Sign in / Join

Star Wars - A Continued Look at the Canon Novels and Comics!

At the end of each year, I do a retrospective of all of the canon Marvel Star Wars comics, as well as the canon novels that have been released. This is my third such article, covering 2017's releases; click the links here for my older retrospectives of 2016 and 2015.

 

--PART ONE: THE NOVELS--

-

-

-

Aftermath: Empire's End

When is it set: Following the previous two Aftermath novels; in the months following Return of the Jedi.

What is it: This is the third and final Aftermath novel, bringing the series full circle. It culminates with the Battle of Jakku, and formations that end with the disbandment of the Galactic Empire, and the beginnings of the new government and way of life in the galaxy.

Should you read it: Yes. The Aftermath books have taken a lot of heat from readers, but they have gotten better with each subsequent installment. The final installment is the best, bringing this story to its conclusion and climax, while placing some subtle hints as to what is to come with the Sequel Trilogy era.

-

-

Adventures in Wild Space series

When is it set: Early in the years of the Galactic Empire’s formation; most likely a few years after Revenge of the Sith. Technically, the series has been going for a few years, with the final book expected to arrive for American audiences sometime in 2018.

What is it: This is an ongoing children’s book series about a brother and a sister who are the kids of a group of galactic mapmakers exploring the Wild Space region. When their parents are captured by the Empire, they have to step up and explore the galaxy in an effort to rescue them.

Should you read it: Yes. These are short and simplistic tales that were written with kids in mind, but they actually do a fairly good job tying together elements of the Star Wars universe. Some familiar faces show up periodically, and the well-written brother/sister duo faces genuine danger and some authentic hurdles on their journey. Do not write these off because they are “kids books.”

-

-

Thrawn

When is it set: Over the course of several years between Revenge of the Sith and Star Wars Rebels.

What is it: The blue-skinned Chiss, Mitth’raw’nuruodo, more commonly known as Thrawn, comes to be in the company of the Galactic Empire, attending the Academy and rising through their ranks, proving himself a valuable asset to the Empire. He finds a confidant in Arihnda Pryce, herself attempting to establish a foothold in the Empire. Over the years, Thrawn finds himself engaged in numerous battles and conflicts, using a unique knowledge of worlds and cultures to aid him in making his decisions, which proves to be surprisingly advantageous.

Should you read it: Yes. This is the first canon Thrawn novel following his appearances on Star Wars Rebels, and it essentially builds him up to his appearance on that show. The Pryce subplot/side story takes up too much of the book and proves to be its major weakness (this should have been reserved for another book or short story), but overall the tale of Thrawn is one of the most intriguing and exciting in the growing canon Expanded Universe.

-

-

Rebel Rising

When is it set: Jyn Erso’s youth, leading up to her incarceration in an Imperial prison camp prior to Rogue One.

What is it: This book fills in the gaps between Jyn Erso being found following the death of her parents, taken away to fight alongside Rebel extremist Saw Gerrera, and the events of Rogue One, in which she escapes from the prison camp on Wobani. Along the way, she struggles with personal decisions and her own inner demons, debating whether to continue the fight, or try to escape and live her own life.

Should you read it: Yes. While branded as a young adult novel, this one is surprisingly powerful. If you wondered what happened between the opening of Rogue One up to the film’s “present,” this is where you'll find the answers! Simultaneously exciting, dramatic, and heartbreaking, this is a powerful addition to the new canon.

-

-

Guardians of the Whills

When is it set: Prior to Rogue One.

What is it: This book follows the daily lives of Baze Malbus and Chirrut Imwe on Jedha, in and around the Holy City on Jedha, prior to the events of Rogue One. When the Empire comes, the group must do their part to help give supplies to the locals, and first become aware of Rebel extremist Saw Gerrera, who is intent on ridding the city of Imperial occupation.

Should you read it: Yes. Again, this is one that is being billed as a product for young readers, but it does not shy away from the horrors inflicted by the Empire. These were two of the most interesting characters introduced in Rogue One, and it is nice to get some backstory on their lives prior to the film. Another interesting development in the book is quotations taken from various texts about the Force, which goes to show how the galaxy at large perceives it. This one is better than you’d expect a young reader book to be.

