So I Read Some STAR WARS Comics

A (relatively) long time ago, in this very galaxy, a young Ryan watched the original Star Wars trilogy. Then as a pre-teen and eventual full-teen, Ryan saw the prequels. Now, as a proto-adult, Ryan has read a few extended universe Star Wars comics. Let’s talk about this progression, shall we?

I was shown Star Wars at a young enough age that it was just part of my world. I have few memories that exist in a pre-Star Wars context. But it hasn’t been until adulthood that I’ve realized just how much of an impact that had. I always enjoyed the Star Wars movies, and even found whatever enjoyment I could from the prequels upon the initial viewing, but I didn’t realize how ingrained Star Wars was to every facet of my perspective on the world. At the same time, I was never that into the extended universe. I had one book that covered the ships of the Star Wars universe, picked up a few of the novels from the library, and played a few of the video games at friend’s houses, but beyond that the movies themselves stood alone. Even as I entered the world of comics at large I figured I was probably too far behind to catch up to everything I’d missed, so why not just leave well enough alone?

However, recent conversations have reminded me just how passionate I am about Star Wars. It’s fascinating for me as a scientist to try and step outside myself and rationalize why this particular fictional universe struck so many chords with me in a way I didn’t even know until recently. I have no definitive answers, but the undeniable conclusion is that Star Wars is in my brain forevermore and I must reconcile my childhood love with my adulthood disdain, which obviously brings me to the prequels.

I was thrilled that the iFanboy trinity decided to put out an Episode I special edition podcast. It was cathartic for me, it seemed cathartic for them, and I have a new hope that it was cathartic for many others. I could listen to the guys going through a Star Wars therapy session once a week with the same vigor I employ to enjoy the Pick of the Week podcast. In this (more than justified) gripe session, Conor admitted he was done. No more Star Wars, he had his story, and that was enough. I love this about Conor. He gets what he wants from a story then walks away. It doesn’t work for everyone, nor should it, but the ability to understand your own limits of frustration is a gift few fanboys possess, and I applaud Mr. Kilpatrick for publicly pronouncing his intentions such that others may follow his stalwart lead.

That being said, I am not Conor. I had the briefest enough tastes of the extended universe that I thought I might want more. The books I’d read were forgettable, but the videos games I’d played were fun and even managed to expand the canon beyond the scope of the films. I know gamers are a separate subculture from comics, and I am by no means hardcore, but the games whet my appetite for more Star Wars better than any other media did.

The small fire lit by videos games was bolstered more than anything by conversations with friends. I found myself on both sides of the aisle, talking with folks who knew nothing of “story” as compared to people that were storytellers for a living. Each individual added something new to my understanding of Star Wars, and I relished every new discovery. I delighted at possibly explaining to the uninitiated how some aspect of the prequels messed up a component of the IV, V, and VI.  I agonized over the order that would best present the six movies to my eventual children (thank goodness, for the machete method, btw). And mostly, I just got off nerding out over something I cared about, which is the essence of nerd-dom itself.

Which finally led me to comics. There are a lot of Star Wars comics out there. I certainly like reading comics. Why had I never partaken in the potential goldmine of quality stories waiting to be received? Upon realizing I lacked any excuse, I sought to rectify the situation by reading a few of these comics to see what I’d been missing. The results? I’m afraid to say I might be converging with Conor.

I hardly conducted my survey of Star Wars comics in a scientific manner. I snagged the few books available that looked both a) interesting, b) understandable to someone who had only really seen the movies, and c) good comics. I walked away with: Star Wars: The Old Republic Vol. 1 – Blood of the Empire, Star Wars: Darth Vader and the Lost Command, and Star Wars: Legacy Vol 11 – War.

 

The prequel book was OK. My problem with Old Republic continuity is a total nitpick but one that has almost always prevented me from enjoying stories set at that time. There is no technological progress in the Star Wars universe. Everything looks exactly the same thousands of years before the trilogies, which just doesn’t work for me. The other problem is you know eventually how everything will work out. A book set after the movies has the chance to surprise me, because I don’t know the eventual outcome as proscribed by the canonical films, but prequels always have to end up in a place to set up the story I already know, and the story I already know is good, so why bother with more unnecessary setup than the movie prequels themselves already gave me? That being said, this book wasn’t bad, it had a story I could follow, it just also had relatively little impact on me and my relationship with Star Wars continuity. Oh well, moving on.

