Starter’s Guide to reading Marvel’s Star Wars Comics


Remember the time Princess Leia picked up a lightsaber to fight off Imperial troops? What about when Darth Vader began his ruthless hunt for the identity of the X-wing pilot who destroyed the Death Star?  Not even the moment Han Solo earned the nickname ‘nerf herder’? If  the answer is no,  then most likely you haven’t yet dived into fantastic Star Wars titles being published by Marvel Comics as part of the franchise’s expanded universe.  Under Marvel’s logo, the tales of our heroes and villains are quickly becoming some of the best Star Wars adventures around and the great news is that it’s easier than ever to pick out a  beginning starting place.  Read on to learn how you can take the easy jump into the comic books of Star Wars.

The Star Wars titles released by Marvel fall into two categories: limited series with a single self-contained story arc and ongoing series, with multiple story arcs.  Both have covered different parts of the Star Wars universe’s timeline, heroes, and events, and offer great places to take those tentative steps based on where your current likes and dislikes might fall.  The best part of both types is that most of them have already been collected in bound volumes, so you don’t have to worry about hunting down an elusive issue number four or fourteen to enjoy any story arc.  For those who prefer toe dipping versus the cannonball approach to entering the comic book swimming pool, the limited series offer a great way to get a taste of Star Wars in print and there currently is a superb selection to choose from.


Two of the first published are Chewbacca and Lando.  One is about a hero who speaks only in growls, roars, and sighs, the other is about a hero who not only can’t stop talking, but does so with a gilded tongue.  Chewbacca follows a side adventure of our favorite wookiee shortly after A New Hope, when a crash landing results in Chewie becoming entangled in one teenage girl’s fight to free her father and friends from slavery.  Given Chewbacca’s own past with enslavement, it’s a cause the wookiee can’t pass up on, regardless of his time table.  When the Empire shows up, the stakes only grow higher.  Stakes are also everything to Lando Calrissian, in his self-titled limited series, we get to meet Lando before Cloud City.  Unsurprisingly, Lando is in pursuit of a dangerous but very lucrative job, pulling his friend, Lobot (remember the guy with the computer in his head from Empire?) into the mix.  Only after assembling a crack team and pulling off what seems like a successful heist, does Lando discover his life expectancy, along with his chances of bringing home a fortune, have dropped considerably.

Both Lando and Chewbacca contain great writing in the form of new characters to the Star Wars universe, as well beautiful art that perfectly conveys the immediacy of every moment across each page from beginning to end.   However, if you’re looking for a female lead title, then you’re equally in luck with Princess Leia.  Released about the same time as Chewbacca and Lando, this limited series follows Princess Leia Organa immediately after the victory celebration that concluded A New Hope.  Still reeling from the loss of her family and planet, Alderaan, Leia focuses her energy into seeking out and saving the surviving Alderaanians, all of whom the Empire is busily hunting down in reprisal for the royal’s involvement in the destruction of its Death Star.  Women take a front and center role in Princess Leia, illustrative of Marvel’s and Lucasfilm’s continual emphasis on both genders for the franchise.  They also kick butt, too.


These three limited series have been collected into a single hard cover bound volume entitled, Star Wars: Heroes for a New Hope, but its publication date isn’t set until November.  For those who cannot wait that long, each can be bought individually depending one’s eagerness to read them or preferred characters involved.  Nor are they the only limited series available at the moment with three other options covering three different points in time in the Star Wars universe.

For many, it all comes back to the original trilogy with the story concluding (until The Force Awakens) with the celebration of the Empire’s defeat in Return of the Jedi.  In the 1990s, the events which followed laid the foundation down for the first major exploration of the Expanded Universe.  One of the first limited series released slips right into the question that followed Jedi, what next? That series is Star Wars: Shattered Empire.

Shattered Empire is only four issues long, but follows the trajectory of the Rebel Alliance from that rocking Ewok party and on mainly through two new characters, Shara Bey and Kes Dameron, who team up with Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia on three different missions.  Beyond being our point of reference, Shara and Kes also have the notable roles of being the parents of Poe Dameron, the best pilot of the Resistance from The Force Awakens.  For those itching to start filling in the void between Jedi and The Force Awakens, Shattered Empire is a well-written and finely illustrated turning point already available in a nice collected volume.  Fans of the prequel trilogy, likewise, have two limited series to dive into and enjoy.

The story of Anakin Skywalker’s fall and re-emergence as Darth Vader is the arc which connects all three prequel films, but it also has a sizable gap between The Phantom Menace and Attack of the ClonesObi-Wan and Anakin, a five issue limited series seeks to begin filling in that gap with an adventure of the doomed padawan and his master, Kenobi, set on a planet ruined by centuries of factional warfare.  Woven through one harrowing escape after another are also back flashes to another part of Anakin’s education, the influential mentoring of the future Emperor Palpatine.  The seeds of Anakin’s trust in the secret Sith are explored, providing insight into the decision making of the Chosen One.  Anakin’s fall coincided, and aided, the destruction of the Jedi Order.  The onscreen depiction of Order 66 in Revenge of the Sith was brutal and an essential part of one of the more popular Jedi characters on television, Kanan Jarrus.


Fans of Star Wars Rebels are already very familiar with Kanan, as well readers of John Jackson Miller’s A New Dawn, which explored the circumstances around Kanan meeting future friend and possible love interest, Hera Syndulla.  Kanan: The Last Padawan takes readers even further back into Kanan’s past life as Caleb Dume, a padawan under the tutelage of Master Depa Billaba.  Twelve issues, presently available in two bound volumes (a single bound volume collecting all the issues is coming out in the future), cover the heartbreaking story of Order 66’s impact on Caleb’s life and how the padawan survived to become Kanan Jarrus.  A must read for anyone who loves Rebels, as well anyone who wants to learn more about the fall of the Jedi Order on a much more personal level, Kanan: The Last Padawan is a perfect step for those who want more than just one story arc in their Star Wars comics buying adventure.

