Hear any Star Wars news lately? Star Wars just had one hell of a month, with the trailer hitting and hitting hard, Celebration rocking down in Anaheim, and a number of Marvel Comics announcements regarding the future of the Star Wars franchise in comics (LANDO!).
While we are all basking in the glory of the galaxy far, far away, let us add to the excitement by pointing out that Marvel just released 500 books from its Star Wars library on the Marvel Unlimited app. Man, that’s a Death Star load of reading for fans who want to taste that old Star Wars nostalgia or for newer fans who never got to experience the original forays into the Star Wars expanded universe.
In honor of this event, we thought we would provide you hungry Star Wars fans with a guide to what to read first as you make your first attack run on the recently released classic Star Wars comics on Marvel Unlimited.
And what’s even better? You can get a month of the service for free by entering the promo code ULTRON at Marvel Unlimited Checkout!
The Marvel Years (1977-1987)
Lock S-foils in attack position and join us as we take a look at some classic must read Marvel Star Wars stories from days past, because like Han and Chewie, Marvel’s Star Wars have come home. And don’t forget to check out our list of classic Marvel Star Wars characters that we’d like to see again!
Star Wars #7-10 (1977): Han Solo and the Star Hoppers
Writers: Roy Thomas, Donald F. Glut, & Howard ChaykinArtists: Howard Chaykin, Tom Palmer, & Alan Kupperberg
Issues #1-6 of Marvel’s original Star Wars comics were a six part adaptation of the film. This series of issues was reprinted many times over, including a gorgeous oversize tabloid edition that I literally read to shreds when I was a wee Jedi. The adaptation was done by legendary writer Roy Thomas and equally legendary artist Howard Chaykin. One panel had Darth Vader calling for a cup of coffee with the Force and drinking it. Not kidding.
Anyway, after this adaptation, Marvel began presenting original stories featuring the Star Wars players for the very first time. With issue #7, the Expanded Universe began. These early forays into the Expanded Universe are utterly fascinating as they were published just months after Star Wars originally hit theatres. The Empire Strikes Back was just a spark in George Lucas’ midi-chlorians at this point when Roy Thomas and Howard Chaykin were presenting new Star Wars tales in the comics. These initial issues featured the further adventures of Han Solo and Chewbacca as they journeyed across the galaxy having Flash Gordon-type adventures. Star Wars #7-10 introduce the Star Hoppers, a rag tag band of space adventurers who assist Han and Chewie in the days following the destruction of the first Death Star.
Two of the more memorable members of the Star Hoppers are Don-Wan Kihotay (say it out loud, and no, I’m not kidding), a crazy old man who thinks he is a Jedi, and Jaxxon, a bipedal space rabbit who somehow came to define this era of Star Wars storytelling. It may have been haphazardly silly by today’s standards, but these classic comics flesh out the main protagonists for the first time and allowed fans to experience the adventures of the Star Wars cast in the years between films. These are a must-read because these comics branch the Star Wars galaxy into a new frontier. And, you know, green space rabbit.
Star Wars #18-23 (1978): The Wheel Saga
Writer: Archie GoodwinArtist: Carmine Infantino
Yes, two of comic’s greatest creators of the Silver and Bronze Ages teamed up to deliver this stunning Star Wars saga. The setting of the storyline was almost as unforgettable as the story itself. The Wheel is a ginormous intergalactic gambling casino outside of the purview of Imperial power. While aboard the Wheel, our intrepid band must split up and survive the machinations of story antagonist Senator Simon Greyshade.
This unforgettable arc featured Greyshade trying to win the affections of Princess Leia, C-3P0 and R2-D2 on their own aboard the Wheel, and Han Solo and Chewbacca both forced to fight in a gladiatorial contest that ends in one of the greatest cliffhangers in Marvel Star Wars history as shocked fans in 1978 were forced to endure the sight of Chewbacca seemingly murdering Han Solo in the Wheel’s grand arena.
