Darth Vader constructed his first red lightsaber as a Sith Lord, Dr. Aphra kidnapped Hera Syndulla, and Luke, Han, and Leia, gazed upon the devastated remains of Jedha. The first six months of 2018 have been an exciting and fun time in the stories told in the expanded universe of Marvel Comics’ various Star Wars titles. Since Marvel took over the Star Wars universe, its line up of books fall into three categories, one shots, mini-series, and ongoing titles that come out usually once a month, but sometimes twice if fortune favors the adventure hungry. Among the latter are Darth Vader, Star Wars, Dr. Aphra, and Poe Dameron, which cover virtually all three of the cinematic trilogy eras.
Taking place not long after Revenge of the Sith, Darth Vader is the second ongoing title dedicated to the franchise’s man in black. Written by Charles Soule (who also writes Poe Dameron) with art by Guiseppe Camuncoli, the title explores Darth Vader’s experiences as a Sith Lord who must prove himself to his new master, Darth Sidious, but also his oversight of the Inquisitorius, a collection of fallen Jedi trained to hunt and kill their surviving brethren. In the series most recent story arc, Vader is sent to assist Moff Tarkin in the subjugation of the watery world of Mon Cala, where familiar faces like Admiral Raddus and future Admiral Ackbar are determined to defend their home. The ramifications of Mon Cala struggling against the Galactic Empire are also the focus of the main Star Wars title.
Set approximately 20 years later, in the space of time between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, Marvel’s Star Wars began 2018 concluding the final three chapters of “Ashes of Jedha,” storyline, which brought our heroes to the ruined surface of Jedha. There they encountered the surviving remnants of Saw Guerrera’s Partisans, as well Imperial attempts to mine the last of the planet’s kyber crystal reserves. Currently penning the title is Kieron Gillen, the author behind the extremely well received Darth Vader series that took place after A New Hope (yep, there’s two!). Joining Gillen is Salvador Larroca, also from the previous Darth Vader series. As referenced above, Marvel decided to provide two parallel stories of Admiral Ackbar’s homeworld. One, it’s initial subjugation by the Empire in Darth Vader, and the other, the Rebel Alliance’s efforts to recruit the Mon Calamari and their extensive star fleet to the rebel cause after years under the Imperial jackboot. Published simultaneously, the two story arcs represent some of Marvel’s best planning so far with its oversight of the Star Wars franchise. Happening around the same time, but unconnected, is Dr. Aphra.
Dr. Chelli Aphra was a breakout star of the first Darth Vader title and earned her own ongoing series initially written by her creator, Gillen. Best described as chaotic neutral, Aphra represents one of the first major identifiable Asian characters, as well the most prominent gay character in the franchise. Now in the hands of Simon Spurrier with art initially by Emilio Laiso and now, Kev Walker, Aphra just concluded an arc that began in late 2017 which found the rogue space archaeologist under the control of the gleeful torture protocol droid, Triple Zero. Woven into Aphra’s efforts to appease and to escape his control is a romance between Aphra and an Imperial officer, Magna Tolvan. It’s an odd couple pairing that’s a delight to read and watch unfold.
The final ongoing series, Poe Dameron, began 2018 by catching up to the events of The Force Awakens. The first couple years of the title had focused on Poe Dameron’s and the Resistance’s mission to find Lor San Tekka, whom we meet in the very first scene of the film. This was finally accomplished after 25 issues and in small serving of fun, the last two recent issues of the title are set on the Millennium Falcon after the events of The Last Jedi with Poe telling Rey and Finn what happened to him after he and Finn had escaped from the First Order. If the sequel trilogy is your jam, then the series written by Charles Soule with art by Angel Unzeuta, is the title to pick up and start reading. While all the ongoing series have one enjoyable story arc after another, for those wanting more self-contained stories, 2018 has had its mini-series ready for quick, focused, reads that last more than 30 or so pages of a one off story issue.
