Last December, right before Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens came out, we put together a rather large and comprehensive guide to “Journey to The Force Awakens – the publishing program that Lucasfilm cobbled together in order to help fill in the 30-year backstory between the original and sequel trilogies.

As we noted back then, however, those 13 novels, comic book series, short stories, and, even, videogames were just the first round of this fleshing-out; since Episode VII’s December 18, 2015 release date, the second – and, for the most part, final – round of volumes has been slowly released. And what a round two it’s been – since the first installment of the Star Wars sequel trilogy is now out in the open, the various authors have been allowed to delve ever-more-deeply into the new setting’s characters, plot points, and world-building, giving us our best look yet at the new state of galactic affairs.

This means, of course, that it’s time to finish up our Complete Guide to Star Wars: The Force Awakens’s Backstory (well, until the very last item, the book Aftermath: Empire’s End, hits store shelves on February 21, 2017).

(And before you ask: no, “Journey to The Force Awakens” doesn’t have anything to do with this month’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story in terms of narrative or chronology, though it did act as a type of spiritual father, leading to the first Star Wars anthology movie’s sole prologue novel, Catalyst.)

Whereas the first wave of “Journey” was released in a very short timetable (starting on Force Friday, September 4, 2015, and heading up to early December), this second phase has seen a much longer release window: December 18, 2015 to July 12, 2016. And while these new stories technically no longer have that “Journey” title affixed to their covers, they’re still every bit as vital – if not more so! – in setting up the stage that is Episodes VII, VIII, and IX.

Aftermath: Life Debt

Journey to The Force Awakens Star Wars Aftermath Life Debt Star Wars: The Complete Guide to The Force Awakens’ Backstory, Part II

Format: Novel

Timeframe: One year after the original trilogy

Release date: 07.12.16

Beginning just two months after the original Aftermath and ending two months before the Battle of Jakku (which is set one year after Episode VI: Return of the Jedi), Aftermath: Life Debt  picks up the adventures of Captain Norra Wexley and her team (including Temmin “Snap” Wexley, her son, who is one of Resistance pilot Poe Dameron’s wingmen in The Force Awakens) as they continue to hunt down and bring to justice the Empire’s remaining senior-most officers and leaders – until they are given a new task by the pregnant Senator Leia Organa to find and rescue her husband-in-secret, Han Solo, who has gone missing while attempting to liberate the Wookiee homeworld of Kashyyyk.

Bloodline

Journey to The Force Awakens Star Wars Bloodline Star Wars: The Complete Guide to The Force Awakens’ Backstory, Part II

Format: Novel

Timeframe: Six years before The Force Awakens

Release date: 05.03.2016

Senator Leia Organa is at a turning point: with the New Republic’s first supreme chancellor, Mon Mothma, retired, the two political parties in the Senate have completely broken down in their ability to work with one another, plunging the new government into a deadly gridlock – which puts Leia on the path to an early retirement and the chance to actually spend time with her professional-racing-coach husband, Han Solo, and her always-off-on-secret-Jedi-training son, Ben. The only problem is the sudden discovery of a long-in-hiding pro-Empire militia that calls itself the Amaxine warriors, who are, apparently, preparing a deadly preemptive strike against the Republic – and who are only the tip of the slowly-emerging First Order iceberg.

(You can read more about Bloodline’s biggest revelations here.)

C-3PO #1

star wars special c 3po complete guide to the force awakens backstory Star Wars: The Complete Guide to The Force Awakens’ Backstory, Part II

Format: One-shot comic book

Timeframe: Shortly before The Force Awakens

Release date: 04.13.16

On a mission to obtain the whereabouts of Admiral Ackbar, who has been captured and is awaiting execution by the First Order, the Resistance transport carrying C-3PO and Omri, an enemy droid with information pertaining to the missing admiral, crash lands, killing all the biological crew. The complement of droids continue on on an inhospitable alien planet, attempting to contact help – and all the while, Threepio and Omri share existential talks about the meaning of their programming and their (mostly) erased memories. Ultimately, See-Threepio makes it off the planet in one piece – save for his left arm, which needs to be replaced by a special red limb.

“Bait”

Journey to The Force Awakens Star Wars Insider 162 Star Wars: The Complete Guide to The Force Awakens’ Backstory, Part II

Format: Short story

Timeframe: Shortly before The Force Awakens

Release date: 12.22.15

Originally published in Star Wars Insider #162 (it has since been collected in both the ebook and paperback editions of the Force Awakens novelization, also written by Alan Dean Foster), “Bait” focuses on the character of Grummgar, one of several new background aliens spotted in Episode VII (alongside his companion in Maz Kanata’s castle, Bazine Netal, who starred in her own short story a month earlier), as he hunts a rare prey in the sacred jungles of Ithor.

