The Other Side of the Page: Books and Comics
The Best and Worst of Marvel’s Star Wars Comics!
It would be an understatement that Marvel is succeeding with its new line of Star Wars comics. In August 2015, the various titles held five of the top thirty spots with Star Wars #8 in the number two position. It was just behind Marvel’s massive world ending event Secret Wars #5.
Though, which titles do I think are the best? All the series have finished up their first arcs or about to end them. How do they compare in my mind? I’m going to come right out and say I think every series is successful. There hasn’t been a title I hated. I just think some are much better than others.
This list will include Lando since it only has one issue left [this article was written before issue five was released]. Unless the final issue blows my freaking mind, I pretty much know where I stand on it. However, it will not include Shattered Empire. At the time this article is written, there has only been one issue. I can’t judge the series as a whole with just one (FANTASTIC) issue.
These are going to be ranked from my least favorite to the best. Let’s get started!
If Lando or Princess Leia proved anything in comic form is that you don’t have to be Luke Skywalker or Han Solo to carry your own title. While Lando Calrissian didn’t arrive on the scene until The Empire Strikes Back, he still made an impact in the original trilogy and later in Star Wars: Rebels.
In Lando, our favorite entrepreneur Lando Calrissian is given a chance to pay off his debts. All he has to do is steal a ship. Easy enough, right? Too bad that ship belongs to Emperor Palpatine and is loaded with Sith artifacts. What’s a smuggler to do?
It’s not that Lando is a bad title. Like I said, I’ve enjoyed all the Marvel Star Wars comics. I’m not sure if this one is quite up my alley. The first issue was boring to me until the reveal on the final page that the stolen ship was the Emperor’s. Not much happened in issue two. It wasn’t until the third installment when the plot really started moving. While Lando’s crew fights the Imperial Guards on the ship, they discover it’s chocked full of Sith artifacts long thought to be forgotten. As the Jedi and Sith lore started playing into the plot, it’s fun seeing the crew realize that they’re in way over their heads.
I don’t think this title is the comic I’m looking for (pun sort of intended). While I love Lando as a character and it’s so much fun hearing Billy Dee Williams’ voice in my mind, this title has been quite lackluster for me. Not a lot has happened. It’s almost over, and I don’t see how this pushes any of the canon forward. I have to be fair and say there is still one issue left. It could blow me away. It could be a game changer. It could be a pivotal moment in the rebellion. It could be the foundation of outing Emperor Palpatine as a Sith Lord. But where it stands now, Lando hasn’t been worth the hype.
4. Princess Leia
Let’s be honest for a moment. Most Star Wars canon fails the Bechdel Test. In the original trilogy, there’s only Leia as the main woman. Three female pilots were cut from Return of the Jedi one of which was an older lady who probably had a FABULOUS back story. The prequels have Padme who was incredibly promising but withered away into a horrible character. Clone Wars gave us more hope redeeming Padme, creating Ahsoka, and bringing powerhouses like Satine, Luminara, Asajj Ventress, and other kick ass women. Star Wars: Rebels has artist-fighter Sabine and “Space Mom” pilot Hera. (“Space Mom” is my nickname for Hera.) Still, we live in a time where it’s SO HARD to find ANY merchandise for female fans. Her Universe helps, and Hasbro has made back and forth strides in toys. It’s still not enough. With Gwendoline Christie as Captain Phasma and Lupita Nyong’o as Maz Kanata in The Force Awakens and Felicity Jones leading Rogue One, hopefully this will be a changing paradigm. Until then, I advise you to read Princess Leia.
In the wake of losing her family and home world of Alderaan, Leia makes her personal mission to round up what’s left of her people on other planets. She’s joined by female pilot Evaan Verlaine as they race to save the Alderaanians from the Empire hunting them.
To get the bad out of the way, Leia has a slow start. The first issue is a lot of set up and not much action. That’s not always a terrible thing, but when it comes to a five issue mini series, those first two comics could have been trimmed up. On the positive side, I love seeing Leia’s emotions. She lost her planet. She lost her family. Everything she knows is gone. I don’t think there’s enough moments in mainstream media where heroes mourn and cry. Being a strong female character is knowing when to show vulnerability. It’s not about being powerful or sexy all the time. That being said, Leia doesn’t hold back her punches. She blasts her way out of situations. She’s smart, lays down a trap for the Empire, and is able to bring together her people. She’s an ideal hero proving why she can hold her own away from Han Solo or Luke Skywalker.
Evaan is her perfect wing(wo)man. What I love most about Evaan is she has no problem questioning Leia’s authority. She’ll respect Leia as her princess, but Evaan will flat out say, “This plan is dumb. Let’s think together for a better one.” Evaan is a successful pilot, hell on wheels with a blaster, and an all around badass lady.