-

-

Battlefront II: Inferno Squad

When is it set: Following A New Hope, in the months following the destruction of the first Death Star.

What is it: When the Death Star is destroyed, the Empire assembles a group of some of its most talented young minds to infiltrate the surviving members of Saw Gerrera’s partisans. The group heads out to destroy this unit of infidels from the inside out, but quickly finds that doing so may come at a greater cost than they had previously anticipated.

Should you read it: Yes. This is a gritty story of a specialist group of Imperials, sent on a dangerous mission that none of them could possibly prepare for. The drama in the tale is genuine, and it ends up giving the viewer a few shocking surprises. The book serves as a sort of tie-in to the campaign in the video game of the same name, so players of the game will appreciate the backstory on the lead character, but you can enjoy this story without playing the game, as well.

-

-

Leia, Princess of Alderaan

When is it set: Leia’s youth, presumably prior to her appearance on Star Wars Rebels.

What is it: This novel follows Leia’s life in the years prior to A New Hope. Even in her young age, she is already skilled diplomatically, and finds herself going to worlds and helping the locals. She comes to learn of her adoptive parents’ involvement in the Rebellion, and wants to help herself, despite her father’s initial worries and objections, and finds herself juggling duties with a boy she finds herself falling for.

Should you read it: Yes. This novel was one of the pleasant surprises of the past year; getting more backstory on Leia is always a good thing. This novel features an early chronological appearance from the Holdo character, who is featured in The Last Jedi, as well as a few other surprises, including an appearance from a prequel-era character that audiences likely thought they would not hear from again (and don’t worry, it’s not Jar Jar!) There are many surprises to be found in this book, and it stands as a surprisingly strong novel that should not be written off due to its young adult classification.

-

-

Phasma

When is it set: The “present” is prior to The Force Awakens, with the flashback sequences going back just over a decade prior to that.

What is it: A Rebel spy is captured by a high-ranking First Order soldier for an interrogation. Upon her capture, she tells her captor about the story of his fellow First Order officer and rival, Captain Phasma, hoping to find information that he can use against her for his own personal advancement through the ranks. She recounts the tale of Phasma’s youth on a desolate, rocky cliffside belonging to a tribe. When a mysterious spaceship falls from the sky, they set out on a journey to discover its mysteries, only to find themselves facing many of the obstacles of the planet.

Should you read it: Yes. One of the biggest flaws of the newer Star Wars films is that they more or less tossed the Phasma character side, so that she is all flash and no substance. This novel, while certainly eccentric and weird in places compared to other Star Wars fiction, does a decent job of setting up the character’s backstory and ruthless nature. It is a surprisingly strong tale, even if it does suffer from some unnecessary tertiary characters. This one goes great with the Captain Phasma comic as well (see below).

-

-

From a Certain Point of View

When is it set: Concurrently with A New Hope.

What is it: This is a short story collection of tales that happen in and around the era of A New Hope, showing the story from the points of view of various characters encountered throughout the film, including their own individual struggles and stories. Tales include a story linking Rogue One’s ending with A New Hope’s introduction, a Tusken Raider’s point of view, Obi-Wan’s inner turmoil after meeting Luke, and even many Imperial officers and Stormtroopers, as well as a character originally created for the comics, rogue archaeologist Doctor Aphra.

Should you read it: Yes. This may sound like a strange prospect at first, but it might actually be my favorite Star Wars book to be released in 2017. We get many unexpected surprises in this book, further fleshing out the classic 1977 film. Ever wondered if Obi-Wan continued to communicate with Qui-Gon in his later years? Why the Mos Eisley Cantina barkeep hates droids so much? Who the lone Y-Wing pilot to survive the Battle of Yavin was? The answers and many other unexpected stories can be found here. Do not miss this one.

-

-

The Legends of Luke Skywalker

When is it set: The “present” is prior to The Last Jedi, but the stories told within the novel take place at various points across the life of Luke Skywalker.