“A Recipe for Death”

Journey to The Force Awakens Star Wars A Recipe for Death Star Wars: The Complete Guide to The Force Awakens’ Backstory, Part II

Format: Short story

Timeframe: Shortly before The Force Awakens

Release date: 04.05.16

Released as part of the print anthology Tales from a Galaxy Far, Far Away: Aliens, Volume I – which collects the first four eshort stories from “Journey to Force Awakens’s” first phase last year in print – “A Recipe for Death” is the first of two exclusive stories thrown into the mix. The focus is on Strono “Cookie” Tuggs, the head chef of Maz Kanata’s castle, as he attempts to find the murderer of his sous chef by – what else? – throwing a cooking competition.

“True Love”

Journey to The Force Awakens Star Wars True Love Star Wars: The Complete Guide to The Force Awakens’ Backstory, Part II

Format: Short story

Timeframe: Shortly before The Force Awakens

Release date: 04.05.16

The second of Tales from a Galaxy Far, Far Away: Aliens’s exclusive short stories follows Unkar Plutt, the curmudgeonly junk boss on Jakku, as he gets enmeshed in a dating service conspiracy to steal his “riches.”

Before the Awakening

Journey to The Force Awakens Star Wars Before the Awakening Star Wars: The Complete Guide to The Force Awakens’ Backstory, Part II

Format: Novel

Timeframe: Immediately before The Force Awakens

Release date: 12.18.15

A collection of three novellas in one, Before the Awakening focuses on the three new leads in Episode VII: FN-2187, Rey, and Poe Dameron, meant to establish their characters, lay out their backstories, and otherwise set the mood for the sequel trilogy. Greater mythological highlights here include the exact dynamics of the relationship between the Resistance and the New Republic and how Poe works his way to being General Organa’s right-hand man.

Which “Journey” to take?

Star Wars Special C 3PO 1 interior art Star Wars: The Complete Guide to The Force Awakens’ Backstory, Part II

The amazing thing about this chapter of the publishing program is that very few of its installments are anything but excellent, both in terms of their narrative construction and in their impact on the overarching Star Wars story. It’s hard to go wrong with any of them, but the entry that contains the biggest collection of story threads and clues is Aftermath: Life Debt (not to mention a thoroughly riveting operation to retake Kashyyyk, which has a surprisingly emotional climax for the Han-Chewie relationship).

A close second would have to be Bloodline, which is as necessary to The Force Awakens as the prequel movies are to understanding the Clone Wars – plus, it contains (what we think is) a serious hint as to why Ben Solo ultimately turns to the dark side.

Putting aside all mythological considerations, however, a surprise pick would have to be C-3PO #1, which was originally dismissed by nearly everyone as a cheap and superficial marketing tie-in (how else can a backstory for Threepio’s temporary red arm initially be described?). But it easily turned out to be one of the most heartfelt tales set in that galaxy far, far away yet – the single-issue story is surprisingly contemplative (with a focus on the nature of sentience, free choice, and sacrifice), contains some surprising references to the prequel trilogy, and ends with an emotionally satisfying denouement.

Far easier to say is which releases to not purchase – any of the short stories. Unfortunately, just as with the first batch of “Journey” items, these shorts are, essentially, blatant cash-grabs, randomly selecting an alien extra from the sequel film and spinning an almost entirely disconnected backstory for him. And since the writing in this category is almost uniformly awful this time around, it’s hard to justify the investment, in terms of either money or time.

The complete “Journey” line-up

Star Wars Shattered Empire Comic Official Cover by Phil Noto Star Wars: The Complete Guide to The Force Awakens’ Backstory, Part II

Shattered Empire

Format: Four-issue comic book miniseries

Timeframe: Three months after the original trilogy

Release date: 09.09.15 – 10.21.15

 

Aftermath

Format: Novel

Timeframe: Six months after the original trilogy

Release date: 09.04.15

 

Uprising

Format: Mobile game

Timeframe: Six months after the original trilogy

Release date: 09.10.15

 

Aftermath: Life Debt

Format: Novel

Timeframe: Ten months after the original trilogy

Release date: 07.12.16

lost stars complete guide to the force awakens backstory Star Wars: The Complete Guide to The Force Awakens’ Backstory, Part II

Lost Stars

Format: Young adult novel

Timeframe: One year after the original trilogy

Release date: 09.04.15

 

Battlefront

Format: Console/PC videogame

Timeframe: One year after the original trilogy

Release date: 11.17.15

 

