Three years ago in a boardroom likely far, far away the titans known as Disney met with George Lucas about purchasing his franchise, his baby, and continuing to build on the story so many people have loved over the years. Since 2012, Disney has made an effort to create something that would appeal to fans new and old alike. This includes, most obviously, erasing the entire Extended Universe catalogue of stories made apart from the films and Clone Wars television series in favor of creating a new trilogy set after Return of the Jedi featuring old characters like Luke, Han and Leia and new characters like the villainous Kylo Ren. There are some fans that feel Disney is going to bleed the brand dry, but I like to consider myself one of the more optimistic fans regarding the purchase. It is a great time to be a Star Wars fan since we now have so much awesome content that is currently being released and some more in the pipeline. As far as the Extended Universe is concerned, I had read a few books and played some of the video games, but for the most part I was oblivious to the majority of the Extended Universe and found it hard to get into and contradictory at times. It made sense to scrap almost all of it, both creatively for any talent working on the stories and for the audience.
This included the stories told in the comic books, and since Disney also owns a certain House of Ideas, they had a channel to tell stories from different time periods in print format. Marvel had been behind the original Star Wars comics until the late 80’s/early 90’s when Dark Horse took over, producing all the comic titles as part of the EU during that period. These new comics, along with any new stories in any medium produced from the buyout to now, are considered canon or fact as far as the Star Wars universe is concerned. I’ve been reading all the comics produced since earlier this year when Marvel began printing the ongoing monthly Star Wars title in addition to other books such as the Princess Leia mini-series and the Darth Vader ongoing book. But how do they stack up and why should you read them? Well, apart from the obvious of enriching the universe and characters from the films, they are really very good.
This is the main title for the new Star Wars comics and so far, all eight issues have been a real treat! The first six issues tell one storyline of what happens after Episode IV and before Episode V, beginning with Han, Leia, Chewie, Luke and the droids attacking an Imperial factory in what should have been a simple demolition mission…before Vader arrives and complicates matters. Vader and Luke have their first encounter here and Luke realizes he has much to learn, so he sets out for Obi-Wan’s old home on Tatooine as Vader dispatches Boba Fett to capture him. John Cassady’s art is fantastic and reading each panel feels like you’re watching one of the movies as you read. That’s also testament to writer Jason Aaron’s work, he really gets each of the characters and we get to see them continue to grow and evolve from their victory at the end of A New Hope and into Empire Strikes Back. My favorite issue, which takes a break from the main story, is number seven as it tells a standalone story of Obi-Wan as he fights a band of bandits during the early years of his stay on Tatooine watching Luke.
Running concurrent with the main title, we get to see Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca take on Vader’s journey and it builds on some of the smaller details present in Empire such as Vader knowing he has a son. Holding the blame for the destruction of the Death Star and the attack on the aforementioned Imperial factory, the Emperor assigns him a handler and we get to see the war from the other side of the conflict. Vader finds allies of his own in his vendetta to find the name of the pilot who destroyed the Death Star, including hiring Boba Fett, and encounters some powerful enemies in his quest to learn the truth. If you’re a fan of the old Vader’s Quest storyline from the old Extended Universe or want more Vader, definitely pick this up. Unlike the prequels, we get to see Vader done right and get to go inside of his head in a way we haven’t seen and see more of his relationship with the Emperor and other officers in the Empire.
Taking place IMMEDIATELY after Episode IV, the Rebels begin evacuating Yavin in the hopes of finding a new base. However, Leia has a new mission that is personal in nature: finding all the survivors of Alderann displaced among the stars and uniting them again. Artist Terry Dodson and writer Mark Waid remind us of what makes Leia such a powerful and interesting character in the Star Wars saga, showing us her courage, her compassion, her ability to hold onto hope and her determination to stop the Empire. Facing conflict within and without her fledging group of survivors, Leia has to overcome many conflicts in her quest. Leia, as the capture princess held hostage in the original movie could have easily become the damsel in distress but due to both writing and Carrie Fisher’s performance, she became something greater. Without getting into spoilers, one terrific scene involves Leia visiting Naboo and having a vision. I wish this series had been ongoing as well, but perhaps one day we’ll see that as a possibility. Dodson’s beautiful artwork captures the regal quality of Leia we tend to skip past in the original trilogy and he captures Carrie Fisher’s likeness quite well.