This is a great series overall. Each issue gets better and better, but it really starts moving in issue #3. If not for the sluggish pacing earlier on, Princess Leia would have been higher on the list.
3. Darth Vader
Darth Vader and Princess Leia were back and forth in my mind in who would get the number four and number three spots. I loved Leia as a whole, while Darth Vader has been very up and down for me. But Vader delivered my favorite moment in all of the Star Wars comics just barely nudging out the princess.
After the destruction of the Death Star, Vader’s not doing too great in the eyes of the Emperor. He takes it upon himself to personally hunt down the Rebel pilot who blew up the Death Star. Little does he know that the pilot is his son, Luke Skywalker.
Like Leia, this title had a bit of a slow start for me. I felt like Vader was one “Whatever I feel like I wanna do, GOSH PALPATINE!” from reverting into a teenager. I know Napoleon Dynamite is a silly example, but it took a few issues to hear Vader’s voice in my mind. Everyone rubbed his burnt off mask covered nose into the Death Star’s destruction pretty much causing him to go rogue. Boy, I’m glad he did.
I loved how in the first arc, Vader ties into the main Star Wars title. We see Boba Fett leave this title and show up hunting Luke in the other. After that, it builds it’s own story incredibly well. I’m not quite sure what to make of Doctor Aphra, but she’s incredibly intriguing. I’m just going to say what I think. This Vader fangirl is going to die at some point. She pretty much says all the time, “I know at some point you’ll kill me, but let’s go on an ADVENTURE!” She’s smart, ruthless, and has a great smile while people die around her. She’s like an insane Indiana Jones making killbots to aid in her archaeological adventures. I’m so interested in her character, but I don’t know if I like her (that’s a good thing).
On a similar note, her killbots Triple-Zero (who’s programmed with etiquette and torture) and BT-1 (an assassin droid full of blasters) are HILARIOUS! Triple-Zero has some of the best zingers like, “Hello! I’m Triple-Zero, and I’m looking forward immensely to torturing you today!” They’re a great foil to C-3PO and R2-D2.
The biggest challenge is Vader himself. Unlike all the other titles, he wears a mask so you can’t see his reactions. Kieron Gillen (writer) and Salvador Larroca (artist) overcome this obstacle in various ways. Mostly it’s through Vader’s actions like choosing to save Aphra’s life instead of leaving her behind. But the best example is my absolute favorite moment in any of the Star Wars comics thus far. Vader doesn’t speak much, but his reaction is powerful and speaks for itself:
Vader finds out Luke Skywalker is his son. To me, this is the first glimpse of Anakin Skywalker in a long time. There’s the hero we all love (from the Clone Wars. Sorry, Prequels.). The second act is where he sets up a gambit to steal from the very Empire he works for. I swear if he goes to Naboo and digs up his wife, a very dead Padme, to see if she died pregnant, it will be both terrifying and awesome!
Darth Vader is full of dark humor, great storytelling, and beautiful art. Even through it has slow bits, there’s something new in every issue. If you haven’t picked up this title yet, make sure you grab the trade when it comes out in October.
2. Star Wars
In Star Wars, our favorite rebels kick in a plan to destroy an Imperial weapons factory. They also find prisoners who they need to rescue. After they escape the battle where Darth Vader arrived, the group is in disarray. Luke struggles with becoming a Jedi with no master to guide him. He leaves for a personal walkabout to get answers. Han and Leia fly off to find a new planet for a Rebel base. On one potential planet, a mysterious woman arrives claiming to be none other than Sana Solo, Han’s wife!
Every issue is full of action and brings something new to the table. There’s something for everyone with all your old favorites. Jason Aaron does a marvelous job balancing this huge cast. I loved Aaron’s run of Thor and Original Sin from last year, but parts of both titles DRAGGED. Seriously, I was frustrated waiting to see who the new Thor was! Unless it’s a title like The Avengers or Justice League, most comics don’t focus on such a huge group. Some issues will focus on Luke while others are on Han and Leia. It never feels like a plot thread is suddenly dropped. Unlike Darth Vader, the pace is constantly moving to each beat without going too fast. Aaron’s improvement from Thor to Star Wars is a huge step for him.
All the emotional beats are there too. It would make sense that Luke would struggle to be a Jedi. If you take the examples of Star Wars: Rebels or Lando from above, the Empire has erased as much knowledge as they could about the Jedi and Sith. Luke is like an entry level worker suddenly told to be a CEO of a major business. Of course he’s going to stumble on this path. His journey is what I’m most invested in at the moment.
