It’s been two years since Marvel regained the rights to make Star Wars comics, and since then the publisher has released a ton of comics, both ongoing and miniseries. Want some recommendations on what’s out there? We’ve ranked them all, from the must-reads to the ones you should avoid like they were old Jar Jar Binks.
[A note going in: There’s a brand new Darth Maul comic but since only a single issue has been released, I’m not including it. The first issue is pretty intriguing, though, so if you like Maul, check it out! Also excluded are two one-shot comics: Vader Down, a solo tie-in to an event in the Darth Vader and Star Wars series (although it was very good), and C-3PO, which told the story of how the droid got his red arm in The Force Awakens (it was weirdly okay!).
This comic is without a doubt one of the best Star Wars sagas out there, full stop, and not just from the long history of Star Wars comics. Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larocca’s examination of one of pop culture’s most legendary villains didn’t just give us a long tale of Imperial intrigue and shadowy machinations, but helped revitalize Vader from his pop culture position as the butt of a joke and into a truly fearsome, intimidating villain.
It also gave him an amount of sass so powerful I’m pretty sure he could’ve topped the entire Empire with a quip if he wanted. The newly announced follow-up run, following the earliest days after Anakin donned Vader’s armor, has some huge black leather boots to fill.
This miniseries gave us a side of Lando not really seen yet in the revitalized canon—his days as a smuggler and scoundrel, during which he discovers the haul of a lifetime. And yet, the comics also managed to touch on some interesting aspects of the wider galaxy when it’s revealed that Lando’s haul is a spaceship owned by none other than the Emperor himself, and which contain actually one of Palpatine’s private collections of incredibly dangerous items. It’s short, sweet, and has a lot of fun banter between Lando and Lobot that makes you almost long for a buddy cop anthology film for the two of them.
The only ongoing series set in the post-Return of the Jedi world, Poe Dameron delivers exactly what it says on the tin: more of The Force Awakens’ ridiculously charming X-Wing pilot. Although it’s not got as much spaceship action as you might want from a series about Poe, writer Charles Soule totally nails Oscar Isaac’s performance from The Force Awakens and brings it to a fun, action-packed spy-vs,-spy story, as Poe crosses paths again and again with the sinister First Order’s Agent Terax. Plus, with Phil Noto as the ongoing artist for the series, it’s the most gorgeous Star Wars comic around.
Set between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back, the main Star Wars book follows Luke, Han, and Leia on their adventures, and benefits greatly from the fact that it gets to play with the chemistry between all of them. But aside from great character work, it’s told the biggest variety of stories across the Star Wars comics so far, from a tale of Han Solo’s mysterious ‘wife’, to a squad of deathly efficient Stormtroopers and even flashback one-off tales covering Obi-Wan Kenobi’s exile on Tatooine. The current arc revolving around Yoda is a bit boring, but it’s still a series worth following in general.
If you like Rebels, this series is a must. Examining Kanan’s past as a Jedi padawan during Order 66 and the events immediately after, it provides some crucial backstory on the character, and a lot of insight into the way Kanan is the way he is on the show—and so far, it’s one of the few official stories set in those early days of the rise of the Empire.
A spinoff of the Darth Vader book, Doctor Aphra follows the further adventures of the titular archaeologist first introduced in Vader as she goes off exploring the galaxy and having adventures away from the watchful eyes of the Empire. It doesn’t quite hit the highs of its progenitor, but some of the best aspects of the Vader comic were its supporting characters like Aphra and her amazingly fun killer droids BT and Triple-0. Getting to see more of them beyond the Vader series is well worth the price of admission.
Although it suffers from a bit of a slow start and a distinct lack of characters like Luke and Leia for Han to bounce off of, this miniseries—about Han being part of a deadly ship race across the galaxy while also conducting a secret Rebel mission—kicks into gear around the half-way mark. When it does, it’s full of great action moments showing why Han Solo may boast a lot, he’s got the skills to back it up. Plus, series writer Marjorie Liu really gets to dig deep into what makes Han such a fun character.
Likewise, Chewbacca suffers a little for isolating the wookiee from Han, Luke, Leia and the rest of the Rebellion, forcing him into a new environment with new characters that take a little time to get used to. You can only really get away with a five-issue miniseries when your lead character only communicates in growls and yelps, but Chewbacca still manages to tell a very sweet little story about Chewie helping a small town fight back against Imperial occupation and controlling mobsters. Once again, the art is a Phil Noto joint, so it’s a damn good-looking series.
Once again, some of these miniseries primarily focusing on just one of the main Star Wars heroes feel like they’re missing something for not being able to rely on the chemistry between Leia, Luke, and Han. Leia’s miniseries gave some insight into how she feels in the wake of the loss of her homeworld, and sets up the idea of Alderaanian society rebuilding and surviving after the planet’s destruction, but doesn’t give us much else, unfortunately.
Although it’s one of the few canon sources about the state of the galaxy after Return of the Jedi, this miniseries released as part of the “Journey to The Force Awakens” is little more than a canonical curiosity at this point. While it introduced us to fun characters like Poe Dameron’s parents, the brief story it told wasn’t all that exciting. Interesting for seeing what happens pretty much directly after Return of the Jedi, but otherwise brings little else to the table.
Disney’s reshaping of Star Wars canon has sadly left a lot of the period around the prequel movies left out, with stories largely focusing on the era of the original trilogy and beyond. So when this miniseries about Obi-Wan and Anakin’s adventures set between The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones was announced, there was a lot of intrigue surrounding it. Unfortunately, the series was a slog to get through—slowly paced, and revolving around a strange steampunky-world that felt very out of place in the Star Wars universe. Hopefully we’ll get more comics in the future that tell great stories in this currently under-served era of the Star Wars timeline.
This comic adaptation of the movie was unessential when it came out—many months after the film, and even after it was out on Blu-ray and DVD—and it’s even less essential now when there’s so many more interesting comics in Marvel’s roster. It’s like watching the movie on fast-forward, as much of the dialogue is ripped straight from it, with nothing tweaked or added to make it feel fresher. If you want to read a Star Wars comic, there’s much better ones out there—and if you want to watch the film, well, it’s right there.