I grew up with the Expanded Universe, and I have a deep love for its stories and characters. While the novels that constituted the bulk of the EU aren’t going anywhere (they will continue to be printed by Del Rey under the Legends banner), it’s unclear whether or not we will ever see new Legends stories. The Star Wars comics once printed by Dark Horse are a different story.
Beginning in 2015, Dark Horse will relinquish all publishing and reprint rights to Marvel, ending a 23 year run of Star Wars comics. Not only will Dark Horse Star Wars comics be pulled for sale, but they will also no longer be reprinted. Digital sales will also cease on December 31, 2014, though anyone with Star Wars titles in their cloud will still have access to them. While this announcement was made back in January, it seems like the news has just started sinking in. Maybe it’s the eve of the New Year finally approaching, or maybe Dark Horse’s back stock has finally run dry, but over the past month all Star Wars titles have been rapidly flying off book and comic store shelves.
For anyone who follows my twitter, it’s no news to you that I’ve been buying up every Star Wars comic that I’ve ever intended on reading, piling titles in giant stacks on my desk, since I don’t have the shelf space for this kind of rapid library growth. There are so many great stories out there, and I never really realized how little time I had left to find them. Now that many have arrived, I thought it would be a good time to share with all of you some of my “must reads” from over the years.
Now I’m not going to lie, I put off reading Legacy for a very long time. In fact, I once composed a tweet that said, “Legacy always struck me as “I’m Cade Skywalker, but don’t call me Skywalker. Death sticks. Oh and also EXPLOSIONS”, to which someone replied, “You’re not wrong”. And I wasn’t, really. But it was so much more than that. Ultimately I wound up reading Legacy because I was really intrigued by Legacy: Volume 2, which stars junk dealer Ania Solo. If I was going to do this right, I figured I had better start from the beginning.
Cade’s journey is deeply emotional and different from any other character I’ve come across in the Star Wars Universe. He’s an ex-Jedi bounty hunter with a score to settle and one foot in the Dark Side. This is a character with some real baggage. Top that off with his abuse of death sticks as a method of cutting himself off from the Force and you have a real “screw destiny” vibe that clashes with so much of what we know as classic Star Wars. The exploits Cade and his crew share are almost more reminiscent of Cowboy Bebop than the original and prequel Star Wars trilogies; bounty hunters on the fringes of space looking for that big payday and never quite finding it.
Ania’s story in Legacy: Volume 2 was much more traditional, in the Star Wars sense of the word. Ania is more relatable figure than Cade, or even than Luke or Anakin. She’s the great-great granddaughter of Han and Leia, but has no Force powers or perceivable destiny to adhere to. She’s just a girl on the outer rim looking for a change in her luck. And whether it’s a good change or a bad change, she sure does find one. Through the course of the story she winds up on the run with a nervous Mon Cal, an Imperial Knight and a friendly assassin droid who owes her family a debt. It’s a shorter, more contained story than its predecessor, but has a few twists on the classic formula.
Both volumes are must reads to anyone who read through the Legacy Era of the EU novels, or even as a fresh start to new readers looking for a point to jump into Legends much further down the line.
Star Wars Tales
Tales is a collection of six anthologies of short stories set in the Star Wars Universe. Some of these were once regarded as canon, where others were simply humorous asides never intended to be taken too seriously. In fact, the first issue offers an in universe explanation to the varying degrees of historical accuracy by explaining the stories as holo rentals from Peeja Mobet’s Holo Emporium. He says:
“Some folks take liberties with their characters, others ignore potentially significant events, and still others speculate about what might have happened if something didn’t occur when and where it should have. Or vice-versa for that matter. And then of course there’s them hoo-ha stories, which make none of the pretense about tying in so long as you’re doubled over and crackin’ up!”
This concept is expanded upon, but the basic gist is that any of the events in these stories may or may not have happened, but that’s no reason not to enjoy them. Tales offers a unique departure from the larger, episodic nature that normally defines Star Wars giving us some insight into some of the background characters and “normal folk” that occupy the GFFA.
As for my favorite of the Tales? That’s a tough one. If I had to pick one right now it would be “Apocalypse Endor”- the true tale of what happened on the forest moon.
