Marvel may be letting down longtime fans with the direction they’ve taken some of their most popular superhero properties, but that hasn’t stopped them from killing it in the Star Wars department. Marvel’s run of new canonical Star Wars comics started in 2015, and has since expanded into several bold new series’ and exciting one-off issues. New stories are being told across all media platforms, and Marvel is leading the charge in making these tales well worth checking out.
Star Wars is the perfect property for comic book storytelling. It’s unique visuals make for some beautiful comic book panels, and its mythic characters really shine when rendered in pen and ink. Plus, Marvel’s Star Wars comics may be the perfect place for overwhelmed fans to finally explore the universe outside the movies. With so many new stories being told in books, video games, and on TV, some fans may find it difficult to devote the time necessary to really dig into the franchise's newly established canon. Marvel’s Star Wars comics provide narratives that fans will enjoy at three times the pace of a novel or TV series. Still not convinced that the House of Ideas' run is worth your time? Here are 15 Things You’ve Been Missing From Marvel’s Star Wars Comics.
15 The New Canon Universe Expanding
The Expanded Universe has always been an important part of Star Wars. Almost from the beginning, franchise fans had plenty of subsidiary material to enjoy outside the big screen adaptations. In fact, the Star Wars Expanded Universe was practically infinite before Disney took over the franchise and wiped the slate clean. But the new canon is rapidly expanding and Marvel's series occupies one of its brightest corners.
The new Star Wars comics expand on everything from design to mythology, and it’s all pretty gorgeous. The comic book medium affords creators the opportunity to design creatures, ships, and environments that feel both new and organic to the Star Wars galaxy, while adding to the mythology with fresh narrative approaches. The comic sector of the Expanded Universe is just the right blend of fresh and familiar for curious longtime fans.
14 Luke's Character Development Between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back
Luke Skywalker is hardly anyone’s favorite character, but along with his Darth Dad, he’s the absolute center of the galaxy far, far away. Marvel’s first Star Wars title takes place between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, and much of the ongoing narrative focuses on Luke’s character development. The Luke-centered canon novel Heir to the Jedi also takes place during this time period, but it largely disappointed fans looking for insight into the Skywalker soul. In the arena of Luke Skywalker, the comics certainly succeed where other canon material fails.
Over the course of Marvel’s Star Wars run, Luke’s growing fascination and interaction with the Force is routinely explored. Between showdowns with villains both old and new, and the careful studying of Obi-Wan Kenobi’s journals, Luke’s spiritual journey through the comics gives us a clearer picture of where Luke's head is at once Empire Strikes Back rolls around.
13 Some Worthwhile Backstories
Believe it or not, one of the dangers of expanding the Star Wars universe is showing fans too much of it. Star Wars thrives when it gives its audience a glimpse of its universe, leaving the rest up to imagination. Show too much, and the mythical mystery that makes the franchise so appealing is lost. Providing too much backstory for classic characters can be one of the quickest ways to kill the mystery. For the most part, the Star Wars comics are providing worthwhile backstories that don’t take too much away from the collective fan imagination.
We’re now two years into Marvel’s comic run, and we’ve already had Princess Leia, Han Solo, Darth Vader, Poe Dameron, Chewbacca, C-3PO, and Darth Maul comics (with Captain Phasma slated for this fall). While some of these tales have proven to be more successful than others, the great ones have offered stories as compelling and personal as the narratives of the films.
12 Awesome Lightsaber Action
Unique to the comic book medium is the way that the reader engages with the page to create the story. Comic books dance with the mind like no other art form, making the medium's action sequences a singularly cathartic experience. Fans will always look to Star Wars for exciting lightsaber action, and the comics have definitely delivered.
Obviously, there’s no true substitute for the films when it comes to breathtaking lightsaber battles. The samurai-like choreography of the prequels and the epic, emotional combat of the original trilogy will never be replicated in any other medium, but the comics do offer some lightsaber sequences that demonstrate a comic book’s remarkable ability to set the stage for a scene in the reader’s mind.
