In May of 1977, audiences were awestruck by the release of an independently produced sci-fi movie from the director of American Graffiti. Of course, that movie was Star Wars, but it was still a surprise at the time. This December, fans of a galaxy far, far away will finally learn a piece of Star Wars lore they’ve been curious about for almost 40 years. How did the Rebel Alliance get the schematics for the original Death Star? Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the first non-episodic film set in the Star Wars universe from Disney, will reveal the untold tale of the Rebel Alliance unit given the mission.
Directed by Godzilla helmer Gareth Edwards, Rogue One will follow Jyn Erso, the daughter of a scientist drafted into Imperial service, as she leads a team of warriors, soldiers, spies and a droid across the galaxy to find the Death Star and a way to destroy it. To understand more about the world we would be visiting in Rogue One, we took a deep look at the history of the Star Wars universe in comic form. From the backstory of some of the characters we may meet to previous attempts to bridge eras of Star Wars canon, here are 15 Comics You Should Read To Prepare For Rogue One.
15 Darth Vader
An imposing visage that both intimidates and intrigues, Darth Vader is definitely a contender for most popular movie villain of all time. While that popularity waned a bit when Lucasfilm explored his origins in a set of prequel films, movie fans everywhere have longed to see the proper return of the Dark Side wielding badass. Thankfully the execs at Disney heard our plea as trailers have revealed the return of Darth Vader in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
Lord Vader was also one of the first characters Marvel tackled when they reacquired the license to make Star Wars comics. Taking place between the events of Episode IV & V, Darth Vader, written by Kieron Gillen, follows the former Jedi as he must deal with the fall out of the destruction of the Death Star. The first arc would find Darth Vader discovering the identity of the pilot of the X-Wing that landed that 1-in-a-million shot.
14 Shadows of the Empire
Rogue One certainly isn’t the first time Lucasfilm has tried to fill in gaps in the Star Wars Universe’s history. Notable for being one of the first major attempts to push a holistic "stand alone" Star Wars project that was an in-canon bridge between episodes, Shadows of the Empire was released an Expanded Universe novel, comic-book, and video game. Released in 1996, the multimedia event paved the way for the Special Edition release of the trilogy in 1997.
Instead of adapting the novel, Dark Horse was tasked with writing an overlapping comic to focus on the bounty hunter and biker gang elements of storyline. The book follows both Darth Vader’s assistant Jix and Boba Fett as the former infiltrates a swoop bike gang on Tatooine to protect Luke Skywalker and the latter tries to deliver Han Solo to Jabba the Hutt with every other bounty hunter in the galaxy wanting a piece of the action.
13 Princess Leia
With Carrie Fisher 40 years removed from her heyday as Leia Organa we were a bit wary of Princess Leia showing up in Rogue One. However, thanks to a recent interview with Director Gareth Edwards, we’re starting to warm up to the idea we may see the less force obsessed Skywalker twin pick up the baton that is the Death Star schematic. Princess Leia's adoptive father Bail Organa will definitely be making an appearance, but as the opening scenes of Star Wars: A New Hope establish, Leia is on the blockade runner with the plans under the guise of a diplomatic mission with a Star Destroyer in hot pursuit.
In the Marvel comic Princess Leia, we find the adopted heiress dealing with the ramifications of the Empire’s destruction of Alderaan. The book follows Leia as she tracks down other Alderaanians wanted by the Empire. The book had the softest launch of the Marvel Star Wars books, however it is generally considered a great look at a dark time in the Princess's life.
12 A Death Star is Born
Kevin Rubio created one of the first Star Wars fan films to go viral on the internet. The hit video, Troops, merged Star Wars canon and the Fox show Cops to explain the Storm Troopers on Tattooine during Episode IV weren’t the bad guys. They were just doing their job. Rubio would go on to write more adventures in the galaxy far, far away. In addition to the comic series Tag and Bink are Dead, which saw the lead characters “Forrest Gump” their way through some of the most important scenes of the trilogy, Rubio wrote a twelve page story about the fictitious meeting held to discuss potential weaknesses in the Death Star.
In the Star Wars Tales' short, Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader take a meeting with Moff Tarkin and several other Imperials to discuss the building of the Death Star. With tongue firmly in cheek, the conversation covers all of the flaws in the plans that rebels would go on to exploit in A New Hope under the guise of updating them. The story also has some notoriety because of hidden mickeys found in the artwork, though Disney wouldn't offer to buy Lucasfilm for another 12 years.
11 What Sin Loyalty?
In the 1996 film Clerks, Kevin Smith wrote a scene for two characters to argue over the destruction of the Death Star and who should be held accountable. Their conversation mainly stuck to the second Death Star as it had “civilian contractors” while the first Death Star was operational and occupied by military forces. The reality is, Luke snuffed out many Imperial lives. One such life was TK-622, a recently transferred Stormtrooper working on the base.