What is it: A group of young people in service to the crew of a transport ship recount their stories they have heard of the legendary Jedi Rebel Luke Skywalker, from his escape from the Rancor’s pit, to exploring the stomach of a space slug, tribal rites of passage on a watery world, and even impersonating a droid to rescue his trusty R2 unit.

Should you read it: Yes. The premise of this book can be a bit off-putting at first glance, but this story is better than you would expect. Some of the stories go on longer than necessary, but it does a solid job cementing Luke Skywalker’s position as a legend in the galaxy, following the fall of the Galactic Empire. These tales are surprisingly entertaining, and while how accurate and true they are is debatable, it does not make them any less satisfying.

-

-

Canto Bight

When is it set: Prior to The Last Jedi.

What is it: Set prior to The Last Jedi, this is a collection of four stories set in Canto Bight, the Monte Carlo-style resort city seen in the film. The stories include a tourist who has won a trip to the world only to cross paths with unexpected threats, a tale of wine merchants, a story about a masseuse who finds himself in hot water with a crime lord, and a story about a man who must reclaim money he has lost at the gaming tables, only to cross paths with three mischievous gambling brothers.

Should you read it: No. These stories are not bad, by any means, but none of them are particularly great, either. It is nice to see Canto Bight from a different perspective than that seen in The Last Jedi, particularly from an “everyman” perspective, but again, none of these stories really stand out, and all of them drag on longer than necessary, often throwing far too many tertiary characters and elements into the mix. Read it if you are curious, but you aren’t missing much if you don’t.

-

-

The Last Jedi – Cobalt Squadron

When is it set: Prior to The Last Jedi.

What is it: Rose and Paige Tico, bomber crew members, take part in supply runs to help a world that has fallen under the persecution of the First Order. The twosome, formerly citizens of a planet that befell a similar fate, find themselves struggling against the First Order's TIE squadrons, in an effort to help others from suffering amidst the beginning of a new galactic war.

Should you read it: Yes. Rose was one of the fan favorite new characters introduced in The Last Jedi, though the backstory we got on her was fairly minimal outside of a spoken monologue in the film's Canto Bight scenes. Here, we get more insight as to her past, and see her inner feelings, her relationship with her sister, and memorable scenes throughout. Again, it is branded as a young adult novel, but should not be overlooked for that reason.

-

-

-

--PART TWO: THE COMICS--

-

-

-

Star Wars: "Yoda’s Secret War," "Out Among the Stars," and "The Ashes of Jedha" arcs

When is it set: Between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back (the “Screaming Citadel” crossover happens between "Yoda's Secret War" and "Out Among the Stars").

What is it: This is the “main” Star Wars comic, set between Episode IV and Episode V. The “Yoda’s Secret War” arc is told from Obi-Wan’s journals about a journey he takes to a mysterious world occupied by children that have their own take on the Force. “Out Among the Stars” is an anthology series with each individual comic telling a different story; these include a heist by Lando Calrissian and Sana Starros, Han Solo having to transport a Hutt prisoner, and R2-D2 launching a solo mission to rescue C-3PO from the Empire. “The Ashes of Jedha” features the heroes traveling to Jedha, which was hit with the Death Star’s superlaser in Rogue One, uniting with surviving members of Saw Gerrera’s partisans, trying to team up with them to do battle with the Empire, which is mining the essential elements from the dying planet.

Should you read it: Skip the “Yoda’s Secret War” arc; it’s terrible and doesn't even feel like Star Wars. But read the other two sets of stories. Once the “Screaming Citadel” crossover ends, the series regains its footing, with the individual standalone stories in “Out Among the Stars” being some of the best the comic has done so far, while “The Ashes of Jedha” brilliantly finds a way to combine our classic heroes with elements of Rogue One. These stories remain strong overall, though it makes one ponder the question of how long a series set between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back can keep going.

-

-

Screaming Citadel

When is it set: Between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. Between the “Yoda’s Secret War” and “Out Among the Stars” arcs of the Star Wars comic, and between the “Aphra” and “The Enormous Profit” arcs of the Doctor Aphra comic.