11 More Great Han and Leia Banter
One thing that’s easy to miss about Han and Leia’s relationship is that their love for each other manifests itself in their fiery banter every bit as much as their iconic “I love you/I know” reciprocation, if not more so. Because it takes place between A New Hope and Empire, Marvel’s central Star Wars title affords the opportunity to explore the entertaining tension of Han and Leia’s relationship before they made things official.
Star Wars has a very particular brand of humor that is hard to replicate outside the films of the original trilogy, but the comics manage to bring it to life as well as can be expected. The dialogue between Han and Leia is really where the comics’ humor shines brightest, authentically recreating the witty dynamic between the two characters that made their relationship so special in A New Hope.
10 Beautiful Visuals from a Variety of Artists
Star Wars has been a great place for innovative visual artists ever since Ralph McQuarrie created the original trilogy’s groundbreaking look 40 years ago. The operatic nature of Star Wars lends the property well to stationary, 2D art, and the artists behind Marvel’s Star Wars comics are really knocking it out of the park.
Marvel has already put out around 20 different canonical series so far. It’s a lot to take in, but it also means that a wide variety of great artists get to make their stamp on the Star Wars universe. Flipping through different series’ of the Marvel comics is a fun opportunity to see familiar faces and environments through a diverse set of imaginative eyes, an experience that can’t be undervalued by devoted fans.
9 More Insight Into the Rebellion
Both Rogue One and Star Wars Rebels have helped to paint a much more nuanced, complex picture of our beloved Rebel Alliance. The rebels are no longer the valiant, ragtag group we knew from the original trilogy. The more we see of their tactics, politics, and methods, the more the Rebel Alliance looks like a ruthless, cunning war machine. The folks at Marvel are also contributing to this new look at the rebellion with absorbing stories and complex characters old and new.
The most intriguing rebel-centric Marvel story is “Rebel Jail”, the third volume of Marvel’s central Star Wars title. Set primarily at a secret rebel prison facility, “Rebel Jail” shows just how ruthless the Alliance can be in their pursuit of victory over the empire. It also features a prologue centered on a rebel spy, whose James Bond-esque escapades also add new dimensions to the rebel front of the galactic conflict.
8 The Politics of the Empire
Most of Marvel’s current Star Wars titles take place during the original trilogy era, affording plenty of opportunities to tell new stories and expound on everything from the mythology to the politics of the Star Wars universe -- all starring the series' most beloved characters. Marvel’s Darth Vader title really digs deep into the twisted imperial politics, showing that some of the Empire’s most brutal moments involve petty battles up the rungs of the imperial social ladder.
Marvel’s Darth Vader shows the titular Sith lord as an isolated imperial force, mostly alienated among his military peers. The adversarial dynamic between Vader and other imperial high-ups gives us a clearer glimpse of the petty politics among the imperial elite, with plenty of room for drawing parallels to real-world political leaders.
7 Connective Tissue Between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens
The time period between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back takes up the majority of Marvel’s narrative real estate in the Star Wars universe, but Marvel also continues to offer stories that bridge the gap between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. From the limited Shattered Empire title to the ongoing Poe Dameron series, Marvel continues to shed light on the franchise's most mysterious era.
Other than the eras prior to the Prequel Trilogy, the post-original/pre-sequel trilogy era remains Star Wars’ least explored period. While both Shattered Empire and Poe Dameron—along with novels like Bloodline and the Aftermath trilogy—have provided a much needed political backdrop for the post-Empire era, there’s still much left to be explored. It’ll be interesting to see what future Marvel titles do to connect the dots.
6 The Galactic Underworld
The seedy underworld of Star Wars has always epitomized the best of the franchise; full of colorful characters, operatic villains, and really cool weapons, among other things, it's always been a wonder to behold. And wouldn't you know it, Marvel is exploiting the Star Wars underworld to its full potential in virtually every series. Classic villains like Boba Fett and Jabba the Hutt, as well as several colorful new adversaries have made bold appearances in both familiar and brand spanking new underworld settings —filling comic panels with the type of action and visual splendor that only Star Wars can bring.
