2016 proved to be another fantastic year for Star Wars fans. Not only because of the release of the Rogue One film, but also because of the superb canon comics from Marvel, as well as some excellent new novels. This list continues from the one that was released last year, showing fans what comics and books are canon, what they can expect from each, and if it is worth reading.
--PART ONE: THE COMICS--
Star Wars (ongoing)
When is it set: The main story explored here is set between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back; these new arcs follow the “Vader Down” crossover arc. There are also occasional “Journals of Obi-Wan Kenobi” entries set during the time Obi-Wan spend on Tatooine between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope.
What is it: The main story explores the Rebel Alliance in the aftermath of A New Hope, dealing with new threats from the Galactic Empire, trying to get revenge for the destruction of the Death Star. The two main story arcs explored throughout 2016 were “Rebel Jail,” which is set primarily aboard a secret Rebellion prison, featuring the Rebels deal with a captive they claimed in the previous “Vader Down” crossover as well as a mysterious infiltrator of the facility, and “The Last Flight of Harbinger,” in which the Rebels embark on a mission to steal a Star Destroyer to provide relief to a world sympathetic to the Rebellion, but soon find themselves under fire from an elite group of Stormtroopers. A one-off annual issue explores the life of a woman on a planet that has been ravaged by the Galactic Civil War, and who contemplates her future when Princess Leia crash lands there, and is being hunted by the Empire. The “Journals of Obi-Wan Kenobi” issues focus on Obi-Wan watching over a young Luke Skywalker on Tatooine, and having to deal with a number of unexpected threats, while trying to remain inconspicuous.
Should you read it: Yes. This remains the flagship Marvel Star Wars title, and it absolutely feels like the films from start to finish. It is great to see Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, the Droids, and a number of new faces in these adventures set between the first two movies. While there are some tonal inconsistencies in the “Harbinger” book, overall this series has given fans more canon, superb adventures. The “Obi-Wan” issues (there have been three total, two of which were released in 2016) are particular stand-outs that fans are going to love.
“Rebel Jail” is available in a trade paperback. “The Last Flight of Harbinger” will be released in trade paperback in early 2017. A hardcover anthology combining "Rebel Jail," "Harbinger," and the second annual, will be released in summer 2017.
Darth Vader (ongoing, ended its run)
When is it set: Between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. The new story arcs take place following the “Vader Down” crossover series.
What is it: Darth Vader’s story following A New Hope and the destruction of the Death Star, attempting to atone for his failure in protecting it. The story arcs following “Vader Down” are “The Shu-Torun War,” which features Vader going to a lava-covered mining world (last seen in the first Darth Vader annual) to settle revolts in the name of the Empire, and “End of Games,” which features Vader going up against traitors to the Empire that have been conspiring against himself and the Emperor.
Should you read it: Yes. These two story arcs are the finale of this series’ run, and they do not disappoint. The “Shu-Torun War” arc is shorter than previous stories, but its succinct nature results in a solid story with no filler to be had. Of course, the “End of Games” arc wraps everything up almost perfectly, with some timeless, instant classic Star Wars moments that more than do justice to our favorite Dark Lord of the Sith, setting him up to be the character we see in The Empire Strikes Back. This comic has ranked amongst Marvel’s best work since regaining the license to create Star Wars comics, and the concluding moments are absolutely perfect.
“The Shu-Torun War” and “End of Games” are both available in separate trade paperbacks. Both arcs will be released in a hardcover anthology with "Vader Down" in February 2017.
C-3PO (one shot)
When is it set: In the years prior to The Force Awakens. Before the Poe Dameron comic.
What is it: A one-shot comic featuring C-3PO on an adventure with other droids, explaining how he got the red arm he has in The Force Awakens. Their spaceship, en route on a mission, crash lands on a world with an unforgiving landscape and deadly indigenous creatures. Threepio and company must escort a First Order droid to a certain location to rescue Admiral Ackbar, who is being held prisoner. This comic was slated for release in 2015 prior to The Force Awakens, but was delayed multiple times.
Should you read it: Yes. The bizarre art style not withstanding, this is an interesting comic that I found myself more drawn to than I would have imagined. The adventure with the droids is fun to watch, and there is a genuine feeling of suspense and terror here. Even though the characters are droids, we as readers find ourselves drawn to their predicament in this story. The climax/ending moments are definitely classics for the ages.
This comic is available in the Shattered Empire hardcover edition.
Obi-Wan and Anakin (five-issue mini series)
When is it set: Three years after The Phantom Menace, seven years prior to Attack of the Clones.