What is it: Luke Skywalker reluctantly joins forces with Doctor Aphra, who he had previously met in the “Vader Down” crossover, so that they may visit a mysterious entity that may be able to unlock an artifact that will help Luke to train as a Jedi. Unfortunately, nothing goes as planned, and it is not long before Luke’s friends are on his trail to rescue him. But, it quickly becomes clear that on this dreary world, things are unlike anywhere else in the galaxy, and there are many unexpected threats.

Should you read it: Yes. This is one of the most unusual stories in the new Marvel Star Wars canon, yet remains surprisingly entertaining in its duration. It was described in an early press release as “survival horror in the Star Wars galaxy,” which is quite an apt description. It is always great to see the writers able to try something new, while staying true to the feel of Star Wars as a whole. It may pleasantly surprise you; it certainly did this fan.

-

-

Poe Dameron: "The Gathering Storm," "Legend Lost," "War Stories," and "Legend Found" arcs

When is it set: Prior to The Force Awakens, presumably within a year.

What is it: Poe Dameron and his Resistance squadron are looking for Lor San Tekka, an explorer who may have a map leading to where Luke Skywalker has gone into exile. Unfortunately, the First Order is also on Tekka’s trail, and will do what is necessary to make the journey for Poe and company that much more treacherous.

Should you read it: Yes. This series has been the lone ongoing series in the new canon set in the Sequel Trilogy era, in the time leading up to The Force Awakens. In many ways it is the best look at this period of the galaxy’s history, showing how things have ended up in a post-Empire galaxy. The story and the characters are written well, and it makes for some satisfying moments and plot developments throughout.

-

-

Doctor Aphra: "Aphra" and "The Enormous Profit"

When is it set: Between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back (the “Screaming Citadel” crossover takes place between these two arcs).

What is it: The continued adventures of the rogue archaeologist introduced in the first Darth Vader comic. Suckered into tagging along with her father, she sets out to uncover the mysteries of an ancient group of Jedi. In the arc that follows, she finds herself attempting to sell a mysterious artifact to the highest bidder, only to be pursued by a dangerous face from her past.

Should you read it: Yes. Of the new characters introduced in the comic series, Doctor Aphra has been the standout fan favorite, and rightfully so. While certainly not a good or moral character, she is entertaining to read, with witty, funny dialogue that never lets up. Furthermore, it is nice to have a story that does not focus on the core conflict in the galaxy. Aphra has been a pleasant surprise in Marvel’s Star Wars comics, and this carries over to her solo series.

-

-

Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith: "The Chosen One" and"The Dying Light" arcs

When is it set: Immediately following Revenge of the Sith.

What is it: Darth Vader has been defeated by Obi-Wan Kenobi, mortally wounded, and confined to his black life support armor. Emperor Palpatine sends him on a mission to kill a Jedi and steal his lightsaber, so that he can capture the kyber crystal, making it bleed, so that he may create a Sith lightsaber. In the arc that follows, Vader must train the Emperor’s Inquisitor agents, and capture Jedi library archivist Jocasta Nu, so that the Sith can gain access to ancient secrets hidden in the temple’s vault.

Should you read it: Yes. This series is another unexpected surprise. I did not think that the prior Darth Vader comic (which is set later) could be topped or rivaled, but this brilliant team of artists and writers creates a story for the ages. It is interesting to see Vader in this era, long before he was the dominant presence in the galaxy he would become later in the Empire’s history. This is a surprisingly powerful story, with some amazing moments that fans will love.

-

-

Darth Maul

When is it set: Prior to The Phantom Menace.

What is it: Darth Maul has been lurking in the shadows, hunting deadly creatures to satiate his bloodlust to kill a Jedi. Upon hearing that a Jedi Padawan is in the custody of a criminal’s auction network, he joins up with bounty hunters on his quest to find something more promising to fight. But it is not long before the group gets themselves in over their heads.

Should you read it: Yes. Admittedly, this one is a little predictable, and while I would have preferred a story of Maul’s time following The Clone Wars animated series but prior to Rebels, this one succeeds with a combination of fan favorite characters and intriguing situations, not to mention an entertaining battle. Maul fans are sure to like what they find here.