The reveal of Sana Solo didn’t bother me as much as it did a lot of fans. Han is a smuggler and works in a shady line of work. I wouldn’t be surprised if he has an army of baby mamas running around the galaxy. Though he might have heroic qualities, Han wasn’t a good guy when they met him in the Original Trilogy. He was looking for a payday. However, I love seeing where he’s come since then. He fights to protect Leia from Sana saying he’s apart of the Rebels. He’s in this cause for the long haul. This is his new life.
Finally, I can’t wait to see what’s next for Sana. Like Aphra from Vader, I don’t know if I like her yet. She’s obviously a skilled gunfighter taking out several Imperial troopers. My first reaction as they developed her more in issue eight was, “This bitch is crazy!” And I love her for it. What I hope DOESN’T happen is a love triangle among Han, Leia, and Sana. Love triangles are a death wish for a big title like this. Don’t pit two strong women against each other for a man. It will destroy both characters. Fighting over a man is below Leia. Save love triangles for shows on MTV.
Star Wars has been a definite highlight for my monthly comics. I’m always looking forward to the new canon to see what happens to the characters I’ve grown up with.
Anyone who knows me gets that Star Wars: The Clone Wars is my favorite time period of all Star Wars canon. I saw the original trilogy my entire life. I grew up with the movies thanks to my nerd mother. It was Clone Wars, though, that sparked my true love of Star Wars and the fandom. I’m a sucker for anything Clone Wars. You better believe that Kanan is my favorite Marvel title!
While traveling with his crew on The Ghost, Kanan Jarrus must return to the planet Kaller. It was here that Order 66 was initiated. Kanan, who was a padawan named Caleb Dume at the time, fled while his master Depa Billaba was gunned down by their clone trooper friends. Now on the run, Caleb fights to stay alive, to give up his Jedi ways, and to become the man we know in Star Wars: Rebels.
When issue one of Kanan came out, I had never seen Star Wars: Rebels. This comic was so good that it made me watch the show. I was dying to know more about Kanan that I couldn’t wait until the next month to find out what happened.
I talked about Kanan when I reviewed Star Wars #7. The stakes feel the highest here than in any of Marvel Star Wars title. In the others, the Empire can appear as a cackling mustache twirling villain. You know there’s bad guys out there in the dead of space, but you don’t always see them. Yes if the Rebels fail, people can die. These don’t always feel personal for any other character except for Leia who is actively mourning in her title. For Caleb, it is literally life and death. All he’s ever known is the Jedi Temple and a bit of the Clone Wars. He doesn’t have the survival skills Obi-Wan has in Star Wars #7. Caleb is what? Fifteen? Sixteen at the most? He’s still very much a kid. He has no clue how to make money. We see him starving and rummaging in garbage cans. He’s hiding in the rain in alleyways. This is what Order 66 truly is for the surviving Jedi. They’re lost. All they knew is gone. No one knows quite how to give up the old ways. Only now we’re seeing it through the eyes of a child which makes it all the more powerful.
I think the biggest attribute that Kanan has going for it is the writers get to work with a relatively clean slate. Many older fans probably haven’t seen Star Wars: Rebels. I know this fact. I work in a comic book store. I sell more Kanan to parents with kids who’ve seen the show than I do to adults who haven’t. You should take this as a plus, older fans! The writers can do pretty much anything they want in this title. While there’s no news of a post Order 66 movie or a comic for Obi-Wan Kenobi, you can get an idea of the similar struggles through Caleb’s point of view.
I want to talk about the clones for a moment, because I freaking love clones in general. The sixth season of Clone Wars touched on Order 66 a bit from the clones’ point of view. There’s a chip in their head that turns off their personalities. I’ve always wondered if the more unique clones like Captain Rex beat out the programming. I won’t spoil it, but there’s a beautiful moment about the clones doing their duty versus doing what’s right.
I highly recommend reading Kanan. It’s the only title I wish was bi-monthly. I can never get enough of it. If you haven’t seen Star Wars: Rebels, read Kanan anyway. It’s written to where it could be the story of any Jedi. This is the best title of all.
What Star Wars comics do I want to see?
Shattered Empire just kicked off (seriously, that was an AMAZING first issue). Chewbacca, Vader Down, and C-3PO are on the way. I can’t help but to muse what other stories they could tell. These are the comics that I want to see come out of Marvel. As mentioned above, I freaking love The Clone Wars. Many of these are lose ends when Disney bought out Marvel and Lucasfilm, and Clone Wars was forced to cancel.
Advance to page 2 for the Star Wars Comics I want to see!