First, as with everything “Star Wars” this weekend, let it be known that this article is spoiler free when it comes to “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” That’s because this list focuses on 2015’s other smash hit, action-packed cheer-worthy entry in the Star Wars canon: Marvel’s “Star Wars” comic book series.
Launched at the start of the year, Star Wars fans have spent all of 2015 watching a bold new era for the franchise unfold an issue at a time. Written by Jason Aaron, the series follows the adventures of Luke, Leia, Han and the rest of the gang in the immediate aftermath of the first Death Star’s destruction. Marvel made it clear from the start that the “Star Wars” license, which returned to the publisher after decades away, was a major priority for them by pairing Aaron up with A-List artist after A-List artist; John Cassaday and Stuart Immonen each turned in arcs with Simone Bianchi and Mike Deodato each contributing to a tale.
But even without “The Force Awakens,” the first 13 issues of “Star Wars” would have most likely been enough to keep fans of the Force enthusiastic and entertained in 2015. Here are the 10 moments from “Star Wars'” first year that made us applaud — which is also very hard to do when you’re holding a comic.
Luke vs. Vader (from “Star Wars” #1)
Writing a series set in-between two very well-known movies seems like a hard gig since there are certain reveals and developments that are off-limits, but Aaron continues to dance around them marvelously. Previously, Luke and Darth Vader first clashed in “Empire Strikes Back,” but now we know that they met once before. But the lightsaber duel, which plays out in issue #2, isn’t epic on purpose; Luke has no training and Vader has no emotion in the fight since he doesn’t know who that scrappy kid is. It makes for a gut-grabbing visual without spoiling any of the emotional impact of their standout showdown in “Empire.”
Han Solo: AT-AT Driver (“Star Wars” #2)
With an unlimited budget, “Star Wars” is able to go places with a regularity that the movies can’t — and that means more action and more AT-ATs. We get to see Han Solo where we never pictured him before: behind the “wheel” of a massive Imperial walker. And on top of that, we got to see that even those mighty machines are no match for a Dark Lord of the Sith.
Badass Boba Fett (“Star Wars” #5-6)
Even the biggest Boba Fett fans have to admit that he was underserved in the original trilogy. He stood on a Star Destroyer bridge, shot a blaster once or twice and was knocked into the Sarlacc. But “Star Wars” improved Fett’s canonical rep by showing him ruthlessly roughing up Tatooine locals while hot on Luke’s trail — and then we got to see Boba and Luke throw down.
Hello, Sana Solo (“Star Wars” #6)
Aaron made a seemingly major shift to accepted “Star Wars” canon when he introduced Sana, a brash, cocky pilot that’s every bit the scoundrel Han Solo is — who also claimed to be his wife. Since Han and Leia can’t get together until much later on, Jason Aaron has devised smart ways of keeping the two apart while also playing with their tense dynamic. Sana Solo proved to be great for that, and ended up being a solid character in her own right — one that we hope we learn more about in 2016.
You’re The Father (“Star Wars” #6)
Vader’s main goal throughout the first arc was learning the identity of the Rebel pilot that blew up the Death Star. He even stooped to hiring a bounty hunter to do this work for him. Then he gets a name from Fett — “Skywalker.” This is a moment fans have been waiting to see happen, and John Cassaday’s art excels here. It’s hard showing emotion when a character is as heavily covered as Vader, but the body language says it all.
Droid & Wookiee Team-Up (“Star Wars” #9)
Chewbacca and Threepio have an interesting relationship. One’s all brawn, the other’s all brains; they’re the real odd couple of the core “Star Wars” cast and we finally got to see the two of them on a mission together — you know, one where Chewie isn’t carrying C-3PO around in a backpack. Their team-up reveal at the end of issue #9 wasn’t a shocking one, per se, but it was the kind of reveal that makes you cackle with delight at the possibilities. “Star Wars” plays with all sorts of emotions.
And Then There’s Dengar (“Star Wars” #10)
If anyone needed an image makeover more than Boba Fett, it’s Dengar. Despite being one of the most prominent bounty hunters in fandom’s collective memory, the guy barely gets even a few seconds of screentime in the original trilogy. “Star Wars” promoted him to the level of last-page-reveal importance and then had him go toe-to-fur-covered-toe with Chewbacca in issue #11. Dengar finally got to do something! Added bonus: Stuart Immonen also figured out how to make a Gungan look intimidating.
“Hands Off My Friend” (“Star Wars” #11)
Not only that, but Dengar’s involvement also gave us one of the best Chewie and Han moments in the new canon. With the Wookiee at a severe disadvantage and Dengar poised to strike, Han Solo swooped in and blasted the bounty hunter from behind. Han and Chewbacca had actually been separated for much of the series up to that point, thus making this surprise return — and well-placed laser blast — all the more satisfying.
Everybody Gets Lightsabers! (“Star Wars” #12)
With the team in dire need of weapons in order to rescue Luke from the clutches of Grakkus the Hutt, R2-D2 launches a collection of lightsabers he stole from Grakkus’ extensive collection of Jedi artifacts. And then we get the most awesome shot of the series: Leia, Han and Chewie wielding lightsabers. This moment gets bonus awesome-points for being the first time Leia, the daughter of Darth Vader, has held a lightsaber in the rebooted “Star Wars” canon.
Wookiee Rage (“Star Wars” #13)
Way back in 1977, Han Solo told Threepio that Wookiees have a reputation for ripping arms out of their sockets when angered. We then went three whole movies without ever once seeing Chewbacca do just that. Jason Aaron definitely noticed that because, in the most recent issue, he had Chewbacca last out at Darth Vader’s droid ally Triple Zero, giving us the arm-ripping moment we’ve waited decades for.
Did we skip any of your favorite moments from Marvel’s “Star Wars?” Let us know in the comments!
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