When Marvel relaunched the “Star Wars” comics back in 2015, the publisher took a bold step and threw out all of the previous expanded universe continuity. Instead, Marvel went back to the very beginning, and set the majority of its stories in the time period between “A New Hope” and “The Empire Strikes Back.” This gave writers the ability to use familiar characters and settings, but also gave them enough room to tell original and surprising stories.
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A lot of the stories have focused on filling in the blanks between the two movies. Writers and artists, knowing the full story and how it ends, are using every character, alien, planet and vehicle that they can to tell the most exciting “Star Wars” stories possible. With these advantages, these new comics have actually been better than the movies. Here’s 15 times they pulled it off.
15. VADER VS. AN AT-AT
When Marvel launched “Star Wars” (2015) by Jason Aaron and John Cassaday, the opening story arc kicked things off with a bang. “Skywalker Strikes” begins with Han, Luke and Leia infiltrating an Imperial weapons manufacturing base, posing as emissaries of Jabba the Hutt, who the Empire needs supplies from. The trio work their way into the base, and begin to sabotage the place when Darth Vader shows up. The rebels’ plan goes belly-up, and they fight their way past an army of stormtroopers and a very angry Sith Lord.
During the fight, Han captures an AT-AT walker, and tries to stampede through the base. Unfortunately, when he comes across Darth Vader, he stops the giant machine in its tracks with just a wave of his hand. Unable to move, Han tries to blast Vader, who pulls out his lightsaber and with only a few strokes, takes down the walker. While the rebels eventually escape, their encounter with Vader proves that he’s essentially a one-man army.
14. DEATH STAR FALLOUT
At the end of “A New Hope” (1977), the Empire is dealt a crippling blow when the rebels destroy the Death Star. By the beginning of “The Empire Strikes Back” (1980), however, the Empire is at full strength, and most surprisingly, Darth Vader seems to have risen in power, despite failing to prevent the super weapon’s destruction. The early issues of “Star Wars” (2015) by Aaron and Cassaday, and the entire run of “Darth Vader” (2015) by Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca, help to fill in these blanks.
The Empire is shown negotiating with Jabba the Hutt and other criminal elements in order to secure new resources to make up for the loss of the Death Star. Vader, meanwhile, has been placed under the command of Grand General Tagge (the Imperial leader Vader briefly choked during a meeting on the Death Star). Vader regains the Emperor’s trust, however, when he defeats the traitorous Cylo and his fake-Jedi-powered cyborgs, whom Tagge had placed too much trust in.
13. C-3PO’S ARM
When he made his first appearance in “The Force Awakens” (2015), C-3PO noted that he now had a new, red arm. This moment was mostly played for comedic effect, and the movie itself offered no insight as to how he lost his original arm and gained a new one. That question was answered in “Star Wars Special: C-3PO” (2016) by James Robinson and Tony Harris, and it’s surprisingly moving.
While on an information gathering mission, Threepio’s ship goes down on a hazardous planet. The survivors are several droids, and they try to make their way to safety. During the journey, the droids discuss their programming and place in the universe. All of the other droids are destroyed on the planet, while Threepio loses his arm. The red arm actually belonged to another one of the droids, and Threepio attaches it to his body. Even though it doesn’t match, he keeps it so he’ll always remember his fallen friends, even if his memory programming is altered.
12. VADER VS. JABBA THE HUTT
Considering how tight a grip the Empire had on the galaxy, it seemed strange that Jabba the Hutt was able to openly control such a seemingly massive criminal operation. This situation was immediately addressed in the first issues of “Star Wars” (2015) by Jason Aaron and John Cassaday and “Darth Vader (2015) by Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca. It turns out that while Jabba is a gangster, he’s a gangster that works with the Empire.
As previously stated, the Empire turned to Jabba after the destruction of the Death Star to help recoup the massive losses they suffered. When the rebels thwart the initial attempt to negotiate in the opening arc of “Star Wars,” Darth Vader visits the Hutt himself in “Darth Vader” #1. This visit with Jabba reveals the nature of their relationship, as Jabba almost tries to feed Vader to the Rancor, and has his guards and visiting bounty hunters attack the Sith lord. Vader doesn’t kill Jabba only because he needs to make use of the Hutt’s underworld connections in order to further his own, secret agendas.
When he’s introduced in “The Empire Strikes Back” (1980), Han implies that Lando has a pretty crazy history. In the movies, however, Lando has already settled down in his role as administrator of Cloud City, and when he returns in “Return of the Jedi” (1983), he helps Han escape from Jabba and then becomes a general in the Alliance. His scoundrel past is only ever hinted at, but never really explored. Marvel fixed this with “Star Wars: Lando” (2015) by Charles Soule and Alex Maleev.
Lando, in order to pay off an old debt, has to steal one of Palpatine’s luxury yachts. Not surprisingly, this leads to Lando fighting off crazed sith guards and bounty hunters, and a lot of scheming. The best part of the series is the focus on the Lando’s relationship with Lobot, his cyborg assistant. The surprisingly heartbreaking ending of the series involves an injured Lobot giving in to his cybernetic implants and losing his own mind so that he can activate the escape pods on a doomed ship and save Lando’s life.
