Beyond the Disney Deal: 10 Essential STAR WARS Comics

We speculated when Disney first purchased Lucasfilm that it would mean the end of the two decade-plus licensing deal with Dark Horse Comics, and today, Disney announced that <a href=http://www.newsarama.com/19945-star-wars-comics-go-to-marvel-in-2015.html>we were right, and the property is returning to Marvel Comcis</a>. <p>Since its creation, <em>Star Wars</em> has had a long and illustrious history in comic books, from saving Marvel in the 1970s to the successful multi-title franchise at Dark Horse that reigned from 1991 until, as just announced, the end of 2014. <p>In light of the news that Marvel will take over Star Wars comics in 2015, here are 10 Essential Star Wars Comics.

EIGHT FOR ADUBA-3

The second original <em>Star Wars</em> comic following the conclusion of Marvel's adaptation of the first movie and, boy, does it show. <p>Essentially a rip-off of <em>The Seven Samurai</em> (or <Em>The Magnificent Seven</em>, depending on your tastes) with Han and Chewie teaming up with such characters as aging Jedi Knight Don-Wan Kihotay (Say it out loud, you'll get it) and a giant green rabbit called Jaxon, this is a story that takes the sillier, pulpier aspects of what George Lucas came up with and ran with them... maybe even a little too far. If you're a hardcore fan of the mythology, this is likely to drive you crazy, but for everyone else, this is a surprisingly fun story that deserves more credit than it gets. <p><b>Available As</b>: Collected in the <em>Star Wars: A Long Time Ago Omnibus Vol. 1</em> trade paperback.

THE NEWSPAPER STRIPS

It makes sense that <em>Star Wars</em> would shine as a newspaper strip, in a weird way; considering its influences include <em>Flash Gordon</em> and <em>Buck Rogers</em>, it almost feels like a family business. <p>But with Archie Goodwin and Al Williamson at the helm, the strips felt as authentic to their format as they did to the movies that spawned them, expanding the universe to include new characters, new adventures and the kind of art that classic comics are made of. Collected in three trades by Dark Horse years later, these are definitely worth checking out. <p><b>Available As</b>: Collected in the <em>Classic Star Wars: In Deadly Pursuit, The Rebel Storm</em> and <em>Escape To Hoth</em> trade paperbacks.

TO TAKE THE TARKIN

For those who care about such things, this multi-issue storyline from Marvel's ongoing series, set in the period between <em>The Empire Strikes Back</eM> and <em>Return of The Jedi</em>, may have a strong claim to being the best of the early <em>Star Wars</em> comics. <p>With art by the unstoppable team of Walt Simonson and Tom Palmer and a script by David Micheline (Underrated now, perhaps, but his work on this and Marvel's <em>Indiana Jones</em> title are as good as it gets), this story about the attempt to build a weapon that out-Death Stars the Death Star didn't just "get" <em>Star Wars</em>, it got it so well that it does <em>Return of The Jedi</em> far, far better than the movie itself. Check for yourself if you're doubtful; you'll be glad you did. <p><b>Available As</b>: Collected in the <em>Star Wars: A Long Time Ago Omnibus Vol. 3</em> trade paperback.

THE NEW EMPIRE

Seemingly at a loss for where to go after <em>Return of The Jedi</em> seemed to wrap up that whole "War" aspect of <em>Star Wars</em>, writer Jo Duffy decided to do what seems, in retrospect, fairly obvious but felt revolutionary at the time: Replace the Empire with new bad guys called the Nagai. <p>While the majority of this new threat were more bluster than blaster, they did include the Dark Lady Lumiya, a new villain who harkened back to Darth Vader by being an Imperial spy and one-time ally of Luke Skywalker who'd been left for dead on a mission before being turned into an unstoppable cyborg and mistress of the Dark Side. The series was cancelled before this story really turned into anything, but it remains some of the greatest build-up the original Marvel series had ever seen. <p><b>Available As</b>: Collected in the <em>Star Wars: A Long Time Ago Omnibus Vol. 5</em> trade paperback.

DARK EMPIRE

At the time of the creation of this mini-series by Tom Veitch and Cam Kennedy originally announced as a Marvel project, before moving to Dark Horse as Lucasfilm switched licensing agreements between publishers the idea of making <em>Star Wars</em> a going concern seemed unlikely at best; the movie series had finished years ago, and the characters were living happily ever after... or so everyone thought. <p>All it took was Veitch's simple, but note-perfect story (essentially, what if <em>Luke</em> goes over to the Dark Side, tempted by an Emperor who wasn't as dead as everyone thought?) and Kennedy's luscious illustrations, and <em>Star Wars</em> lived again, with a comic that was as good as it'd ever been. <p><b>Available As</b>: Collected in both the <em>Star Wars: Dark Empire</em> trade paperback and the <em>Star Wars: Dark Empire Trilogy</em> hardcover.