Bloodline

Format: Novel

Timeframe: 24 years after the original trilogy

Release date: 05.03.2016

 

“The Perfect Weapon”

Format: Short story

Timeframe: Shortly before The Force Awakens

Release date: 11.24.15

 

“Bait”

Format: Short story

Timeframe: Shortly before The Force Awakens

Release date: 12.22.15

Journey to The Force Awakens Star Wars Tales from a Galaxy Far Far Away Aliens Star Wars: The Complete Guide to The Force Awakens’ Backstory, Part II

Tales from a Galaxy Far, Far Away: Aliens, Volume I

Format: Short story

Timeframe: Shortly before The Force Awakens

Release date: 11.30.15

(Note: this contains the six final “Journey to Force Awakens” short stories, starting with “The Crimson Corsair and the Lost Treasure of Count Dooku” and ending with “True Love.”)

 

C-3PO #1

Format: One-shot comic book

Timeframe: Shortly before The Force Awakens

Release date: 04.13.16

 

Smuggler’s Run: A Han Solo & Chewbacca Adventure

Format: Young adult novel

Timeframe: Shortly before The Force Awakens

Release date: 09.04.15

 

The Weapon of a Jedi: A Luke Skywalker Adventure

Format: Young adult novel

Timeframe: Shortly before The Force Awakens

Release date: 09.04.15

 

Before the Awakening

Format: Novel

Timeframe: Immediately before The Force Awakens

Release date: 12.18.15

moving target complete guide to the force awakens backstory Star Wars: The Complete Guide to The Force Awakens’ Backstory, Part II

Moving Target: A Princess Leia Adventure

Format: Young adult novel

Timeframe: Immediately before The Force Awakens

Release date: 09.04.15

The timeline: Bits and pieces

Supreme Leader Snoke in Force Awakens Star Wars: The Complete Guide to The Force Awakens’ Backstory, Part II

Unlike the first phase of “Journey to The Force Awakens,” this most recent section doesn’t offer a sweeping view of galactic history, due partially to its comparative lack of releases (at seven installments, it’s only half of what came out in 2015) and due partially to its more scattershot placements on the timeline (whereas most of the original releases were clustered in the first year after Return of the Jedi, this collection jumps incessantly around).

As such, what we do get is more specific highlights to add to what has already been established.

The biggest clue regarding Supreme Leader Snoke yet

One of the most exciting revelations in the original batch of post-Episode VI stories was the presence of a mysterious fleet admiral who was secretly working behind the scenes to shape the restructuring of the Imperial forces in the face of Emperor Palpatine’s death. This shadowy figure is now revealed to be Admiral Gallius Rax, a personal protégé of Darth Sidious’s from the final years of the Old Republic and a Jakku native, which, as it transpires, are fully connected.

After being trained in general disposition and overall education (including the vagaries of opera) and being specifically groomed for higher-up positions within the Imperial Navy, Rax remained an unusually covert agent, with his reports being highly classified and unavailable to all but the highest-ranking within the Empire. Once Palpatine shuffles off the mortal coil, the fleet admiral continues this tradition, preferring to work in the shadows and allow other, lower admirals to become the public face of the Imperial war machine. By the time the first year after the Battle of Endor comes to a close, the former orphan/slave boy Galli has handpicked a number of influential personnel to move forward with him into his newly reconstituted Empire (including none other than Brendol Hux, the father of The Force Awakens’s General Armitage Hux and the ultimate brainwasher of children cadets) and has manipulated both the Imperial remnants and the fledgling New Republic into fighting the Battle of Jakku – the conflict that ended the Galactic Civil War once and for all.

This not only makes Rax the best candidate for who Supreme Leader Snoke really is, it leaves him as the only suspect.

Battle of Jakku image Star Wars: The Complete Guide to The Force Awakens’ Backstory, Part II

Something secret – and ancient – is buried on Jakku

When young Gallius Rax first encounters the man who would one day become Emperor Palpatine, the Sith Lord was secretly employing droids to excavate an area of Jakku, saying that something important from a millennium ago was buried there.

That date should be familiar to all diehard Star Wars fans: that’s when the Jedi rose up, overthrew the Sith regime that dominated the galaxy, and oversaw the installation of the Old Republic (and thereby beginning the Sith Lords’ Rule of Two). If Palpatine, who was on the cusp of returning the favor to the Jedi and establishing a brand-new Sith government, was looking for whatever secret was left there, then odds are that he viewed it as being instrumental to founding his Empire – and it may very well be that Fleet Admiral Rax feels the same way about establishing his First Order… if, indeed, he is revealed to be the Force-sensitive Supreme Leader Snoke, that is.