Tag & Bink Were Here
While we are on a less serious note, I have to bring up Tag & Bink. These guys are the Rosencrantz & Guidenstern of Star Wars, and they make just about every “Top 10 Star Wars Comics” list I can find. I picked this book up on a complete whim, and even half way through, I couldn’t believe this was a thing that existed. Obviously two rebels from the Tantive IV can’t also be the two stormtroopers talking about the new BT-16, or the two TIE pilots flying the trench with Vader, or even the two Imperial Guards in Palpatine’s throne room, but that’s what this zany story claims. Just like Robot Chicken’s Boba Fett, you can’t convince me not to believe it.
Knights of the Old Republic
Generally I don’t usually delve too far back into much of the Old Republic Era of Star Wars. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve read many of the books and I’ve certainly played all of the games, but the time period just doesn’t have the same appeal for me as the stories from the Age of the Empire and beyond. Unless, of course, it’s being handled by John Jackson Miller, in which case bring it on.
JJM is famous in the Star Wars community for writing stories about a Jedi alone. I must admit, there is something fascinating about seeing a person whose entire life was focused around an Order, and a structured system of beliefs, and then seeing it taken away from them. This was the case with Obiwan in his novel Kenobi, with Kanan Jarrus in A New Dawn, and with Zayne Carrick in Knights of the Old Republic. In the story, Zayne is not only separated from his order, but is hunted by them after being framed for the murder of his fellow padawans. Zayne is uneasy with his powers in the Force and his place in the Order, but always holds true to his ideals.
Much like Legacy, Knights of the Old Republic is a great starting point for anyone looking to dive into a new era of Star Wars, even if they don’t have any background knowledge of the Expanded Universe.
Let’s get something straight going into this last section. I’m not actually a fan of Dark Empire. I think on the whole, it has some of the most ridiculous concepts introduced to Star Wars, including but not limited to worm hole-ripping Force storms, World Devastators and the Galaxy Gun. It includes my least favorite plot device of all Star Wars media, which was Luke pretending to turn to the Dark Side and then ACTUALLY turning to the Dark Side. It essentially reboots the original trilogy by pitting the New Republic-again-turned-Rebel-Alliance against an Empire led by Palpatine reborn.
Why again did this comic make my cut? I mean just look at it. This comic is cinematically beautiful. The mood inspired by its lines and colors were never again truly recreated in Star Wars comics, and to this day triggers the same awe that its pages did when I first looked at them, long before I knew the story of Anakin Skywalker.
This actually brings me to the most important thing that I took away from Dark Empire. This was a comic I read as a child, hungry for more Star Wars but without many places to turn. Many people with issues against this trilogy cite the Emperor clones as their main grievance, but I disagree. Palpatine was this immensely powerful being bent on gaining immortality. In my head, this was the entire driving force of the Clone Wars, which at this point were limited to basically what Obiwan told us in A New Hope. While I may disagree with much of what this comic did, it provided the groundwork in my brain upon which I would continue to build this grand vision of Star Wars throughout my entire life.
This, of course, is a short list compared to the dozens of comics I purchased over the past few days. Certainly there are other comics that I would recommend, though I felt a short list with more personal reasoning was better. If I had to make a case for runners up, I would definitely include Heir to the Empire and the rest of the Thrawn Trilogy. In fact, if these comics weren’t based on the novels of the same name, I would probably have listed them first. If given the choice to read one or the other, though, I would pick the novels every time. The same goes for Shadows of the Empire, though the supplementary comics Shadows of the Empire: Evolution and Mara Jade: By the Emperor’s Hand make the Shadows omnibus totally worth it. I have yet to read Star Wars: Infinities, but it’s in the mail, and I must admit the concept of an entire book of “what ifs” set in the original trilogy really excites me.
In the end, I don’t see the loss of the Dark Horse line of comics as a bad thing. Certainly collecting all of them will be a long, arduous road, but I’ve been reading more Star Wars comics than ever, and without the added incentive of losing them forever, I would have really missed out. While it will definitely be difficult to find some of these stories from this point onward, it opens the door to the new Marvel comics beginning with Star Wars #1 on January 15, 2015. Also remember that Marvel retains the reprint rights after buying them from Dark Horse. Beginning in April 2015, “Star Wars Legends Epic Collection: The Empire Vol. 1”, will release featuring multiple stories previously published by Dark Horse. Marvel even claims they’re looking to “collect full unbroken runs” of multiple past Star Wars stories. While this initial run consists entirely of stories set in the time frame of the Original Trilogy, it gives Star Wars fans everywhere hope that we will one day be able to return to these comics Legends in our once familiar Galaxy Far, Far Away.