Completed in 2017, but released as one bound collection this year is Star Wars: Jedi of the Republic – Mace Windu. Set in the midst of the Clone Wars, Mace Windu offers readers the chance to join Jedi Master Windu, along with a team of hand picked Jedi, on a mission to a planet threatened by Separatist droid forces. Perfect for those who are Mace Windu fans from the prequel trilogy, the story written by Matt Owens and illustrated by Denys Cowan steps it up a notch as it dwells upon the question of whether the Jedi should be involved in the war at all in the midst of the conflict. Another collection re-released in May, 2018, though originally published as series in 2016, is Marjorie Liu’s Han Solo.
One of the few Marvel Star Wars titles with a female author, Han Solo follows Solo assigned on a mission to save rebels spies in the midst of a galaxy wide starship race known as the Dragon’s Void Run. Check out our review of the comic published earlier and enjoy the art, which George Lucas loved enough to buy the original drawings of its illustrator, Mark Brooks. Also attached to this release of Han Solo is an additional story arc from the main Star Wars title. These represent just a number of the collected miniseries that have been published so far by Marvel, all of which put great self-contained stories at your fingertips. For those who don’t mind waiting for the complete story to be published, there are three miniseries currently on going.
The Last Jedi comic adaptation, adapted by Gary Whitta (one of the credited story writers for Rogue One and writer for several episodes of Star Wars Rebels) and penciled by Michael Walsh, provides another telling of Rian Johnson’s opus. Even if you have seen the film multiple times, the adaptation offers scenes that were removed from the film, reframed by Whitta, or simply presented in new visuals. The result is the same wonderful story, but a fresh take to enjoy page after page. The Last Jedi isn’t the only comic adaptation currently in the process of being released, as Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn, is more than halfway toward its conclusion.
Zahn’s Thrawn reintroduced the blue-skinned tactical genius who originally appeared in the Thrawn Trilogy of the early 1990s, establishing his background in the build up to his arrival on the animated television show, Rebels. Joining Thrawn in the story was also the origin story of the fierce governor of the planet Lothal, Arihnda Pryce. If you haven’t picked up Thrawn the novel, then here’s your chance for an abridged telling, written by Jody Houser and drawn by Luke Ross, that covers the biggest moments from Zahn’s return to his grand admiral. Likewise, with Timothy Zahn releasing a second novel in the series this July, it’s not too late to catch up quickly through Marvel’s adaptation.
The final ongoing miniseries of the first half of 2018 just began with issue one of Lando: Double or Nothing. The second miniseries to focus on Lando Calrissian (check out the other one for a story set before Calrissian found himself in Cloud City), this time Rodney Barnes and Paolo Villanelli take us to the brash, cape flaunting Lando played by Donald Glover in Solo. Set before the gambler and smuggler encountered Han Solo across the table of a sabaac game, Lando is approached by a mysterious woman seeking his help to smuggle weapons in to her people suffering under the Galactic Empire’s cruel iron fisted grip. The swagger and the charm is present in this newest adventure for Lando Calrissian. Swagger also belongs to the sole one-shot title to come out so far in 2018 and it belongs to D.J. of The Last Jedi.
The character brought to life by Benecio del Toro has his own adventure set in the gambler’s paradise of Canto Bight, which takes place immediately before his run in with Finn and Rose in the city’s jail. DJ: Most Wanted, written by Ben Acker and Ben Blacker with pencil work by Kevin Walker, follows the neutrally aligned slicer as he tumbles through various obstacles, the police, rogue droids and the heavy hitters of the Canto Bight scene. D.J. will be joined later this summer by another planned one-shot, Beckett, about Woody Harrelson’s character from Solo. Regardless of how you enjoy your comics or Star Wars, there’s plenty to choose from for just the right enjoyable experience, be it something to quickly read on a bus ride to an adventure to share in a comfortable chair at home. Swing by your favorite local comic book store or check out ordering options on line, the other Star Wars stories are out there waiting to be read with all your favorite characters, heroes, and villains.
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