This development could also tie into another one of the original “Journey to Force Awakens’s” big reveals: that Lord Sidious was exploring extra-galactic space to search for the origins of the Force, generally, and to discover more effective ways to manipulate the dark side, specifically.

Kylo Ren Darth Vader helmet Force Awakens Star Wars: The Complete Guide to The Force Awakens’ Backstory, Part II

A possible explanation for Ben Solo’s fall to the dark side

Six years before the sequel trilogy, when Ben Solo is roughly the same age as Luke and Leia were at the end of the original films, he receives a startling piece of information that very well imploded his self-conception and turned his entire world upside down.

In the ever-growing deadlock between the two political parties that had sprung up in the New Republic, the opposing side decided to destroy the career of one of the few “heroes” in the new government, Senator Leia Organa (who, it just so happened, was in the running to essentially replace the legendary Mon Mothma as the leader of the free galaxy). They had happened upon some documentation from the late Bail Organa, a senator in the Old Republic and a founding figure of the Rebel Alliance, where he confides to his adopted daughter that she is, in reality, the child of none other than Darth Vader – a fact which Leia had obviously discovered on her own and which she was afraid to share with the public, given the hatred and fear that still revolve around the Dark Lord of the Sith.

The disclosure has the desired effect, ending Senator Organa’s ability to ever be elected to any office in the future – and likely shocking the still-in-training Ben Solo, who now suddenly has to contend with the identity of being Vader’s grandson. Although Leia does record a personal, confessional message for Ben, confirming their ancestry and explaining why she and his father kept it secret from him, it’s very possible that the Padawan Learner never received the recording – or whether it was too little, too late even if he had.

Star Wars 7 Leia Star Wars: The Complete Guide to The Force Awakens’ Backstory, Part II

The origins of the First Order and the Resistance

Before her political opponents fell her, Leia Organa learns, as a senator in the New Republic, that there is a growing movement among the most extreme of Imperial sympathizers to not only lament the lost glory of the Empire, but to start to organize militias and gather their strength in an effort to resurrect it – an effort that seems to be funded by various and sundry black market dealings, which have been quietly growing all across the galaxy even though the Republic was meant to prevent another Hutt crime syndicate from ever sprouting up again.

Although she cannot prove it, Leia believes that there is some overarching structure or guidance to these homegrown terrorists – and that, furthermore, there are collaborates in the Senate who are helping to obfuscate their growing strength. Before her forced departure from politics, she cannot convince any of her colleagues to take these conspiracy theories seriously, which already starts her down the path of self-reliance. Losing her office only makes official what she privately resolves to do: going underground herself and constructing her own militia, one that is just as committed to the principles of the Rebel Alliance as these pro-Imperials are to Palpatine’s New Order. The result is the creation of the Resistance.

Once the First Order, a few years later, finally does formally declare itself as a separate and sovereign entity from the New Republic, many still refuse to acknowledge the threat that this new faction poses; so long as these neo-Imperials adhere to the treaty that the old Imperials signed upon the conclusion of the Civil War three decades previously and remain in their cordoned-off sector of the galaxy, there is nothing to fear. And even when Republic pilots such as the young and dashing Poe Dameron find proof of the Order’s systematic excursions out of their territory, preying upon Republic shipments for materials and intelligence, the political and military leadership refuses to lift a finger. This is when now-General Leia Organa, who is only semi-officially acknowledged by the government, swoops in and picks off those soldiers who she knows will be important for the new war that is to come.

The final phase

Journey to The Force Awakens Star Wars Aftermath Empires End Star Wars: The Complete Guide to The Force Awakens’ Backstory, Part II

The third and final (well, for now, at least) phase of “Journey to The Force Awakens” is scheduled for February 2017 and consists of just one novel: Aftermath: Empire’s End, the last installment of the Aftermath trilogy. Though not much information has been released about it, we expect the book to be set not long after Lost Stars in the chronology and to revolve largely around the Battle of Jakku, which marks the end of the Galactic Civil War and the beginning of the slow, interstitial period that eventually results in the formation of both the First Order and the Resistance.

Of course, there is still much to be covered in the 30-year gap between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, and there is every reason to believe that a new round of prologue materials will flood store shelves in the months preceding Episode VIII’s December 15, 2017 release. If so, rest assured that we will be there to cover this new information and work to index its newest revelations into our ever-expanding conceptual framework.

  • Ad Free Browsing
  • Over 10,000 Videos!
  • All in 1 Access
  • Join For Free!
GO PREMIUM WITH SCREENRANT
Go Premium!

More Videos