Marvel’s latest Star Wars title, Darth Maul, is easily the best comic for die-hard fans of the galactic underworld. Not only does it show a core understanding of what makes Darth Maul a cemented fan favorite, but it also marks a welcome return to the criminal element of the prequel era.
5 More Great Female Characters
Star Wars is dominating in the strong female character department these days, and the Marvel comics are no exception. In addition to showcasing classic female characters like Princess Leia, the comics have introduced new female heroes and villains that have quickly become fan favorites.
The most notable female character from the comics at this point is Doctor Aphra. Debuting in Darth Vader as a devious archeologist with a pair of evil assassin droids, Aphra has quickly gone from a servant of the Sith lord to an unreliable ally on both sides and fully fleshed out character in her own comic book. Aphra is but one of the many great female characters found in Marvel’s Star Wars, but she’s the perfect example of how far the franchise is willing to go to create relatable female badasses.
4 Great New Allies
Most of the new Star Wars comics focus on previously established characters, but none of the stories are short on great new allies that contribute a lot to the story. As characters from the new Star Wars canon continue to appear across mediums, one can only hope that some of the allies from the comics show up in a future animated series, or maybe even a spin-off film.
One of the primary functions of secondary characters in Star Wars is to personify foreign environments, cultures, and attitudes. Many of the new allies in the comics act as focal points for some of the most exciting new territory (both literal and thematic) of the new canon. In the Han Solo one-off comic, Han encounters a whole cast of new species and cultures in a galactic space race. It’s just one example of how brilliantly the comics are creating exciting new spaces through their original characters.
3 More Great Luke, Han, and Leia Adventures
Marvel’s new Star Wars run debuted with a classic story focused on the original cast of characters. Arguably more so than any other subsidiary Star Wars material ever created, the comic recaptured the classic dynamic between Luke, Han, and Leia from A New Hope—treating readers to a classic adventure full of the wit and humor that drew fans to these characters in the first place.
The Force Awakens ushered in the new era of Star Wars with an almost lethal dose of nostalgia, which, however necessary it may have been to revitalize the franchise, will be it’s downfall if left unchecked by the time The Last Jedi rolls around. The same could be said of Marvel’s Star Wars comics. Future installments will need to be bolder and move away from nostalgia, but that doesn’t take away from the joy that Marvel’s early Star Wars run brings by recapturing the big three's dynamic.
2 The Journals of Obi-Wan Kenobi
Not long after we meet up with Luke, Han, and Leia in Marvel’s Star Wars: Skywalker Strikes, Luke obtains the journals of Obi-Wan Kenobi, a treasure trove of stories and wisdom for Luke as well as the reader. Over the course of the comics, Obi Wan’s journals play a pivotal role in Luke’s development as a force user. They also feature exciting new stories that connect the prequel and original trilogy eras.
Obi-Wan’s journals also serve to connect Luke’s journey with the journey of the reader in really interesting ways. The comic book medium allows for these journal stories to be played out visually as Luke reads them, creating intimacy between Luke and the reader as the stories unfold. Luke and the folks reading along at home experience similar revelations at the same time, and it’s a treat to get to know such an iconic character in such an intimate way.
1 The Evolution of Vader
It feels pretty indisputable at this point that the Darth Vader series is the crowning achievement of Marvel’s Star Wars run thus far. Author Kieron Gillan provides an intimate character study of the Sith Lord without removing the mystery that make him tick. The answer to where Anakin Skywalker ends and Darth Vader begins has always been elusive. Marvel’s truly awesome series manages to explore questions of Vader’s identity without assuming any unsatisfying answers.
The task of telling a totally Vader-centric story had to have been a daunting one. How do you make Vader the protagonist without ruining the character in some way or another? Perhaps that’s where the genius of Marvel’s Darth Vader comic lies—it manages to make Vader Marvel’s most exciting protagonist thus far without skipping a beat.
So what do you think? Are Marvel’s Star Wars titles worth exploring? Let us know in the comments.