Multiple story arcs are the hallmark of ongoing series, but thankfully, as they conclude, those arcs are packed into bound volumes, allowing for the perfect purchase of the exact number of issues for maximum enjoyment.  The Marvel Star Wars publishing universe has several ongoing titles which are worth checking out depending on one’s personal tastes and general need for all things Star Wars. Obviously, there can’t be a Star Wars comic book run without a self-titled Star Wars series.


Nearing issue number twenty-two at the time of this writing, Star Wars picks up in the time period following A New Hope and before The Empire Strikes Back.  The result is our heroes are still not one hundred percent comfortable with becoming the iconic characters of original trilogy’s middle installment, and as a result, in a perfect place to explore their past and their futures.  The first short story arc covers a rebel attempt lead by Han, Luke, and Leia, to destroy a major Imperial arms manufacturing plant that runs into a snag when Darth Vader unexpectedly arrives.  The brevity of the arc allows for a nice introduction to the comic Star Wars universe and the starting point for future arcs, such as the following one in which Luke leaves his friends and the rebellion to try and learn more about the path to becoming a Jedi that Obi-Wan set him upon in A New Hope.  At three bound volumes and counting, there’s endless excitement awaiting anyone who starts this series.

As Star Wars continues onward with the classic adventure and fun we’ve come to expect from the galaxy far, far away, it features a crossover with the best ongoing series under the franchise’s umbrella, Darth Vader.  To call Darth Vader an ongoing series is valid, but only for a short time.  The first full week of September will feature issue number twenty-five, which will serve as the final issue of an incredible run that began a couple years ago.  Darth Vader isn’t just for fans of the Empire, but anyone who wants to enjoy an introspective look into one of the most frightening villains of recent times, as Vader engages in a quest that leads from the trenches of the Death Star to Anakin Skywalker’s past.  In the midst are some of the best supporting new characters to join the Star Wars universe, such as Dr. Aphra, an amoral rogue archeologist, a torture obsessed protocol droid, and an astromech carrying enough armament to threaten an army.  At the same time, in the wake of his failure to stop the rebels in A New Hope, Vader must also deal with the Emperor’s side project, the cultivation of potential replacements for his formerly trusted lieutenant.

Darth Vader represents the best of an ongoing Star Wars title, but with its imminent conclusion, there remains other titles which can be enjoyed which still have that new car smell.  Beyond Star Wars, fans of The Force Awakens can pick up Poe Dameron, set just before the events of the aforementioned blockbuster film.  In Poe Dameron, we see the creation of Dameron’s Black Squadron, as Poe, himself, is sent on a mission by General Leia to find Lor San Tekka, the gentleman played by Max von Sydow at the beginning of The Force Awakens.  At six issues in, it’s not too early or too late to start the newest of the ongoing series, but for those waiting for a bound volume, it won’t be available until December.  Two other titles are ongoing, but are actually limited series, which also make them timely for those who want to read the latest updates to the Star Wars expanded universe.

The first ongoing title is Han Solo, again set after A New Hope, which features the galaxy’s favorite smuggler pulled into the most dangerous race in the galaxy as cover for a secret rebel mission.  With art so nice that George Lucas himself has asked to purchase the original drawings, Han Solo accurately captures the sense and feel of the under the table world which Han Solo dwelled in prior to the hiring of the Millennium Falcon by an old man and a farm boy.  The other ongoing limited series halfway to its conclusion is the comic adaptation of The Force Awakens.  Penned by none other than Chuck Wendig, author of the Star Wars: Aftermath Trilogy, the adaptation tells the same story you saw on the big screen, but with new perspectives and emphasis.  For those who loved the film and want to see it again through fresh eyes, then this adaptation is the perfect starting point for reading Marvel’s comics.


Finally, for those who wish to pick up one issue and enjoy a self-contained story with existential and philosophical questions, and oh, for it to consist almost entirely of droids, then the C-3PO one-shot is your comic.  Finally released after months of delay, the stand alone issue tells the backstory to the red arm sported by our favorite protocol droid in The Force Awakens.  In the process of providing this background, C-3PO explores the deeper implications of sentient droids in the Star Wars galaxy.  Not necessarily best suited as the first read for those interested in venturing into the illustrated Star Wars world, it does make for an enjoyable 30+ pages for those who have already found their comfort zone and are looking for more material to pick up and peruse.

With the easy availability of bound volumes, no time is better than now to consider exploring the Star Wars universe in comic book form.  Under Marvel’s title, a number of limited series and ongoing series selections are available to bring John Williams’ stirring score welling up from within on demand, as the adventures of our heroes and villains from the galaxy far, far away unfold in ink and color.  Don’t be shy, decide on the level of your commitment, which topics or heroes you like best, and join the adventure.

You can find links to purchase all the aforementioned titles below:

Chewbacca

Lando

Princess Leia

Obi-Wan and Anakin

Kanan: The Last Padawan – Volume 1 and Volume 2

Shattered Empire

Star Wars: Volume 1, Volume 2, and Volume 3

Darth Vader: Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3, and Volume 4

Vader Down: The Darth Vader/Star Wars cross over (catch up on the separate titles, first!)

Poe Dameron (released in December – or found at your local comic book seller)

Han Solo (scheduled for January, 2017 – or found at your local comic book seller)

The Force Awakens (found at your local comic book seller)

C-3PO – One Shot

 

 

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