 

 

Star Wars: Darth Vader and the Lost Command was the most interesting because while it may not have involved many characters I knew, it still had Darth Vader, and in almost every circumstance, Darth Vader is good enough. However, the story revolved about the events Darth Vader underwent in between trilogies, how he proved himself an asset to the empire, but something about it just felt off. I think it was the art. In the films, Darth Vader, for better or worse, is kind of clunky. He moves like the 70’s technology that spawned him. And while that is part of his charm, the fluidity a proficient sequential artist can impart to his personage almost undermines his visual aesthetic that I’ve come to know and admire. It’s cool to see Darth Vader fight, but, like Magneto, it’s cool because he doesn’t need to do much physically to accomplish a lot of the field of battle. So seeing Darth Vader drawn in such a way where he looked kinetic and capable didn’t work visually even in the context of a very good story.

 

 

The far future book just fell flat, so much so that I didn’t even finish reading it. I didn’t know who the characters were, or how they connected to the movies, enough to attach significance to their actions. Granted, I probably shouldn’t have started with Vol. 11, but that was the book I had to work with. I wanted so hard to enjoy the continuation but I felt more and more like Conor with every page. I might just be done. I suspect this particular comic might not have been the finest representation of what the extended universe has to offer, but it’s the comic I snagged so it’s the representative I get. I found the art bland and the story convoluted. I want to know about the galaxy post Battle of Endor. And yes, I know there are plenty of stories that do indeed deal with that very topic, but this book focused on characters I didn’t connect to instead of giving me a broader view. Again, probably not the book for me, but I wanted as random a sample as possible.

 

 

So those are the 3 Star Wars comics I’ve sampled. I reckon that the iFanbase has many many more to suggest, and I want to hear them. All I ask is that you categorize your suggestion following my example above, so that I or any other reader may know what bit of the Star Wars universe we are about to enter, but beyond that, let the recommendations fly. I look forward to finding new gems, because as this experiment taught me, reading extended universe Star Wars comics ain’t like dusin’ crops, kid.

 


Ryan Haupt thinks Luke turning off his targeting computer was hugely irresponsible. Hear him denounce other acts of faith in the face of reason on the podcast Science… sort of.

Comments

  1. I’ll be curious to read your review of Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi, since it (theoretically) begins all the way back at the beginning. So maybe the technology issues you raise won’t be as much of a problem.

    https://ifanboy.com/comics/star-wars-dawn-of-the-jedi-0/

    I read as much for story as I do for art and plan to take in the first arc at least.

    I’ve also been enjoying the Invasion series. It takes place in a section of the Star Wars macrocosm that I’ve never read about and the stories are enjoyable.

  2. As a moderately big fan of Star Wars comics, I can make one big suggestion on comics that are easy to pick up and enjoy with only movie knowledge. Star Wars: The Thrawn Trilogy may be an adaptation of a novel trilogy, but it flows wonderfully and tells a great story set right after the Battle of Endor. It’s the first set of comics I ever read of Star Wars, and I still hold it as one of the best.

  3. I find that the Star Wars expanded universe stories that I enjoy the most are the ones that happen post or filling gaps of the OT. My recommendations would be

    Thrawn Trilogy : Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising and The Last Command
    Dark Empire Trilogy
    Crimson Empire Trilogy
    Shadows of the Empire
    Pretty much everything with Boba Fett – but not with Jango

  4. I enjoyed the majority of the Legacy series. The first couple of trades are fairly easy to get into and enjoy. I’m certain jumping into the eleventh volume was extremely challenging and would’ve turned me off, too.

    I enjoyed the Thrawn Trilogy, too.

  5. Mickey (@GeeksOfChrist) says:

    My favorite Star Wars comics are from Marvel in the 70s and 80s – when they had no idea what would happen in the next film. And they’d be forced to make their plot take a hard left to dovetail into the events of the next movie. Fun stuff, man.