PURGE

At its heart, <em>The Clone Wars</em> is a depressing concept, because presuming you've seen <em>Revenge of The Sith</em> you know that the good guys are destined to lose, and lose badly. Nothing drives this home as hard as <em>Purge</em>, which centers around the newly created Darth Vader hunting down and killing the last of the Jedi Order to ensure the dominance of the Galactic Empire and the secret Sith leadership. <p>As you might expect from the timeframe, it's not a story that ends happily unless the reason you were reading was to see Darth Vader turn out to be a badass and kill anyone who stands in his way, in which case, you'll probably have a smile on your face when you're done. Sicko. <p><b>Available As</b>: Part of the <em>Star Wars: The Clone Wars Vol. 9: Endgame</em> trade paperback.

KNIGHTS OF THE OLD REPUBLIC

The return of <em>Star Wars</em> to comics coincided with the full-scale unfolding of <em>Star Wars</em> from "three movies and some other stuff" to "The Expanded Universe." As a result, stories and series started appearing set in different eras, with all-new characters whose fates were open to question and not tied to any mass-media exploitation. <p>One of the best of these was <em>Knights of the Old Republic</em>, a series set thousands of years before the six movies that followed the adventures of Zayne Carrick, a trainee Jedi who was framed for the murder of other Jedi by his mentors, and has to find a way to clear his name, find out what's going on, and not get killed while doing so. John Jackson Miller's writing fit easily into the derring-do with a side order of comedy aesthetic of the movies while also breaking new ground, making this 50-issue series easy to get into even if you've never seen the movies (or played the game of the same name). <p><b>Available As</b>: Collected in a series of <em>Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic</em> trade paperbacks.

LEGACY

And speaking of stories set far away from the original movies, <em>Legacy</em> another 50 issue series by John Ostrander and Jan Duursema moved the action to more than a century after <em>Return of The Jedi</em>, with our hero being a former Jedi who's abandoned the Order for life as a Han Solo-esque smuggler and rogue. <p>Problem is, he's a descendant of Luke Skywalker, which pretty much means that it's part of the family business to deal with the threat posed by the Sith Emperor, who has decided that it'd be a great idea to try and take over the galaxy. Grittier and messier than the movies, this nonetheless managed to "feel" like <Em>Star Wars</em> throughout, with stakes that at times somehow seemed even more epic than the original trilogy. <p><b>Available As</b>: Collected in a series of <em>Star Wars: Legacy</em> trade paperbacks.

VECTOR

A <em>Star Wars</em> crossover sounds like a weird idea how does something crossover with <em>itself</em>, after all? but by 2008, Dark Horse had enough ongoing series set in different time periods that it felt confident to try it. The result was this 12-part storyline spread across four series and thousands of years about a Sith artifact that gave its owner dangerous powers so dangerous that even Darth Vader gets nervous. <p>Maybe more importantly, the storyline acted as a great introduction to both the <em>Knights</em> and <em>Legacy</em> continuities (the other two series were set in periods that coincided with the movies), and reinforced the connections between those satellite titles and the more familiar characters and events from readers' childhoods. As an "in" to the Expanded Universe, it's pretty great. <p><b>Available As</b>: Collected in two <em>Star Wars: Vector</em> trade paperbacks.

STAR WARS TALES

The idea of a <em>Star Wars</em> anthology series is a fairly obvious one, but what made the Dark Horse series that ran for 24 issues between 1999 and 2005 work so well was the mix of stories it contained, from ones that were amazingly reverential to the movies to ones that... well, pretty much made fun (in a loving way!) of things that kind of deserved to be made fun of. <p>Not everything was canon, nor was it meant to be, but with contributors including Sergio Aragones, Peter David and Ben Templesmith, the majority of stories in the series were so good that, really, continuity was nowhere near your mind as you read them. Well worth tracking down. <p><b>Available As</b>: Collected in a series of <em>Star Wars Tales</em> trade paperbacks.

Beyond the Disney Deal: 10 Essential STAR WARS Comics

Date: 03 January 2014 Time: 01:12 PM ET