the ANH buns; the run has been pretty much flat out action, with Leia in exasperated heroine mode. Her hair is sensible – as on Hoth – but still alludes to who and what she is: a princess and a leader.

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Which brings us back to Vader down. And Leia, inexplicably, back in the buns. She’s still wearing her costume from the main Star Wars title, which is essentially a more militaristic take on her ANH dress with reinforced ribbed detailing and actual leggings under the split skirt. Again, practical but evocative. And then there’s the hair…

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With this costume, it just doesn’t look right. In the two issues she’s drawn by a couple of artists, and in each instance it sits wrong. On so many levels. That the only other time she has been shown (thus far, at least) to go back to this hair is in a politically fraught situation is telling. After the Battle of Yavin, this look isn’t seen again; Leia moves to the tall braided look for the ceremony and that’s it. Every look from therein out is braided. Again: significant.

Leia is no longer a double agent, she’s not longer an ambassador or political representative. She is now the princess of a lost world and open leader of a military rebellion. It would make sense for this to have been a traditionally ceremonial look, as supported by the Princess Leia mini. So… Leia no longer has any need for it, personally or politically. Either putting it aside as a sign of respect, a sign of mourning, a personal sense of moving on or evolution, or sheer practicality. She is now de facto leader – Breha (for her one tiny glimpse) had a braided up-do not so dissimilar to Leia’s Hoth look, though admittedly considerably more elaborate. Even in TFA (this isn’t a spoiler, we’ve seen both of her looks in trailers and on the posters) she doesn’t have anything resembling the buns: she has.. something akin to the Hoth braid, though much softer and looser.

But here are these two issues of Vader Down just casually showing Leia going back to that look with no explanation, and it just feels so egregious. Like a neglect of character and where she is, what she’s been through.  Where the story stands, the state of the Rebel Alliance. It’s such a simple nonsensical thing to focus on, but these things are significant, especially in the GFFA. Just think of the shifts between Padme and Amidala in TPM, where her ceremonial Queen headdresses involved elaborate yet smooth manipulation of her hair whilst as Padme she had (ridiculously elaborate, but ok) braids. (There’s that one shot in TPM that has alway amused/frustrated me where Padme’s braids are a mess and looks like she slept in them then half vaguely tried to do them herself and Disaster. But then it’s never seen again. I digress.)

Then we move into Star Wars 13, part 3 of Vader Down and hey, the braids are back! When we see Leia she’s getting ready to go into the field with a battalion to face down Vader (in field armour, Leia in field armour, oh my gods), so this is her back to practical and efficient. She’s addressed in the field as ‘Commander’. She has a helmet on (at first) so buns would never have fit. This is Leia in full-on leader mode. And yet… she was in leader mode in the last two issues, just slightly less actiony. Given that this is the same time frame as the main Star Wars title (considering it’s… the same title…), there is no reason for the sudden turnaround. At all. The jump back in look makes no sense narratively or from a character point of view. Unfortunately it really really throws me out of the book and the action when I’m sitting there going, ‘Why?’

Given that it was different artists on Vader Down and Darth Vader 13, it’s always possible that the look wasn’t communicated properly, but that doesn’t make sense since other details and characters were shared across the books and it’s something that the editing would have caught. I can only assume that it’s a very strange and ooc yet purposeful decision that was made.

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There is also the cover of Star Wars 13 where she has a completely different braided look, but covers so very rarely – ie. almost never – have anything to do with anything and it is still more appropriate than the buns on every level.

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