While this comic is no longer canon, it covers roughly the same period of time as Rogue One and A New Hope. After saving an Imperial commander on a mission to the planet Ralltiir, TK-622 escorts the military leader to the Death Star. With a saboteur on board the battle station, TK-622 must act quickly to stop the rebel scum before the they reach Yavin 4. Just as the stormtrooper defeats the rebel infiltrator, he watches out a viewport as Luke Skywalker lands the Star Wars version of a half court shot at the buzzer.
10 Dawn of the Jedi
Based on what we’ve learned about Rogue One so far, at least part of the story takes place on the Imperial occupied city of Jedha. Jedha is a holy place for Jedi, as they must pilgrimage here to collect kyber crystals to power their lightsabers. While Jedha has not been thoroughly explored in canon or Legends stories, we do have some approximation of what those ancient civilizations would have been like through the series Dawn of the Jedi and the planet Tython.
In the Star Wars Legends history of the Jedi Order, Tython was the home of the first Jedi. The planet would be involved in a system wide conflict as the Jed’aii, as they were called, began to understand and control the fFrce. While none of the history established in the series is expected to be kept, the story team at Lucasfilm certainly had access to these stories as they created what Gareth Edwards has called Jedi Mecca.
9 Star Wars: Visionaries
In the final moments of the first Rogue One trailer, the rebel unit tasked with stealing the plans to the Death Star are attempting to escape from across the watery surface of the planet . As they turn a corner they are confronted by massive AT-ACTs. The cargo bearing sibling of the AT-AT, this will be the first time we’ve seen a proper human vs. AT fight since Luke pulled a Spider-Man in Empire Strikes Back. Rogue One will also see the return of more than just Imperial vehicles. Mon Mothma, a leader in the Rebel Alliance, will return to probably give one hell of a briefing in addition to guiding Jyn Erso on her quest.
Visionaries was a special one shot comic drawn by Episode III Storyboard artists with multiple tales. You can find the well known “Old Wounds”, the story that tells the final battle between Obi Wan Kenobi and Darth Maul and was the basis of Maul’s appearance in Clone Wars. "Entrenched" focuses on Corporal Jobin Mothma just before and during the battle of Hoth. In the ensuing fire fight, the soldier leads a unit in the trenches outside of the rebel base as AT-ATs and snowtroopers bare down on them. The unit would continue to fight until being cornered and killed by Darth Vader. In the end, the soldier’s mother receives a letter from her son, thus further committing Mon Mothma to the cause.
8 Splinter of the Mind’s Eye
Thanks to trailers and discussion from director Gareth Edwards, we know that kyber crystals are going to be a big part of Rogue One. The crystals, which focus the energies in a lightsaber into its blade, play a major role in the development of the Death Star. It’s believed that these crystals are what originally brought Jedi to the planet Jedha, a location in the new film.
The crystals were first introduced to the world in the non-canon sequel novel and comic adaptation to Star Wars, Splinter of the Mind’s Eye. Originally conceived as a low budget sequel to A New Hope in the case that it bombed and Lucasfilm needed to produce a smaller scale adventure, the story follows Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa after they crash land on a planet with Darth Vader hot on their heals. To get off the planet, the pair must aid a young woman in finding the Kaiburr Crystal. The crystal focuses and magnifies the force. In an original draft of the Star Wars screenplay, Jedi wore shards of Kaiburr Crystals around their necks. While Lucas cut it from the film, he was happy to see its use in Splinter of the Mind’s Eye.
7 Shattered Empire
From his first scenes in the opening of The Force Awakens to his bromance with Finn, we just can’t get enough of Poe Dameron. Played by Oscar “I’m in everything” Isaacs, Dameron was right at home in the Star Wars universe with his characterization being a more by the book version of Han Solo. Poe was born to be a part of the Resistance as his parents were part of the Rebellion against the Empire.
Written by Greg Rucka, Shattered Empire unravels the mystery behind Poe Dameron's parentage and brings the pair into focus just after the Battle of Endor. While in his head Rucka had the pair joining the Alliance after the Battle of Yavin, this isn’t yet set in stone. Poe’s mother, Shara Bey, is a skilled A-wing pilot that was on the Death Star II destruction run and Kes Dameron is a member of the Rebellion’s special forces unit, the same unit that operated under Han Solo on Endor. After several missions to firmly cripple the Imperial fleet, Kes and Shara retire to Yavin 4 to raise their son Poe. While there have been no signs to indicate that it’s happening, we would not be surprised to find an A wing pilot or rebel recruit with a familiar last name pop up in Rogue One.
