In 2009 Disney bought Marvel. In 2012 Disney bought Star Wars. And from those two purchases Dark Horse lost their comic book publishing rights to Star Wars Comics at the end of 2014 and Marvel launched its new Star Wars line of comics in January of 2015. While it is a sad day seeing the end of Dark Horse’s various Star Wars series after almost twenty-five years, the thought of new beginnings and new creators working from Marvel on new sets of series was an exciting moment for the Star Wars canon. Marvel saw the opportunity and put some of their best creators on these series and have developed some truly great Star Wars comics this year and there are sure to be more to come.
So here is a rundown of the comics Marvel has offered us this year (and one from next year) with the when it happens in continuity, what it is about, and why you should read it.
Star Wars (On-Going) – Jason Aaron, John Cassaday, & Stuart Immonen
When & What: The story takes place (so far except for one issue) between episodes IV & V with the classic cast of characters you want to read about. It’s the gang from the original series on the run still from Vader and the Empire, and many of our favorite peripheral characters and species are presented as well.
Why: With the first issue sales at 985,976, if you haven’t already read some of this series you may be the only one. To put that number in a bit of perspective, comic sales haven’t seen that sort volume since the comic boom of the early 90s and the highest selling comics typically hover 200k-100k in recent years (the past fifteen or so). This is a huge series, and one that lives up to the hype. If you’re a fan of the original trilogy, I can’t recommend this series enough. It has great stories with some truly awesome moments including (just to mention two recent favorites of mine) Chewbacca in a brawl with Dengar and in the next issue a dual lightsaber wielding Chewbacca (basically Chewie gets some great scene stealers in this series). Oh and I forgot about the scene where Chewie tries to sniper Vader and Vader uses the force to move Stormtroopers into the line of fire as shields. Yeah, this book makes me excited like a little kid and is a must read.
Darth Vader (On-Going) – Keiron Gillen, Salvador Larroca, & Leinil Francis Yu
When & What: This series too takes place between Episodes IV & V and at points is happening at virtually the same time as the main Star Wars comic series. In fact, these two series are currently in the midst of a cross-over story. Part of the series so far seems to be Vader seeking other potential Sith who would usurp his place. There is a larger cast of new characters, even though one of the droids seems identical in personality to the evil droid from the Knights of the Old Republic video game (I can’t remember if it was in the first of the second game of that series, sorry).
Why: Gillen has a huge fan base, and while I will say his writing isn’t bad it has never entirely clicked with me when he works on non-original properties. His take of characters typically differs from how I’ve seen them, and so I have a hard time really getting into his comics unless they are his creator-owned work. And this Vader series I can’t help but feel the same way. It isn’t a bad series and it does have a good plot, but there just feels like something is off with the characters. It is probably just me, and I still think you should give it a try if you’re a huge Star Wars fan.
Kanan: The Last Padawan (On-Going) – Greg Weisman, Jacopo Camagni, & Pepe Larraz
When & What: This series takes place between Episodes III & IV and revolves around the cartoon Star Wars Rebels. The first arc of the series (and honestly the only issues I’ve read so far) revolve around the origin story of Kanan. I’ve never watched the show this is based off, so I’m unsure where the comic fits in with the show’s actual timeline. It is a fairly action packed all-ages read that doesn’t require knowledge from the show to entirely enjoy, but I’m sure already established fans will get more out of it than just casual readers.
Why: Again, if you’re a fan of the show, this one is for you. Also, if you have kids I think this one is great for them, because it tries to stay away from some of the darker material in the other Star Wars series. But, it is well enough written that I think anyone would enjoy it who enjoys the Star Wars universe. And if the name Greg Weisman sounds familiar to you it is because he was the creator of the cartoon Gargoyles and has written on cartoons for over twenty-five years which includes writing on the show this comic is based off.
Princess Leia (5 Issue Limited) – Mark Waid & Terry Dodson
When & What: This series takes place between Episodes IV & V and revolves around, you guessed it, Princess Leia Organa. These five issues revolve around her coming to terms with the destruction of her home planet of Alderaan and she seeks out to find the remnant survivors of her lost civilization.