This series focuses on the adventures of Kanan Jarrus, captain of the Ghost from Star Wars Rebels, before he became “Kanan” and was jedi padawan Caleb Dume. Taking place during flashbacks as the Ghost crew prepares for a job on a planet Kanan visited during the Clone Wars, readers get to see the early stages of his growth into the character we know him as from Rebels. When Order 66 was issued, their clones betrayed Kanan and his master and he barely made it out alive before taking various odd jobs and hiding his lightsaber. Evading capture and suspicion, Kanan befriends a smuggler that would later change his life. I’ve loved watching Rebels since it started last fall and Kanan has struck me as an interesting character due to his troubled past and being one of the last jedi. I was nervous that this title would screw him up at first, but that was quickly put to rest once I finished issue one. If you’re a fan of Rebels and want more Kanan, be sure to pick this series up. If you’re not…start watching the show!
Like Leia, this is another mini-series that is meant to last five issues and although we’re only halfway into it as of this writing, I wish it were an ongoing as well. Wanting to square away an old debt of his, Lando and his partner Lobot take a job to steal a ship from an Imperial freight yard. What they don’t know is that this ship contains important cargo and belongs to the Emperor, who wants it back. Taking place before he was Administrator of Cloud City and before he joined the Rebellion, this is Lando at his most charming and his most scoundrel. Charles Soule’s writing fleshes out Lando more and we get to see more of his confidence, more of his charm, more of his cleverness than we saw in the movies. Combined with Alex Maleev’s artwork, they really capture what is really compelling about Lando and Billy Dee’s performance.
Starting in September, we get Shattered Empire that helps bridge the gap from Return of the Jedi to the Force Awakens and the aftermath following the destruction of the Death Star. What makes this interesting is that we get to see some light shed on the galaxy after Vader and the Emperor’s deaths and how the Empire reacted, leading up to them reforming into the First Order present in Episode VII. I was watching some Robot Chicken Star Wars sketches the other day and one in particular was both funny and interesting as it dealt with two Imperial officers discussing the future of the Empire after the Emperor’s death. It will be great to see that explored, hopefully we see things from both sides in this series.
Following this, Chewbacca gets his turn in the spotlight in a story set after Episode IV that has Chewie stranded on a planet during a mission for the Rebellion, during which he comes into conflict with the Empire alongside a friend. Much like the Groot series Marvel recently put out, I was surprised and curious how they would pull off a character that can’t communicate like his friends. I’m hoping for some great action and more cool moments from Chewie, he’s a great character and it will be cool to see more of him without Han.
November has what I think will be the most epic of Star Wars stories so far from the new comics: Vader Down. Starting as a one-shot stand-alone title before spreading into the ongoing titles, the story focuses on Vader’s TIE Fighter crash landing on a deserted planet where he is alone and wounded. The Rebel Alliance realizes this is their chance to destroy him once and for all and take him out of the equation. Given that he lives, this is going to be an amazing story of Vader’s power and resourcefulness, as he takes on the Rebellion alone. Expect some great moments from the former Skywalker.
Finally, continuing to bridge the gap between Jedi and Force is Journey to the Force Awakens-C-3PO. Sadly, nothing has really been revealed about this story so far including the team who is behind it creatively. But since 3PO is my favorite droid, I’ll be picking it up to see how he evolves over the 30 years we don’t see. Including his new red arm from the recent photos.
Before Episode VII is released, the main title along with Vader, Leia and Lando will be collected in graphic novel format. So if you’re not interested in getting individual issues, give them a shot collected. They’re unlike anything you’ve read or seen before featuring that galaxy.
Featured Image: The Nerdist
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