-

-

Rogue One

When is it set: Immediately prior to A New Hope.

What is it: A retelling of the film, in comic form, with some scenes that did not make it into the movie. Rebel agents set out on a dangerous mission to steal the plans for the Death Star battle station, so that the Rebellion may make a strike against the Empire’s deadliest weapon before it is unleashed on the galaxy.

Should you read it: No. By far, my biggest complaint with the Marvel Star Wars comics is that they keep giving us totally unnecessary adaptations, this being the latest offender. Like The Force Awakens comic adaptation, this just feels like a rushed, uninteresting version of the film, in many cases, with artwork that is not exactly distinctive or striking. Skip this one and stick with the movie, or the novel adaptation.

-

-

Mace Windu, Jedi of the Republic

When is it set: After Attack of the Clones, presumably prior to The Clone Wars animated series.

What is it: In the early days of the Clone Wars, Jedi Master Mace Windu finds himself conflicted in the Jedi Order’s new role as soldiers and generals. With a handful of fellow Jedi, Windu infiltrates a jungle world where a bounty hunter droid in the service of General Grievous is launching a plot that the Jedi must halt, as they continue to deal with their inner demons in these changing times.

Should you read it: No. This was one of the most unnecessary and uninteresting comic series so far, as much as I love the Windu character. The comic seems unclear of its stance regarding whether the Jedi should be fighters or not, and a flashback featuring a young Windu as a Padawan is far more interesting than the comic’s core story. It meanders through its five-issue duration with little of interest, and simply cannot be recommended.

-

-

Captain Phasma

When is it set: Overlapping with and following The Force Awakens.

What is it: Following The Force Awakens, Captain Phasma narrowly escapes the destruction of Starkiller Base, and heads out in pursuit of a trooper that knows she was forced to deactivate the shields. She pursues him to a desolate, deadly world occupied by dangerous natives, but decides to complete her mission, no matter what the cost.

Should you read it: Yes. This is another pleasant surprise, making for a great follow up to the Phasma novel (see above). Furthermore, it serves as an effective bridge for Phasma between Episode VII and Episode VIII. The story further reinforced how self-serving and ruthless the character is, something the films unfortunately failed to do.

-

-

Rogue One: Cassian and K-2SO one-shot

When is it set: Prior to Rogue One, presumably not terribly long before that film.

What is it: Prior to Rogue One, Cassian Andor and two fellow agents infiltrate an Imperial-occupied world to retrieve intel vital to the Rebellion. While there, Andor reprograms a droid that initially attempts to kill him, which ultimately becomes the ally he has in the Rogue One film.

Should you read it: No. This story is simply not that essential or interesting, and doesn’t tell us anything that couldn’t have been handled with a throwaway line of dialogue in Rogue One. There are better stories that are tie-ins to Rogue One, and while this one has some decent moments, it is largely unnecessary and forgettable.

-

-

Star Wars: The Sands of Crait one-shot

When is it set: Between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. Presumably following the “Out Among the Stars” arc in the comics, but prior to “The Ashes of Jedha.”

What is it: Leia reconnects with an old acquaintance of questionable nature about establishing a Rebel base on the mineral planet Crait, where the Alliance once had a stronghold under Bail Organa. But he ends up being untrustworthy, and it is not long before the SCAR Squadron Stormtroopers show up to hunt the Rebels.

Should you read it: No. The sheer idiocy of Leia in this plot is a major deterrent, given that she is usually an intelligent and level-headed character. There is not one mention of the planet’s prior history as a Rebel base (see Leia: Princess of Alderaan above), and SCAR Squadron feels like an afterthought shoehorned in to get some more action. The Crait setting does not impact the story at all; it could easily have been set on any random Star Wars planet. A huge disappointment with wasted potential.

 

 

For 2018, Marvel plans to keep the comic series going, including the ongoing series that are already in production, as well as a comic adaptation of the Thrawn novel. Likewise, a novelization of The Last Jedi will arrive in stores in March. And with the arrival of the Solo: A Star Wars Story film in May, fans will have plenty to look forward to in this new year!

Leave a reply