All this is going on while the specter Darth Vader grew ever closer as the climax of the story sees one of the few pre-Empire Luke/Vader confrontations. The Wheel storyline gives the spotlight to everyone’s beloved core Star Wars heroes and provides a locale that was even featured in a number of Star Wars comics many years later. If all that wasn’t enough, the issue after our heroes escaped the Wheel (Star Wars #24) features a flashback story featuring Obi-Wan Kenobi that was essentially Ben Kenobi: Agent of SHIELD. Yeah, it really is as good as it sounds.
Star Wars #81 (1983): Jawas of Doom
Writer: Mary Jo DuffyArtist: Ron Frenz
Mary Jo Duffy crafted many of the finest Star Wars stories in the Marvel era, and this is one of her finest. “Jawas of Doom” is historically important as it’s one of the very first post-Return of the Jedi tales. In a tale involving a broke Han traveling to Tatooine with Leia, our heroes find themselves running into a very familiar foe. This being Tatooine, R2 is abducted by Jawas. But R2 isn’t the only familiar face aboard the Jawas’ Sandcrawler though as, earlier in the issue, these Jawas stumble upon the regurgitated body of Boba Fett!
That’s right: this issue features the spat out Boba Fett in action. Yeah, he suffered from amnesia, but there he is, the most popular bounty hunter in the galaxy back in action just months after his demise in Return of the Jedi. Sure, Boba ended up back in the Sarlaac by issue’s end (bum bum bum bum bum bummmmmmmm), but this Marvel issue spotlights the fan desire to see more Fett, a plot thread that Dark Horse would gleefully pick up years later. And who can resist a comic entitled “Jawas of Doom.” I am totally picturing a Jawa in Dr. Doom regalia, and it’s kind of awesome.
Star Wars #88, 95-96, 107 (1984): Lumiya, the Dark Lady of the Sith
Writer: Mary Joe DuffyArtists: Bob McLeod & Cynthia Martin
Lumiya is possibly the richest and most complex character introduced in Marvel’s Star Wars saga. Her saga unfolds over a great number of issues, as she went from being a minor supporting character to one of the greatest non-film villains in Star Wars history. Lumiya’s saga begins in Star Wars #57 (1982).
When SW fans first meet Lumiya, she is known as Shira Elan Colla Brie, a brash fighter pilot. After a mission on Bespin, Luke and Brie become close allies…and more. The two share a number of missions together. Soon, it is revealed that Brie is actually a special operative of Darth Vader sent to infiltrate the Rebellion. She perfectly plays her double agent status, helping Luke and Rogue Squadron against aggressive species they encounter while she secretly reports back to Vader. This continues for quite awhile until she is accidently killed by Luke on a mission. It is a tragedy for Luke, who’s killed his would-be lover, but it is an ironic sigh of relief for the reader.
It turns out that Brie survives and is rebuilt by Darth Vader into the super cybernetic warrior Lumiya. Lumiya became the most remembered original villain to appear in Marvel’s series and really made the last issues of the series memorable. Complete with lightsaber whip, Lumiya became the series’ main villain after the fall of the Empire, the Emperor, and Vader, and is a palpable threat to the heroes of Star Wars.
She is dispatched all too quickly in the final issue of Star Wars (#107, a book that goes for big bucks on the big issue market btw), but during her time in the spotlight, Lumiya’s rich back story and awesome visual appearance makes her the greatest villain in the time between Return of the Jedi and the second of coming of Star Wars that began with the Timothy Zahn novels.
Interestingly enough, Lumiya would re-appear years later in the Legacy of the Force book series as the last of the Sith. She’s really, really hard to kill.
