By Josh Sazin
In celebration of the upcoming Star Wars issue #50, a most impressive milestone of Marvel Comics’ new run of the franchise, I have ranked each of the series Marvel has published since their relaunch in 2015. So, if you’re looking to catch up on some comics and aren’t quite sure where to start, take a look:
*Disclaimer: I have not yet read the limited series “Thrawn”, “The Last Jedi Adaptation” or “Lando: Double or Nothing”, which are currently being published*
- Rogue One Adaptation
This six-issue adaptation of the first “anthology” film is pretty straight-forward. It doesn’t offer a whole lot of additional content, but it does feature solid artwork by Emilio Laiso and is a good-enough comic version of the film. If you’re a big Rogue One fan, the trade paperback collection may be something to look into. The trade also features the one-shot “Cassian & K-2SO Special 1”.
- The Force Awakens Adaptation
Like the Rogue One adaptation, The Force Awakens is presented just fine in this adaptation by Chuck Wendig (Star Wars: Aftermath) and penciled by Luke Ross. One of my favorite Star Wars Marvel covers to date comes from issue #5, a menacing black and red cover featuring Kylo Ren with his saber ignited. The trade collection features the six-issue run, but very few surprises.
Similar to Lucasfilm and their anthology films, Marvel started off their run in 2015 based entirely off of nostalgia. With limited runs for each classic character, Chewbacca wasn’t about to be forgotten. The story is by far anything incredible, but it’s a heart-warming, hero’s tale with colorful artwork by Phil Noto. And for all of you sweaty fans, the mystery behind whether or not Chewie was given a medal on Yavin is finally solved!
- Doctor Aphra
Doctor Aphra is an original character who was first introduced in Kieron Gillen’s Darth Vader series in 2015, and was given her own series in 2016 once “Vader” wrapped up. A sly, sarcastic archaeologist, Aphra and her torture-hungry droids 0-0-0 and BT-1 (think R2 and 3PO on Opposite Day) cross the galaxy in search of rare artifacts. While they were often the highlight of the Vader series, the ongoing Aphra run can be hit-or-miss as far as content goes. If you’re looking for new, original stories and characters, this is a jackpot. But personally, I’ve enjoyed Aphra’s supporting role most so far.
- Jedi of the Republic – Mace Windu
Set shortly after Episode II: Attack of the Clones, this limited series follows Jedi Master Mace Windu as he heads into battle during the early stages of the Clone Wars. The story details the inner struggle the Jedi have with their roles in the recent war, now seen as army generals for the Republic. The story is short but sweet, and again nothing overly eye-popping unless you actually asked for a Mace Windu story.
- Poe Dameron
Due to Disney and Lucasfilm being extra top-secret about their new films, we’ve been very limited in the vein of content involving the sequel trilogy. The ongoing Poe Dameron comic is one of the very few examples we have that delves into what happened before and during the events of The Force Awakens. It’s a solid read, especially if you’re a fan of Oscar Isaac as Dameron in the movies. The character translates very well to comic form!
- Obi-Wan & Anakin
The Marvel comics have focused more on the Original Trilogy era, but when it delves into Prequel-era stories, the content can be glorious. Obi-Wan & Anakin is one of the most underrated limited runs to date, set a few years after The Phantom Menace with Obi-Wan training a young Anakin while on a peace-keeping mission. But perhaps the most interesting part of the series is when Chancellor Palpatine takes Anakin under his wing and helps him with inner conflicts of becoming a Jedi, showing the early stages of what ends up being a galaxy-changing relationship.
- Shattered Empire
Shatted Empire was one of the first pieces of the “Journey to The Force Awakens” multimedia campaign. The four-issue story follows the Rebel Alliance shortly after the Battle of Endor. Jedi Master Luke Skywalker is trying to clean up the fallout of the Empire’s end, still spread across the galaxy in “last stand” mode. Shattered Empire also features the introduction of Poe Dameron’s parents, revealed to be Rebel fighters alongside Luke and Leia. If you’re curious as to what happened post-JEDI, this is definitely the trade you want to pick up. It also features the One-Shot “C-3PO 1: The Phantom Limb”.
- Captain Phasma
Look, we can all agree that Captain Phasma was a bit of a disappointment in both The Force Awakens AND The Last Jedi (even though we were promised Phasma would have a bigger role in the latter, which I’m still confused about). Anyways, Marvel’s Phasma run is the perfect remedy, detailing how Phasma escaped the crumbling Starkiller Base at the end of The Force Awakens, and showing just how brutal and dangerous the character SHOULD have been portrayed on the big screen. Check this one out if you want more of the character you agree got short-handed.
- Han Solo
Han Solo got his own limited run set during Episodes IV & V, written by Marjorie Liu in 2015. This is a great arc centered around everyone’s favorite smuggler and Wookiee co-pilot. Inspired by the film The Cannonball Run, this is a fun adventure if you’re looking for newer media covering Solo’s adventures between the core saga films. This is also a great series to visit (or revisit) with the hype of Solo: A Star Wars Story. The trade can be found online, collecting all five issues.