    These comments on the new Star Wars comics do pique my interest though. Frankly, I find the whole Star Wars EU quite intimidating. Jumping in seems less like fun and more like homework usually.

    All said, point me in the direction of a good story with good art, and I’ll be there.

  6. You would definitely get lost just starting with the Legacy vol. 11 trades, It really builds on characters, it’s like picking up an X-factor trade without the history, it would create the what moment. I read this in trade and the story arcs on these are quite good.

  7. If you start with volume 1 of Legacy, you will love it. Its got your movie connection, dealing with Luke Skywalkers ghost… He’s trying to make sure his drug addicted descendent stays on the right side of the Force. Check it out!

  8. What is the machete method? I’ve seen several people mention it recently, and googling it just gives me instructions on constructing or sharpening a machete. Both of which interest me, as well, but still.

  9. Check out some of the Dark Horse Omnibuses, fear not they are not the huge collection, but in between digest and normal sized books. Tales of the Jedi is even pre-Old Republic and it shows off a more ancient style you were looking for.

  10. @Ryan: I’d really recommend you give Legacy another go. Volume 11 was 100% not the place to start with. Pick up the first trade and I guarantee you’ll completely change your mind. In my opinion it’s the best of the Expanded Universe stuff since the Kevin J Anderson novels.

  11. You should have read Dark Empire, Tag & Bink Were Here, and Star Wars Legacy Vol.1 (Vol.11 first? Seriously? what is wrong with you? If that was meant some form of self-sabotage , good job I guess?

    I don’t generally go for Star Wars expanded Universe (or… the films for that matter after the Prequel/Special Edition debacle(s)) But Star Wars Legacy restored a sense of adventure and scrappy struggle that I’ve been missing from Star Wars since the original trilogy. But that’s just me.

  12. gonna echo many others comment in that Legacy is worth checking out from the beginning, War was a miniseries that wrapped up all the threads from the series, not a great jumping on point. Dark Empire is worth checking out as well.

  13. Read The Dark Empire Trilogy. Im in the middle of it right now and the characters are written well, close enough to their film adaptaions. Its a fun read so far.

  14. You could try knights of the old republic also, I enjoyed that series quite a bit and I’ve shown that to people as thier first taste of the expanded universe and they’ve enjoyed it to.

  15. I hate to say something that has already been said, but reading just Volume 11 of Legacy was a huge mistake. Legacy started off real strong and it built upon itself enough to help with any of the weaknesses in the story (and art) of the later arcs. The War miniseries is also not a good representation of the series or Star Wars comics in general.

    If you’re looking try recent stuff again I suggest you try Dark Times or Rebellion for trades and Agents of the Empire and Dawn of the Jedi for single issues.

  16. dark times

  17. Basically, any of the Ostrander stuff is really good, both Legacy and the series he did prior. Starting at vol. 11 was a big mistake, of course you were lost! The Tales books were pretty good too, there were some real gems in there. I’ve read most of the SW books and usually they’re hit or miss with the exception of the ones I’ve mentioned.

  18. Walk away!

    • Conor, that’s not helpful. If someone wants to read a Star Wars COMIC BOOK, you should be more helpful. Or is that me? Don’t we all want this industry to grow? In all directions? Maybe I’m wrong.

  19. Just to hammer it home, starting on volume 11 of Legacy was a big mistake. That series rekindled my interest in Star Wars, and it’s really worth reading from the start!

  20. Aside from some of the classic choices others have already mentioned, I think my hands-down favorite Star Wars comic series is Star Wars: Empire (which eventually became Star Wars: Rebellion). These series were anthologies of one or two issue stories set around the time of the original film and featuring a variety of characters, old and new. Some of these stories were just really freakin’ good. There is the occasional prequel tie-in or something, but if you’ve seen the movies you know what you need to know.

  21. Legacy is one of the better Star Wars comics I have read. Sadly it is not a book you can jump into the middle of, it’s a continual story from issue one. If I’m not mistaken you read the final volume, which would be like watching Jedi before the other two movies.

  22. I’d pick up Star Wars: The Chronicles of Jar Jar if you get the chance. Truly is the most inspirational of all the SW characters and kind of essential backstory to whatever time period book you may end up reading about.