What is it: Anakin Skywalker, still a fairly young boy, is serving as a Padawan to Obi-Wan Kenobi, but Anakin is questioning his role in the Jedi Order. The twosome sets out to a mysterious dystopian world, finding themselves caught in the middle of mysterious warring factions that claim to have never heard of the Jedi! It is up to them to find out who sent the distress message on a seemingly ruined world, and to investigate the deeper mysteries at hand. Flashbacks show Anakin’s training in the Jedi Temple, as well as some of his early interactions with Supreme Chancellor Palpatine, AKA Darth Sidious, the man that will one day lead him down the path to the Dark Side.
Should you read it: Yes. Despite Marvel once again making Star Wars comics, I was surprised to see they did not attempt the prequel era until this book (although elements of the prequels have shown up in other books). The book gives readers a strange and interesting new location, and a very interesting look into Anakin and Palpatine’s early relationship. I found this take on Anakin far more appealing than either of the first two prequel films, and seeing his internal strife of whether or not he should remain in the Jedi Order makes for some of the most interesting moments in the comics so far.
This comic is available in a trade paperback.
Han Solo (five-issue mini series)
When is it set: Between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, presumably prior to the main Star Wars comic series set during the same time period.
What is it: Han Solo has returned to smuggling following his initial involvement with the Rebel Alliance. Princess Leia reluctantly comes to him with a mission, which involves engaging in an intergalactic race as a cover. Han must rendezvous with Rebel agents on the race’s stops, but there is evidently a traitor in their midst. And as if that was not bad enough for our favorite scruffy-looking nerf herder, the Empire has their sights set on the race as well.
Should you read it: Yes. Of the “classic three” characters in the original Star Wars films, Han Solo has always been my favorite, and this is a more personal story that does him justice. The noir-ish tone helps the series to feel distinctive from the other Marvel comics, and it also enables you to see Han evolve as a character. The new characters/species/etc. are handled surprisingly well, and the climax is unexpected yet appropriate. Fans of the character should like what they see here.
This comic will be released as a trade paperback in early 2017.
Poe Dameron (ongoing)
When is it set: In the years prior to The Force Awakens, after the Bloodline Novel and the C-3PO one shot. Most likely within 1-2 years of the film.
What is it: Poe Dameron, serving in the Resistance against the First Order, is on a mission to try to discover the location of the explorer Lor San Tekka, who may know the location of the long missing Luke Skywalker. But Poe soon finds himself pitted against Agent Terex, a deadly First Order agent who has his sights set on discovering Tekka’s location as well, and he is willing to do anything to achieve his goal and to crush those who stand in his way. Further contributing to Poe’s problem is the fact that there is, apparently, a traitor that has betrayed the Resistance’s location and moves to the First Order.
Should you read it: Yes. It is always great to get some more stories in The Force Awakens era, and since Poe Dameron got the short end of the stick in the actual movie, seeing him do what he does throughout this story is great. Agent Terex is a great new villain, and arguably my favorite new character introduced in the various Marvel comic series. Getting to see the state of the galaxy in this era is worth the price of admission alone, but a great story and memorable characters make it one of the best new series Marvel has put out.
"Black Squadron," the story arc of the first six issues, is available as a trade paperback.
The Force Awakens (comic adaptation)
When is it set: 30 years after Return of the Jedi.
What is it: A comic adaptation of the film (if you need a summary of the film, it has been summarized enough times on other websites/reviews/etc.)
Should you read it: No. This is one of the biggest disappointments so far in Marvel’s otherwise stellar efforts with Star Wars comics. While the art is good overall despite a few questionable choices, and there are a few good narrative spots about characters and history of the galaxy, overall it feels like a condensed version of the movie, omitting entire scenes, feeling rushed, losing the dramatic value and the humor in many cases. One of the most vital scenes in the movie, the opening with Lor San Tekka talking to Poe Dameron, is omitted outright, with Tekka dead when the book begins. I truly wonder if someone who has not seen the movie would even be able to follow the comic due to its rushed and hectic nature. Take my advice and see the movie instead, or read the novelization (see below).
The six individual comics making up this story have been combined in a hardcover book.
--PART TWO: THE NOVELS--
When is it set: Roughly 1-2 years following Revenge of the Sith.
What is it: A young adult novel following Ahsoka Tano’s time after Revenge of the Sith. Trying to lay low and hide from the Empire, the former Jedi Padawan finds herself drawn into battle once again when she befriends farmers that have to contend with the threat of the Empire.
Should you read it: Yes. It is good to get an idea of what happened to Ahsoka following the ending of The Clone Wars animated series, but prior to Star Wars Rebels. While the story is limited in scope and has way too many characters, it is worth watching for getting to see Ahsoka do what she does best, finding herself in a personal conflict in the times of the newly formed Empire. It is not a perfect tale and does not go all the way to the titular character’s appearances in Rebels, but there is still a lot to enjoy here.