- Princess Leia
The series Leia was given back in 2015 met a lot of criticism, although personally I found it to be one of the strongest character arcs in the comics to date. Also set after A New Hope, we find the Princess pressing through after the obliteration of her home planet Alderaan. While she wants to mourn, Leia stands tough and rallies the people of Alderaan who, like her, were not caught in the planet’s destruction. This story is a true test of whether Leia can be a strong Rebel leader in the wake of ultimate tragedy. I definitely recommend this run!
- Darth Maul
Like I said, when Marvel delves into the Prequel era, their content seems to be the strongest of all. Darth Maul’s five-issue series is no exception. The story takes place shortly before The Phantom Menace, while he is still being trained by Darth Sidious. He is forbidden to engage in Jedi combat just yet, so he takes to the underworld to kill criminals. The most fascinating parts of Darth Maul’s character were always highlighted in his multimedia roles, rather than his time in the movies. His Clone Wars arc is incredible, as is his final arc in Star Wars Rebels. In this comic run, however, Maul is both tempted by the Dark Side, as well as tempted to stray from it. If you’re a fan of the Dathomirian Sith Lord, this is the trade you should be catching up on.
When the animated TV series Star Wars Rebels premiered in 2014, it was met with praise. Set a few years before A New Hope, it followed a band of Rebels who had a goal of helping others while also standing up to the galaxy-consuming Empire. Kanan Jarrus, one of the show’s leads, known as Padawan Caleb Dume during the Clone Wars, goes on the run after the Empire’s Order 66; the purge of all Jedi. The story is pretty amazing, giving insight into the character’s origin. We get to follow Kanan in hiding, using abilities from both his Jedi training and those taught by new allies and enemies in the underworld to survive. The series is collected in two trade paperbacks, Vol 1. “The Last Padawan” and Vol. 2 “First Blood”, as well as combined in omnibus form.
Lando Calrissian’s comic arc from 2015 is one of my favorites Marvel has produced. It follows the adventures of Lando before he became the Baron Administrator of Cloud City as we see in Empire Strikes Back. The story sees Lando traveling the galaxy on smooth-talking smuggler missions alongside his pal Lobot. This comic, written by Charles Soule, gets a bit strange and wild, and really sticks with you. In order to pay off a debt, Lando accepts a mission to raid an abandoned Imperial yacht in space, the owner of which turns out to be a much bigger threat than anticipated. The series also sees the introduction of alien clone warriors Aleksin and Pavol, who look and fight very similar to Marvel’s Black Panther. Like I said, this comic tip-toes on the weird, out-there parts of the Star Wars universe at times, but for that it’s an absolute must-read.
- Darth Vader
The first Marvel Darth Vader series ran for 25 issues, between 2015 and 2016, written by Kieron Gillen. The story followed the aftermath of the first Death Star’s destruction by the Rebel Alliance, and how Vader’s position as Emperor Palpatine’s right-hand man was jeopardized because of his “failure”. Palpatine doubts Vader’s abilities, and downgrades him to smaller missions under Imperial supervision. Their relationship becomes strenuous and even more vile throughout the series, and Vader wants to prove the Emperor he’s still the strongest warrior in the galaxy. Vader sets off on his own quest to find the pilot who destroyed the Death Star, sensing that whoever it was is strong with the Force. As I mentioned before, the series also introduces archaeologist Doctor Aphra, and occasionally crosses over with the title “Star Wars” series.
- Star Wars
The core series “Star Wars” was the book Marvel first launched in January 2015, and as of July 2018, will have run for an impressive 50 issues so far. The series takes place during the time between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back (a trend for most of the “classic character” series), and follows the main characters Luke, Leia, Han and Chewie as they help continue to grow the Rebellion and prevent the Empire from ruling the galaxy. The story has several amazing arcs, each one seemingly better than the last. From time to time there are stories from the “Journals of Ben Kenobi” that Luke reads from what Old Ben left behind for him, detailing his time on Tatooine while watching over Luke as he grew up. The Star Wars title also has a very underrated Yoda flashback arc as well. There are currently seven trade collections, the longest ongoing series of the Marvel re-launch.
- Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith
After Kieron Gillen’s Darth Vader run ended in 2016, Charles Soule picked up with a new ongoing Vader series in 2017, following the Sith Lord’s mission to purge all Jedi immediately following the events of Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. Not only do we see the origin of his red lightsaber, but “Dark Lord of the Sith” is one of the most brooding yet adventurous Star Wars comics of the new Marvel collection. It’s the time period people have been clamoring to see more of Vader in, especially after seeing his brutal cameo in Rogue One in 2016. Vader is at his absolute strongest here, hunting Jedi and leading a pack of blood-thirsty Inquisitors at the command of the Emperor. While the series hopefully has several issues remaining, this is definitely the one you want to jump into and strike while the iron is hot. Vader at his strongest = a must-read.