In 2012, Disney bought Lucasfilm. And in the spring of 2014, they made a massive change to the canon timeline of Star Wars forever: Everything prior to that moment, aside from the Episode films and the Clone Wars feature film and following television series, was no longer part of the official Star Wars Universe. All shows, books, and movies were now part of the Legends Canon. Canon, in a nutshell, is a work of fiction that is deemed “official” by the people who own the source material.
Now, three years later, The Last Jedi is upon us and we have quite a few new canon pieces of fiction in the world of Star Wars. Around 15 adult novels, countless young adult and children’s books, three new movies, and 15+ different kinds of comics.
Here we are going to focus on the top 5 Star Wars comics in terms of currently released paperback collections.
5. Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith Volume 1
Written by Charles Soule and drawn by Giuseppe Camuncoli
Taking place immediately after the end of Revenge of the Sith, Anakin (now Darth Vader) awakens in his new half-robotic body incredibly pissed off at Obi-Wan for betraying him, Palpatine for breaking the news that Padmé is dead and lying to him about being able to save her, and himself for killing her. That rage is the start of the story and it never lets up.
Volume 1 of Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith is one of the more interesting titles of recent Star Wars comics for many reasons. Picking up right after Revenge of the Sith, we get to see a side of Vader that has not yet been explored — young, confused, and not yet in control of his rage, and not truly a Sith Lord in terms of power. He’s being taught, briefly by Palpatine about things a Sith must do to truly become one with the Dark Side, including one fascinating aspect of Sith lore: “bleeding” a Kyber Crystal.
This comic fully explores an idea introduced in E. K. Johnston’s novel Ahsoka where a Sith forces the Kyber crystal — the crystal which powers ones lightsaber — to turn red by breaking it with the Dark Side of the force, essentially making it bleed. This, and just the exploration of Vader getting his first lightsaber in general, is the main focus of this comic. We see him fighting a Jedi who has survived the genocide by the Clone Troopers of Order 66, as well as learn about the Barash Vow which delves deeper into some specific Star Wars lore and shows how some of the Jedi have survived the purge.
4. Star Wars Volume 5: Yoda’s Secret War
Written by Jason Aaron and drawn by Salvador Larroca
I was incredibly interested in this volume of the main Star Wars comic run for two major reasons: it focuses a lot on a solo Yoda story, and within the timeline of the new canon material, it is the earliest piece of information we have, taking place well before The Phantom Menace. I must say, while it doesn’t give us much in terms of the galaxy prior to Episode I, the story itself did vastly exceed my expectations.
Yoda’s Secret War follows our favorite wise Jedi, Yoda, on a trip to a distant planet that isn’t located on any maps as he felt a great disturbance in the Force located there. When he arrives he meets a group of children, the Mud Dwellers, and learns of a war between them and other children, the Rockhawkers, all stemming from a giant blue mountain that was alive in the Force. Some people wanted to use the power of the mountain for themselves, while others did not, and a war broke out between the two of them.
One of the most fascinating things about this story is its similarities between the war of the Light Side vs the Dark Side of the Force — but on a much smaller and remote scale. It’s interesting to see such a grand idea go down on a single planetary scale. Another thing that makes this comic so great is that Yoda knows he can’t be of any help if he doesn’t learn how to control these pieces of the blue mountain, which are so strong even he has trouble moving it, so he steps down to a padawan learner level and lets a child teach him their ways. It’s nice to see how humble and wise Yoda is and writer Jason Aaron truly understands his character.
And to top it off, this entire story is detailed in chronicling Obi-Wan’s old journals that Luke Skywalker is reading after the events of A New Hope. Through reading this story of Yoda’s, Luke is learning the ways of the force and what it means to be a Jedi even before he ever knows who Yoda is. This entire storyline comes full circle as Luke eventually visits the remote planet to learn what has happened after Yoda left and takes an incredibly big step in his personal training.
Written by Charles Soule and drawn by Alex Maleev
Ah, Lando Calrissian — Han Solo’s old friend, then enemy, then friend again, and fellow scoundrel and smuggler. Who would have known a brief five-issue comic about him would move me to tears?
Soule’s comic about Lando follows him and his best pal, Lobot, on a mission of a lifetime as they are tasked with stealing an Imperial art dealer’s ship for someone they owe a lot of money to. This person only wants the ship, then their debt is cleared, and on top of that Lando and his team get to keep all the valuable art on the ship and do with it as they please. The catch? They don’t realize the ship is actually Emperor Palpatine’s personal vessel.