When is it set: From during the Clone Wars to roughly five years after Revenge of the Sith.
What is it: A novel that serves as a prequel to Rogue One, set prior to its prologue. In this movie, we learn about the relationships between the Erso Family members, and the birth of Jyn Erso. The book also sets up Krennic as a character, and shows a number of subplots and stories that tie together, including the initial conception behind the Death Star and the origin of its superlaser weapon.
Should you read it: Yes. Rogue One is an enjoyable film, and this novel helps to give an expanded backstory to a number of the characters. When you know what the Erso Family has gone through prior to that film, it makes things all the more compelling on the big screen. We even get an idea of the rivalry between Krennic and Grand Moff Tarkin, which is something that comes into play in the film. But the Erso stories are the main draw here. While fairly light on action, it works well as a character development piece, and enhances the film it was meant to tie into. Few will read this book before they see Rogue One, but those that do will get more out of the film.
When is it set: In the months following Return of the Jedi. Immediately after the first Aftermath novel.
What is it: The second installment in this trilogy of post-Return of the Jedi novels, featuring much of the main cast of the classic trilogy of films, plus several new faces. A mysterious fleet admiral has taken command of the remnants of the Galactic Empire, and is hatching a deadly scheme against the fledgling New Republic.
Should you read it: Yes, but only after reading the first Aftermath book. This is an intriguing tale, and the second installment is arguably more satisfying than the first. Seeing old fan favorite characters and many interesting new ones makes this tale stand out in more ways than one. Author Chuck Wendig’s writing style remains a little on the strange side, being done in present tense, but you get sucked into the story and forget about that rather quickly. After reading it, you are going to be all the more geared up for the release of Aftermath: Empire’s End next year!
When is it set: Several years prior to The Force Awakens.
What is it: This book focuses primarily around Leia, who is playing a substantial role in keeping the New Republic aloft, but things are falling apart with two constantly clashing political parties, one that wants systems to govern themselves and another that wants to have a single ruling body controlling everything. Leia discovers conspiracies and goes to investigate alongside a senator from the other side of the political spectrum, and finds herself investigating something potentially disastrous to the future of the galaxy. Things take an even worse turn when the truth of Leia’s parentage is made public, for the first time ever.
Should you read it: Yes. For Star Wars having such intriguing potential with its political elements, it is surprising no previous work attempted to tackle it on as large a scale as this. We get an interesting look at how things work in the forthcoming new government, and Leia’s frustration with trying to hold it together. There is action and adventure here, but overall it succeeds best as a character study of Leia and a look at the galactic politics of the era in question. Claudia Gray has fast become one of the best writers of Star Wars fiction, and it really shows here.
The Force Awakens (novelization)
When is it set: 30 years after Return of the Jedi
What is it: Alan Dean Foster’s novel adaptation of the film (again, if you need a summary and have not seen the film, there are countless descriptions online).
Should you read it: Yes. I had my doubts as to whether The Force Awakens could work as a novel without visuals, but the usually reliable Foster has done a good job here. There are a handful of extended scenes that did not make it into the final film as well, which is a nice incentive to read the novel. The film is still the definitive way to experience this story, but die-hard fans can get something out of this version of the tale as well.
--PART THREE: UPCOMING--
Star Wars and Poe Dameron (both ongoing comic series)
Both of these series will continue in 2016, with the former including a new tale featuring Yoda prior to The Phantom Menace! The Poe Dameron series is slated to run at least up to a twelfth issue; it is not clear if the series will continue beyond that.
Doctor Aphra (ongoing comic series)
A new comic series revolving around a rogue archaeologist character introduced in the Darth Vader comic, reuniting with a number of other returning characters from that series. The comic’s first two volumes are now available.
Darth Maul (comic mini-series)
A prequel to Maul’s appearance in The Phantom Menace, before he got cut in half by a certain Jedi Knight.
Rogue One (novelization)
The novelization of the new film, written by Battlefront: Twilight Company author Alexander Freed. This is available now.
A look at the Grand Admiral Thrawn character prior to Star Wars Rebels (the character had previously been a big part of the no longer canon Expanded Universe that existed before). Timothy Zahn is returning to Star Wars to write this tale about the new canon version of his most famous Star Wars creation.
Aftermath: Empire’s End (novel)
The final book in Chuck Wendig’s trilogy, which will presumably culminate with the Battle of Jakku that takes place roughly a year after Return of the Jedi, marking the end of the Galactic Empire.
There is plenty to look forward to for Star Wars fans! While you are waiting for Episode VIII to release, check out some of these comics and novels, and be prepared for a whole year's worth of new material! In the meantime, may the Force be with you.