When the first cast images from Rogue One hit the internet there was an onslaught of speculation as to the identity of one mustachioed Rebel spy. Diego Luna grew a fabulous seventies style ‘stache that many hoped signaled the return of Luke Skywalkers old friend Biggs Darklighter. Though we’re now aware he's actually playing Alliance Intelligence Officer Captain Cassian Andor, there is still a glimmer of hope for the appearance of Darklighter in the background of some Yavin scenes.
So who was Biggs Darklighter? Originally a larger role in the script for a New Hope, most of Biggs scenes were cut for pacing. In the Star Wars: Empire story "Darklighter", Paul Chadwick took scenes from A New Hope in which Biggs travels back to Tattooine to tell his childhood friend Luke Skywalker he is defecting to the Rebellion as inspiration and conceived of the untold story of an Imperial pilot who deserted to join the rebellion. Even if he doesn't make the cut yet again, you can still read all about him in this classic Star Wars Legends story.
5 Vader Down
Judging by the scope of the trailer, Rogue One is starting to feel like the first Star Wars film where you feel how overpowered the Rebels really are. With a small squad against Imperial ground troops, AT-ACTs, and TIE fighters, we certainly fear we're going to see more than a few characters last stands.
In Marvel’s second arc of both Darth Vader and Star Wars, Darth Vader found himself in a similarly precarious position. After the Rebel Alliance learns of Darth Vader being stranded on a planet with few defenses and no allies, the Leia calls in all Rebellion reinforcements to try to finish Palpatine's apprentice for good. With the fleet moving against the Sith Lord en masse, they are caught off guard when he takes out two squadrons of X-Wings alone. While Rogue One will certainly end with Vader in pursuit of the Rebel Scum, Vader Down shows how powerful Anakin Skywalker can be when he's the one in the cross hairs.
4 Tales of the Jedi: The Golden Age of the Sith
While Tython may make a decent stand in for history on Jedha, the other side of that coin is Korriban. What we’ve seen of Jedha so far in the trailers for Rogue One include ancient ruins and a collapsed statue of a jedi across the desert. This imagery can also be seen around Korriban, the home of the Sith.Explored in the Knights of the Old Republic and Tales of the Jedi, Korriban was the homeworld of the a race of creatures called the Sith. Dark Jedi would eventually come to rule the Sith as their Lords and take the name of the race as their own.
Buried in giant mausoleums with the Sith Lords Images carved into them, the planet became a well spring of the Dark Side of the force. Eventually, the Sith would build their Academy in the tombs and caverns of Korriban where Sith Lords pitted the students against each other in their trials to be an apprentice. Basically, the anti-Jedha.
3 Star Wars: Infinities
“Use the force, Luke.” With that Luke Skywalker calmly drew a breath, focused through the force and fires. Bullseye… Except, not this time. If you've ever wondered what would have happened a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away if the Empire had been successful in their attempts to repel the Rebellion, then Infinities is your handy look into the Star Wars universe’s darkest timeline.
While no evil goatees were added for extra evilness, the Empire is only delayed in its efforts by Skywalker’s ion torpedos in this mirror universe. Follow up Infinities books reimagine Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi as the turning points for the Empire in their respective comics; i.e. The events of A New Hope happened as they should in the Infinities version of Empire. The book compliments The Rogue One experience as a reminder of how very bad it could go for the Rebellion at any moment.
2 The Star Wars
It's widely known that the original versions of the Star Wars script were changed and adapted for every reason from budgetary concerns and pacing to some elements just jiving with the greater story taking shape, but that doesn't mean there wasn't plenty of interesting stuff going on in the adventures of Starkiller in The Star Wars. The comic utilized Ralph McQuarrie's classic designs as inspiration to depict a milieu of characters, ships and creatures that didn't make it to the silver screen classic. Some of the abandoned designs would find life again in the animated Rebels.
Though Ralph McQuarrie died in 2012, his legacy lives on as Lucasfilm and Disney are still referring to his original designs as they move forward with expanding the Star Wars cinematic universe. For Rogue One, Gareth Edwards used McQuarrie’s original sketches of a Sith Lord as the basis for the armor of the Empire’s Death Troopers, the private guards of the highest ranking Imperial officials.
1 Star Wars: Republic
By the time of Rogue One, the rebellion against the Empire has finally reached full scale war. While we’ve seen numerous battles in the original trilogy, they were generally space dogfights, an escape from Hoth or a battle fought with Ewoks. We would consistently get cheated out of any mass Stormtrooper versus Alliance soldier battles. It wasn’t until we got the prequels when we finally got to see how a massive land battle would play out in the Star Wars universe - and that didn’t go too well either.
For those looking for more military based action in the Star Wars universe, the best place we can point you is to the Advanced Recon Commandos appearances in Star Wars: Republic. The clone troopers of the ARC unit are personally trained by the source of their genetics Jango Fett. After Fett’s death, Clones like Captain Rex who would be pivotal to future Star Wars stories would receive their training from ARC trooper Alpha-17.