Why: Waid and Dodson are both industry legends, but this book falls somewhere in the middle in terms of quality from them. That being said, average from those two is better than good from many creators in comics. The best part of this story is actually filling in enough of the story to understand why Leia isn’t curled in a ball and crying the entire time of Empire Strikes Back as she mourns for the loss of her home planet at the hands of Prostenic Vogon Jeltz… wait… sorry, wrong planet-destroying baddie. But if you’re a fan of Leia and always wondered how she coped with the events of Episode IV then this is the comic for you.
Lando (5 Issue Limited) – Charles Soule & Alex Maleev
When & What: This series takes place prior to Episode V and before Lando Calrissian becomes the head of Cloud City. Lando is suave. Lando is a womanizer. Lando is a loveable criminal. Lando is space Danny Ocean and space James Bond (Frank Sinatra and Sean Connery). Lando steals a ship and garners unwanted attention from the Empire, specifically Emperor Palpatine himself.
Why: I’m extremely partial to Lando as a character, so out of all the limited series I think it is the best. The writer obviously has as much of an infatuation with Billy Dee Williams’ seminal character (and true hero of Return of the Jedi if you ask me) as I do. So, I’m biased on this one and definitely think you should read it.
Star Wars: Shattered Empire (4 Issue Limited) – Greg Rucka & Marco Checchetto
When & What: This series takes place between Episodes VI & VII and is considered a prequel (of sorts) to the up-coming (or already released if you’re reading this after December 18th 2015) Force Awakens. It tells the story of the continued struggles between the Empire and the Rebels after the destruction of the second Death Star and prominently introduces the parents of one of the heroes (maybe… I haven’t seen it yet) of the Force Awakens, Poe Dameron.
Why: Probably what is so great about this series is that Return of the Jedi leaves you feeling that everything is great as the Ewoks sing their stupid song, but really all that has happened is a power vacuum has been created inside of the Empire. The war is long from over, and this series explores that. While it isn’t necessary to read this to able to enjoy The Force Awakens, I think it adds a few steps in the story that may potentially fill in some gaps between the two series the way Star Wars: Clone Wars (the Tartakovsky cartoon series, which was amazing) filled in between Episodes II & III and Shadows of the Empire (which if you’re only going to read one Star Wars book, personally I think that is the one) filled in between V & VI.
Chewbacca (5 Issue Limited) – Gerry Duggan & Phil Noto
When & What: This series is yet another that takes place between Episodes IV & V. In it Chewie finds himself stranded on an Imperially controlled planet and with the help of a girl finds a way back to the Rebellion. Like in the movies, Chewie doesn’t speak in “Basic”, the language everyone else speaks, but in the Wookie barks and grunts.
Why: The best reason to read this series is for Noto’s exceptional art. Duggan has given Noto full responsibility to tell a large portion of the plot through art given the main character’s lack of comprehensible dialogue. So for this reason alone, I think it is a fascinating read, and one that has been done previously (mainly with the X-Men character Doop) but never done as well.
Obi-Wan & Anakin (5 Issue Limited) – Charles Soule & Marco Checchetto
When & What: This series takes place three years after Episode I and appears to be Jar Jar and George Lucas dialogue free. It is coming out in January of 2016, and it is about a mission the Master and Padawan embark upon in the midst of Anakin’s training. Obi-Wan is his cool and calm usual self and Anakin is a hot-headed, jerky usual self, so expect a lot of bickering.
Why: Soule is currently a well-spring of solid comics having written more comics for Marvel in the past two years than most writers do in their career all while being a full-time lawyer. So everyone is waiting for the hammer to fall and Soule to run out of good stories, but it hasn’t happened yet. He really is a great writer and I think it is always worth it to give his work a try. Checchetto is a great artist who has a strong realistic style which makes him accessible to all levels of comic book fans. And it will probably be better than Episodes I or II although that’s a fairly low bar.
SO THERE YOU HAVE IT! Marvel’s current lineup of Star Wars Comics. What do you think? Have you read any/all of them? Sound off with your own opinions on any of these (or anything Star Wars related, we’re not picky) in the comments section below.
May the Force be with you all,
– Kevin McVicker
Staff Writer: Nerd Nation Magazine