This week, the question Star Wars fans asked was not “Have you seen the new Episode VII trailer,” but “How many times have you seen the Episode VII trailer?” (In my case, five—limiting it to one per day.) Before the new film releases December 18, we will no doubt be inundated with Star Wars, everything Star Wars, but there are a few gems to be found in the merchandise madness—namely, two great, new canonical series from Marvel Comics.
In Star Wars Vol. 1: Skywalker Strikes, Luke, Han, Chewie, Leia, and the droids may have blown up the Death Star (the first time), but they aren’t resting on their rebel laurels. Instead, they sneak into Cymoon 1, a weapons factory for the Empire. While Luke and Leia set explosives, Han attempts to barter—until he realizes who is negotiating for the Empire: Darth Vader! It’s a fun look at the space between Episodes IV and V, and writer Jason Aaron is firing on all blasters with his spot-on dialogue (Leia: “Great work, Han, if your plan was to get us trapped!”). The Force is with Aaron as he creates classic moment after moment. Ever wanted to see Han pilot an AT-AT Walker and attempt to step on Lord Vader? How about Luke facing off against Boba Fett? It’s all here and the likeness-heavy artwork by John Cassaday is clean and clear—and full of action. This is a cinematic read, and sure to accelerate fan nostalgia to light speed. Plus, not a single mention of midi-chlorians! This first volume is a must. (Volume 2 releases early 2016.)
And once fans finish Skywalker Strikes, the next logical choice is to read the story from Vader’s POV. In Star Wars: Darth Vader Vol. 1 (helpfully subtitled “Vader”), readers see the events immediately post-Skywalker Strikes. Vader returns to the Emperor, only to discover that maybe the Emperor isn’t as interested in an exclusive Master/Apprentice relationship as Vader is. So, Vader begins to assemble his own Dark Side crew, complete with a familiar bounty-hunter and interesting sidekick, his own battle droids, and a character new to the Star Wars mythos: a hacker named Doctor Aphra. She’s cool, witty, and dressed a bit like Indiana Jones. From there, events weave in and out of Skywalker Strikes, so readers will want to keep both handy, as it’s an impressive effort by writer Kieron Gillen (even if Vader is a little too talkative at times). Salvador Larroca illustrates Vader’s outfit with meticulous attention to detail without ever getting too busy—plus, he draws one of the coolest character interactions ever in Star Wars: Vader vs. Jabba the Hutt. (Volume 2 will also release early next year.)
Once the carbonite cools on these two, Marvel offers plenty to look forward to, from solo adventures of Lando, Princess Leia, and Chewbacca, a series about the “last padawan,” to a prequel to The Force Awakens, called Shattered Empire, by writer Greg Rucka.
While the new film may still seem many parsecs away, these two new efforts feel just like Beggar's Canyon back home.