Comics · Sci-Fi · TV & Movies

Review: Star Wars Disney Canon Graphic Novels

I’ve been a casual Star Wars fan forever. I happily admit that the original trilogy are some of the best movies ever made, but I found the sheer scope of the fandom and expanded universe much too daunting for me. Every so often I might try a novel here or there based on recommendations from friends, but I don’t think I ever even finished any of them.

Princess Leia coverAfter Rogue One though — despite not liking the movie especially — I realized once again that I really am interested in more stories from the universe. I also came across the cover for the Princess Leia graphic novel by Mark Waid, and I really liked it, and I really like Mark Waid, and I like comics, so I gave it a try. It was just okay, but it’s part of a newish Disney canon series set in the midst of the original trilogy and an entirely manageable length, so for the past year I’ve been reading Star Wars comics and I’m here to direct you toward the good stuff!

The Main Series

The cornerstones of this whole thing are the aptly-named Star Wars series, which follows the main Leia-Luke-Han trio, and the Darth Vader series. They’ve both been running since 2015 and are on their fifth volumes (with one major change). I’ve read the first three volumes of each. Star Wars is relatively bland, I think they struggle to do any big reveals or character development when the plots are set between such well-known movies, but it’s worth reading to keep up with the riveting Darth Vader stuff. That’s intrigue, that’s Vader being awesome (but never too open with us), that’s charismatic original characters. The best thing about it, in fact, is Doctor Aphra. She’s a criminal space archaeologist who works with Vader for some reason. She’s rightfully popular and now has her own series taking over Darth Vader‘s space after volume 4.

Vader Down
Vader in Vader Down
Star Wars no 16
Doctor Aphra in Star Wars #16

Character Volumes

Accompanying those two main series are several globs of one-volume stories based around specific characters. They’re set kind of wherever in the timeline, they don’t tie in with the ongoing series, so it doesn’t really matter if you read them in order which is really nice. They are: Princess LeiaChewbaccaLandoHan Solo, and C-3PO: The Phantom Limb (sorta).

Princess Leia and Chewbacca are fine but nothing special. Lando and Han Solo, those are special. The best of these comics have great original characters, and these are no exception. Lando is a pretty straightforward story, but with a stronger plot than the books coming before it, and with more grounded characterization. I’d love more stories about Lando like this, but I’d pay absolute buckets of money for a prequel about the twins.

Loo Re Anno
Loo Re Anno, original Han Solo character and my new space wife.

Han Solo by Marjorie M. Liu is the absolute best, though. It’s about Han and Chewie entering a spaceship race as a cover for a secret job assigned by Princess Leia. It stays in keeping with the wider universe, the characterization and dialogue are spot on, the characters are moving within the arcs we’ve already seen, but it maintains suspense and intensity anyway because this is a completely different story that could go wrong (or bittersweet) in a hundred ways. The new characters are awesome and memorable, the art is wonderfully detailed, and the race/espionage plotlines are inseparably entwined so it’s tight all the way through. Love it, and you can absolutely read this one without reading any of the others.

C-3PO: The Phantom Limb is listed on Goodreads like a graphic novel in the series, but it’s actually just a one-shot comic. It’s set before The Force Awakens and explains how Threepio got his red arm. It doesn’t seem important enough to be that because I doubt they’ll mention this onscreen, but as a standalone short story exploring droids’ inner lives in the Star Wars universe, I actually quite liked it.

Prequels and Sequels

Poe Dameron no 4
Poe Dameron #4

Along with that Threepio one-shot, there are a few bigger projects set before and after the original trilogy. Of all the choices, these have been the least impressive for me (which may say more about my dominant interest in the OT than their quality, but I do what I can. Also there are some Darth Maul books I haven’t been able to get my hands on, but they look neat.) Kanan: The Last Padawan is about a character from the Star Wars: Rebels show, which I haven’t seen yet either. I didn’t find it confusing, it’s about him as a child, but I think I would’ve been a lot more invested if I knew the guy. It wasn’t enough motivation to get the second of the two volumes. The Poe Dameron series is the only one set in the time period of The Force Awakens, and unfortunately volume 1 just wasn’t good. The dialogue is in fact actively bad. I like Poe though, the cover art is really good, and I enjoyed the supporting characters, so I’m down for volume 2 and hoping it gets better.

I know there’s a long history of Star Wars comics that aren’t in this canon, I just have no idea where to start with them. Any recommendations? I’m pretty sure the only other one I’ve read is Tag and Bink Were Here by Kevin Rubio, but that was pretty cute…

12 thoughts on “Review: Star Wars Disney Canon Graphic Novels

  1. I used to read a lot of the Star Wars comic books published by Dark Horse, but I’ve pretty much avoided them since the franchise moved back to Marvel, on account of the fact that each issue costs four bucks and the storytelling is very decompressed. I think it’s not good value for your money.

    I also thought it was a mistake to give Darth Vader his own ongoing series. Vader is a character that really loses a lot when you see too much of him. He works much better in small doses. I think it’s also not a good idea to get into his head too much.

    The only Marvel series I followed was Shattered Empire, because it was a four issue miniseries (so I knew it would be relatively self-contained) and it was set after the events of Return of the Jedi, which meant it was one of the stories that would explore how things led to The Force Awakens. That’s more interesting to me that the ongoing series, which are set after A New Hope, because that period was extensively explored in numerous other comic book stories in the past. Even if those old comics are now non-canonical, it still feels like going over well-trod ground again.


    1. I definitely agree about the decompressed stories not being worth the money. I’m reading via library or I wouldn’t be able to afford it. I’ve got Shattered Empire on the way though!


  2. Doctor Aphra eventually branches out into her own series. It’s basically Indiana Jones with morally questionable characters in the Star Wars Universe.

    I’ve been enjoying the Poe Dameron series, but if you didn’t enjoy the first volume, you probably won’t enjoy the rest all that much either. It’s been staying at around the same level of quality.

    Funny – the two character minis you say are the good ones are the ones I haven’t read. Found the other two bundled for really cheap, and after reading them, I understand why they were cheap. Chewbacca and Princess Leia weren’t bad by any means, but they didn’t really add much to anything.


    1. Looking forward to Doctor Aphra! There are things I like about the Poe Dameron series so I’ll keep reading, but it’s very light entertainment for me. And yeah, Chewbacca/Princess Leia/the Star Wars title all just seem a bit bland to me.


  3. I’ve heard good stuff about Doctor Aphra and her droids, so I’ve been meaning to check out the Vader comics. The only EU ones I ever read were the Mara Jade volumes, which are pretty good. I think the Rogue Squadron ones are pretty good, too. Dark Empire is kind of a classic even if the premise is pretty dumb.


  4. I’ll have to check Darth Vader’s series out. I’ve been avoiding it cuz it looked a little too… Vadery, amd extreme I guess, but I’ll take your recommendation.


    1. I haven’t found it to be too fanservice-y, which was my initial concern. I was expecting kind of a Sherlock-style “Look how cool this is” thing and it isn’t that. They made a really good decision to keep Vader at arm’s length and maintain the inscrutability of his mask. So you get some really cool Vader moments, but you also spend a lot of the time wondering what he (and the supporting characters) are thinking. I think I’ve said this somewhere else before, but I’m also super down for this representation of the Empire as an extremely organized hierarchy built on chaotic assassinations and selfish schemes. It’s cool stuff.

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