Star Wars #68-69 (1983) – The Search for Han Solo Begins
Writer: David MichelinieArtists: Gene Day & Tom Palmer
With a year to go until Return of the Jedi, fans were burning for any information concerning the whereabouts of Han Solo. Well, these classic issues deal with the hunt for Han Solo and even delve into the (now debunked thanks to Attack of the Clones) history of Boba Fett. In these issues, Princess Leia begins her quest for Solo in earnest and runs into a Mandolrian warrior named Fenn Shysa, who became one of Marvel’s most compelling additions to the Star Wars galaxy, as he offered a delicious tease into Boba Fett’s mysterious past.
The issue also features the bounty hunter, and any book that features one of those beloved bounty hunters from The Empire Strikes Back is a must-read in my book. The storyline is an examination of just how tenacious and strong-willed Princess Leia is, as she compromises her own principles many times to find her beloved scruffy-looking Nerf herder. These were the perfect books to complement the events of The Empire Strikes Back and a perfect lead in to Return of the Jedi. And they still make for a quality read.
Star Wars #51-52 (1981) – To Take the Tarkin
Writer: David MichelinieArtist: Walt Simonson
Good gravy, would this have made a killer film. After the Rebels get word that the Empire is constructing a new super weapon, our heroes must spring into action to take down this latest doomsday machine, a world-killer dubbed “The Tarkin” (awesome)! The Tarkin is not a weapon of Vader’s. Oh no. It was built by the Imperials who have broken off from the Empire because they fundamentally disagreed with the tactics of the Dark Lord of the Sith. So not only do these ambitious Imperials have to face the Rebels, they also have to devise a plan to assassinate Vader, creating a story that works on so many levels.
This is Star Wars by way of Mission: Impossible, cinematic in scope and execution. Each Star Wars hero is prominently featured as is Darth Vader, who now faces the consequences of Force choking so many of his subordinates. These issues are the perfect marriage of Star Wars with the comics medium and need to be experienced by everyone who calls him or herself a Star Wars fan. So get reading, what else do you have to do until Dec. 18 anyway? – Marc Buxton
The Dark Horse Years (1991-2014)
In 1991, Dark Horse Comics took over the publishing rights for Star Wars, which led to some of the best series the franchise has ever produced. From the Dark Empire and Crimson Empire mini-series to the amazing Tales of the Jedi books, Dark Horse have left behind a legacy in the galaxy far, far away that features some of the greatest stories in the Legends canon. Make sure to check out our list of the 13 greatest Dark Horse Star Wars stories ever made!
Here is some of the great Dark Horse stuff you can get in Marvel Unlimited:
Dark Empire (1991)
Writer: Tom VeitchArtist: Cam Kennedy
Dark Horse’s first Star Wars books might also be their best. To many, Dark Empire is the ultimate comic book sequel to Return of the Jedi. Not only does it see Luke Skywalker, galactic hero, fall to the dark side of the Force, but also the return of the evil Emperor.
As far as death goes in comic books, it never really lasts. Heroes and villians meet their doom quite often, only to be brought back for another go a few years later. Emperor Palpatine is no exception to the rule, as his spirit rises from the dead and into a clone body he had made before the fall of the Empire in RotJ. Luke, unable to repel the resurrected Emperor (now known as the Emperor Reborn or Palpatine the Undying), becomes his apprentice. Like father, like son. The Emperor plans to take the galaxy back by force from the Rebel Alliance.
A little trivia about this book: it was the first appearance of holocrons, devices that hold the many secrets of the Jedi, Sith, and the Force. In this story, the Emperor has a holocron in his possession, which grant him unlimited power and sway over the galaxy. So, you know, there’s a lot of Star Wars history in this series. It’s a must-read!
Crimson Empire (1997)
Writers: Mike Richardson & Randy StradleyArtist: Paul Gulacy
This Dark Horse mini-series chronicles the life of the dishonorably discharged Imperial Royal Guard Kir Kanos. You know the Emperor’s Royal Guard, the red-cloaked and armored Stormtroopers from the Return of the Jedi you unfortunately never got to see in action. Well, Crimson Empire is the series that finally gave readers what they wanted, showing off just how badass the Imperial Royal Guardsmen are.
