It’s hard to believe that it has been little over a year since the new run of Star Wars comic books began; what started with controversy from fans of the old canon has now blossomed into something better than our expectations could have hoped, uniting fans both old and new under the banner of Star Wars. It’s been a good year to be a Star Wars fan but was the first year of these new comics all twin-sun sunshine and rainbows? The ongoing series have sold well and released to critical acclaim but the year was jam packed with spin-offs and limited runs that haven’t all reached the same heights. It’s time for the first annual review of the new era of Star Wars comics.
The year started with the release of the two ongoing series in the new canon: the core ‘Star Wars’ series and ‘Star Wars Darth Vader’. Both take place during the same time period, not long after A New Hope, and have probably been the most consistent of the comic books so far. Both have had minor pitfalls but generally they have maintained their level of quality despite several artist changeovers and the enormous amount of pressure placed on them. The one issue with Darth Vader was quite early on when Kieron Gillen, the writer, decided to include some broader sci-fi themes that didn’t feel 100% like Star Wars but has easily made up for it with the best new character of the canon so far: Dr Aphra. Aphra is introduced as the classic lovable rogue, mirroring both Indiana Jones and Boba Fett, and whose wit and intellect makes her an interesting companion to Vader and that’s not even mentioning her two droids who are a cross between R2D2 and C3PO and that bad guy from the Saw movies. The only issue with such cool side characters is that they often undermine Vader in his own comic, some issues focus more on them than the dark lord himself. Gillen manages to capture Vader perfectly in these panels with his brooding nature and villainy never lost; thinking on it now ‘Star Wars Darth Vader’ is probably my favourite comic of the new canon.
While the Vader comic started strong the core ‘Star Wars’ series merely started okay. Once the initial three issue mission was accomplished the comic was given time to breathe and become its own thing rather than just a mimic of the movies. The interactions between the original series characters could not be better and the occasional appearance from Boba Fett or Dengar intertwines the new comics with the old lore. Highlights are the one off issues focusing on Obi Wan between Ep3 and Ep4 making me wish for an Obi Wan comic series of his own (or an Anthology film) but if these one off issues are all we get I can’t complain because they are outstanding. The one major stumbling block of the series however was the inclusion of Sana Solo, Han Solo’s ‘wife’. While, now that we are getting to know her, I like the charcter her introduction as Han’s wife (spoilers: she’s not) felt very much like a publicity stunt to get attention. Because both ongoing series take place during the same time period, at the end of last year we were given a six-issue crossover event called Vader Down which was fun if not slightly inconsequential. It allowed Aphra to have awesome interactions with Han and Chewie but the crossover felt like a pause in the stories of both comics for no better reason than for these cool character interactions.
Before I managed to convince myself that the Vader series was my favourite of the new comics I was the champion of the Kanan series. In the animated show Rebels Kanan is often sidelined and only included in stories that focus on Ezra and so it’s great to have a comic book purely about Kanan giving us ample back story to the character that started in the first novel in the new canon: A New Dawn. The Kanan series ties together elements of The Clone Wars, Prequels, Rebels and Original Trilogy together in a natural way making it a perfect series for long time fans as well as just those grabbing something Star Wars of the shelf for the first time simply because they have seen the character in Rebels. The link to Rebels may put off some older readers who think it is purely a children’s comic but they couldn’t be more wrong. Kanan is probably the darkest and most ‘adult’ series yet.
Star Wars: Lando is a cool 5 issue series featuring, yep you guessed it, Lando. While the story may seem slow if you brought it monthly, it makes for a great little graphic novel now you can buy the trade paperback and breeze through it on a lazy afternoon. It is in no way required reading but the series will make you rethink the Lando/Lobot relationship from The Empire Strikes Back, features a great cast of new characters and even delves into some creepy Sith artefacts.
Another fantastic little series is Star Wars: Shattered Empire which takes place just after Return of the Jedi. It’s very cool to witness the cameos from the original trilogy characters that tell us what they got up to just after the second Death Star blew up and even more interesting is what the Emperor’s plan for the Empire was after his death. It focuses mainly on the parents of The Force Awakens character Poe Dameron and even manages to link back to The Clone Wars TV show (force trees!) all in four issues; my only complaint is that the series is too short. It also features a scene in which Leia manages to sense Darth Maul; if that doesn’t convince you to buy it nothing will.
The only comic that disappointed me in the past year was the Princess Leia 5 issue series. It had real potential, giving us a look at a Leia grief-stricken after the destruction of Alderaan creating a more emotional story rather than an action spectacle. The trouble is that when she went looking for other survivors from Alderaan to unite as one big survivors colony she found many of them living happy lives the way they wanted to live but she seemed determined to drag them somewhere else, essentially making her the villain in her own comic book rather than the inept imperials that show up every now and again. It’s the only comic I’ve had an issue with the artwork with too; I don’t see the Leia comic as awful but rather as a failed experiment.
Which is your favourite of the new Star Wars comics? Let me know in the comments and geek out with me about Star Wars on Twitter @kylebrrtt. Like, Subscribe and why not have a look at all the awesome stuff on the site like the many podcasts and blogs. I’ll be back next week so come back then for some more First Time Writing.