This story explores a few cool things: a great and interesting crew of rogues that Lando hires to help him, Sith artefacts and how intoxicating it can be just being near them, and his personal relationship with Lobot. When we see Lobot in The Empire Strikes Back, we see an android-like human who follows Lando’s every command. In this story Lobot is a fully fledged character and person who is Lando’s best friend. Without spoilers, the best part about this comic is the tragic story of how Lobot became who we see in the film and Lando’s pact to help him and stand by his best friend forever.
2. Doctor Aphra volume 1
Written by Kieron Gillen and drawn by Kev Walker
I was once told that the solo comic for Doctor Aphra was basically the Indiana Jones of Star Wars and that is exactly how this plays out. In the first volume of her title comic, the fan favorite new canon character from Kieron Gillen’s run of Darth Vader is a shifty, shady, smart as hell archaeologist who finds herself in a jam: her father has taken away her doctorate and ability to research and sell artefacts based on the fact that she got her doctorate through nefarious ways. This puts her at her father’s advantage, he gets to spend time with her while taking her out on a person life long mission of his to find proof of an ancient and mythical sect of Jedi, the Ordu Aspectu.
There are tons of reasons why I love this comic. First and foremost, Aphra is just a wonderful character. She’s incredibly intelligent and cunning and will do anything to get what she wants — like working with Vader for the four volumes of his original comic. This is explored even better when we see how she originally gets her doctorate. She’s not actually a bad person — more morally grey — but that’s what makes her character even more fascinating. She’s also a LGBT character which gives us even more diversity with her character and the comic, though it is only lightly touched upon in this volume.
Aside from all of that, the exploration of the Ordu Aspectu is fascinating. They are an ancient sect of Jedi who are told as being seekers of immortality. However, they are also a mythical sect of Jedi as nobody actually knows if they exists as they all disappeared at one point. Aphra’s father tells a tale of wonderful and experienced Jedi who were killed off by Dark Jedi who were looking to use immortality for their own selfish gain, while Aphra’s story that she’s heard so many times tells the exact opposite. Their search for this sect takes them all over the galaxy until they finally reach the answers they were looking for — as well as the Empire!
1. Han Solo
Written by Marjorie Liu and illustrated by Mark Brooks
Han Solo — our favorite scoundrel and scruffy lookin’ nerf herder. Solo’s comic may not have the deep Star Wars lore exploration that Doctor Aphra or Yoda’s Secret War has, nor the dark intensity of Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith, but to me Marjorie Liu’s story, coupled with Mark Brooks’ wonderful art and stunning colors from Sonia Oback and Matt Milla, is currently the quintessential Star Wars comic thus far.
Taking place after Han helped the Rebellion take down the Death Star, he currently has no idea where he stands in life. He’s very obviously attracted to the idea of taking down the Empire, but at the same time he isn’t ready to leave his smuggler’s life just yet. When Leia comes up with the idea of having him compete in a race — the grandest race in fact — called the Dragon Void Run in order to help pick up Republic spies within the Empire on planets that the race will visit, well, Han just can’t say no!
This is my favorite piece of character development we’ve gotten in the comics so far all thanks to Marjorie Liu’s fantastic writing and full understanding of Han Solo’s character. It really delves into Han as a person and what he wants in his life (he really wants to win this race, by the way) and it’s also a challenge for him to know if he wants to stick by his mission (which he is also drawn to) or risk it and go for first and bask in the glory. What he ends up doing may not surprise you, but it’s the circumstances that really cement his character as a wonderful human being.
Next up, we have the cast of wonderful characters as well as the race itself. The Dragon Void Run is an incredibly dangerous race that many people don’t even finish and some occasionally die during. Here we have a cast of characters ranging from old and wise, like my personal favorite Loo Re Anno who is not only wise and mysterious, but also experienced enough to have the respect and recognition from every single other racer out there, to the younger, brash, and shifty racer Delan Vook who will use any and every tactic he can to take first place. Even some of the lesser explored characters feel fully fleshed out and balanced within the story. On top of that, there’s a real focus on camaraderie between the racers. Despite everyone trying to win, they all care for and respect the race and the other racers as family.
The main intrigue theoretically should come from the spies Han is sent to pick up, especially when he finds out that one of them is a traitor, but just like Han’s mind in this story, Liu puts that aspect aside a bit to focus on the race. However, she does not put that plot line on the sidelines as a lack of importance, she gives that equal respect, it’s just very clear that none of us are here first and foremost for a mystery. We want a race, fast paced, keeping us on our toes, with every character out for themselves and a spectacular finish and that is exactly what Liu gives us the entire time and it is perfect.
– Kanan volumes 1 and 2 because I think the Clone Wars era is the best time period in Star Wars, plus we get to see Rae Sloane from the books A New Dawn and Aftermath trilogy.
– Darth Vader volume 1 for the moment Vader finds out his son is alive.