Kanos is betrayed by former friend and Royal Guardsmen Carnor Jax, who orders the execution of his comrades as the first step in his plan to become the next Emperor. Kanos escapes the slaughter and must find a way to get his revenge on Jax while also running from Imperial forces.
If nothing else, this series has an awesome 12-page duel towards the end. Worth the read.
Knights of the Old Republic (2006)
Writers: John Jackson MillerArtists: Brian Ching & Bong Dazo
If Tales of the Jedi is great for creative much of the ancient history of Star Wars, then Knights of the Old Republic is just as awesome for solidifying it. Set in the same era as the award-winning video of the same name, KotOR captures the excitement, tension, and thrill of the original films almost to the tee. It seriously doesn’t get more Star Wars-y than the adventures of Jedi fugitive Zayne Carrick, who’s been framed for the murder of his entire class of Jedi padawans.
Carrick zooms through the galaxy with his very own gang of misfits — which is made up of a bunch of Han Solo-like characters — evading the Jedi, Republic forces, and Mandalorians in the arguably the greatest era of Star Wars. The Mandalorian Wars are raging on and many Jedi must risk it all to push back the warriors from their borders.
Romance, exploration, plenty of dueling, and hilarious set pieces featuring one of the goofiest duos since C-3PO and R2-D2 make Knights of the Republic one of the best series in all of Star Wars lore!
X-Wing: Rogue Squadron (1995)
Writers: Michael A. Stackpole, Darko Macan, Jan Strnad, Scott Tolson, Mike W. BarrArtists: Edvin Biukovic, John Nadeau, Gary Erskine, Steve Crespo, Jim Hall, Drew Johnson
I have to admit that I’m a little sad that the upcoming Rogue One spinoff film won’t focus on the Rebellion’s elite fighter squadron, especially since they’re long overdue for their own movie. The X-Wing stuff was always a nice reprieve from the constant barrage of Jedi vs. Sith action (not that I’m complaining), delving deeper into the military sector of the franchise, developing these soldiers with their own stories and dreams.
This series stars Rogue Leader Wedge Antilles, as he leads his squadron against the remnants of the Imperial Fleet. Also introduced was Baron Fel, Star Wars‘ version of the Red Baron. X-Wing: Rogue Squadron is a perfect companion piece to the X-Wing book series by Michael A. Stackpole and Aaron Allston.
Tag & Bink (2001)
Writer: Kevin RubioArtist: Lucas Marangon
This non-canon tale of two useless Rebel soldiers is based on the famous Tom Stoppard play Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, which parodies William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Tag and Bink get themselves to a heap of trouble throughout the Star Wars timeline, as they cross paths with many of the franchise’s major characters, including Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, and Master Yoda.
By adding a whole lot of comedy to the Star Wars universe, Tag & Bink has become somewhat of a cult favorite among fans. Anyone looking for lighter fare will surely enjoy this limited series.
Dark Times (2006)
Writer: Mick HarrisonArtists: Douglas Wheatley, Dave Ross, Liu Antonio, Gabriel Guzman
Dark Times continued the story of Star Wars: Republic, which ended with the fall of the Jedi at the hands of the Empire. Like its predecessor, Dark Times used the mini-series format, alternating 5-part arcs with Rebellion, one of the other new series in the Dark Horse line at the time.
The first story, “The Path to Nowhere” follows Jedi Dass Jennir and his companion Bomo Greenbark on a quest to find Bomo’s wife and daughter in the days after the Jedi Purge. Other stories include “Parallels,” a Seven Samurai-esque story about a village that hires Jennir to protect it from a gang, and “A Spark Remains” in which Jennir faces off against Darth Vader himself!
The series only lasted 32 issues, a perfect size to catch up on all of the adventures of Dass Jennir in one of the most dangerous eras of Star Wars.