10. VADER DOWN
The movies make it clear that Darth Vader is a terrifying and powerful Sith lord. His brutality and control of the force is displayed several times, as he nonchalantly chokes captured rebels and even Imperial officers who have failed him. Despite this, however, Darth Vader’s full power is never truly glimpsed during the films. The crossover, “Vader Down” (2015), finally gives the Sith Lord a chance to cut loose.
The first chapter, by Aaron and Mike Deodato, ends with Vader crash landing on the planet Vrogas Vas, the location of a secret rebel refueling base. When he exits his crashed TIE fighter, he finds himself surrounded by countless rebels troops. “Darth Vader” #13 (2015) by Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca, begins with Vader giving the troops one chance to surrender. When they refuse, he uses the force to ignite many of the grenades the rebels are carrying. Vader then pulls out his lightsaber and calmly cuts through the survivors. Even a passing group of Y-Wings are no match for him.
9. LUKE VS. BOBA FETT
Boba Fett is one of the most popular characters from “Star Wars,” but to be honest, he doesn’t do much in the movies. He helps the Empire capture Han Solo in “The Empire Strikes Back” (1980), but then all he does in “Return of the Jedi” (1983) is clumsily fall into the Sarlacc pit, dying. It’s not a great showing for the galaxy’s most feared bounty hunter. His appearance in “Star Wars” (2015) #5 and #6 by Jason Aaron and John Cassaday is much more impressive.
Darth Vader had hired Fett to find the boy who blew up the Death Star. Fett tracked Luke to Tatooine, where Luke was searching Obi Wan’s old hut. Fett immediately blinds Luke, in the start of a brutal fight. The bounty hunter knocks Luke around, who is only barely able to survive thanks to his brief training with Obi Wan. Luke is only able to get away thanks to blossoming force powers, but he still leaves the fight blind and bleeding.
8. A VADER HAUNTED
Darth Vader’s journey from Anakin Skywalker to the galaxy’s most feared Sith Lord is a tragic tale. In the movies, Vader’s transformation is handled as absolute, until the end of “Return of the Jedi” (1983). During the final arc of “Darth Vader” (2015) by Gillen and Larroca, however, Vader is actually forced to confront his past life as Anakin. In issue #24 (2016), Darth Vader’s body has been shut down by the villainous Cylo, and he finds himself trapped in his own mind.
He replays the fight between himself and Obi Wan that led to his injuries, and it’s revealed that Vader would have rather been killed then turned into the robotic monstrosity he became. He still feels an intense fury at Obi Wan over this, and this anger overshadows any other feelings of loss he retains. When a memory of Padme surfaces, he chokes it back down, and retakes control of his own body.
7. ALDERAAN FALLOUT
The destruction of Alderaan, Princess Leia’s home planet, should be a bigger deal than the movies make it out to be. Alderaan isn’t even mentioned in “The Empire Strikes Back” or “Return of the Jedi.” Even in “A New Hope,” Leia is never really shown grieving the loss of her friends and family. Marvel decided to tackle this issue, however, in “Star Wars: Princess Leia” (2015) by Mark Waid and Terry Dodson.
In the miniseries, Leia decides that, as the acting leader of Alderaan, it’s her job to gather the survivors and keep the planet’s traditions and history alive. Of course, the Empire wants Alderaan to just die and be forgotten, so they’re also looking for survivors. The series explores not just Leia’s loss, but her role as a leader and how it evolves after the loss of her planet. Even though she’s able to set up a safe refuge for Alderaan’s survivors, she realizes her place is with the rebellion and heads back to the fight.
6. TASK FORCE 99
In the movies, Stormtroopers don’t seem to be that threatening. They never seem to hit their targets, and their armor appears to be mostly useless. That all changed with the introduction of Task Force 99, a SCAR (Special Commando Advanced Recon) Squadron. These aren’t typical stormtroopers, these are the best of the best, and they have the results to prove it. After a brief cameo, the squad made their first full appearance in “Star Wars” #21 (2016) by Jason Aaron and Jorge Molina.
They’re led by Sergeant Kreel, a bloodthirsty Imperial soldier who had previously served as an undercover operative for Darth Vader. In the squad’s introduction, they land on the volcanic Ghost Moon. Working as a team, they kill the rebel troops hiding out on the moon, and Sgt Kreel even single handedly takes down a tank using his… lightsaber? This is one group of stormtroopers who can actually hit what they’re shooting at.
5. YODA’S SECRET WAR
“Yoda’s Secret War” is a story that gives fans more Yoda (which is always a good thing) and also gives a rare glimpse to the pre-prequel trilogy timeline. Starting in “Star Wars” #26 (2016) by Aaron and Larroca, it’s set before the “The Phantom Menace” (1999) and starts off with Yoda searching for a young child who is strong in the force. While out, he encounters some local gangsters, giving Yoda a chance to show off some never before seen Jedi powers, such as controlling two people’s bodies and making them fight each other.
He then feels a calling in the force and heads off to another planet, where he comes across a group of wild kids seemingly living on their own. Yoda has to solve the mystery of the planet, which involves stones that negate Jedi powers. Yoda doesn’t often get the spotlight, so it’s nice to see one of the series’ most well known characters get a chance to be the center of attention.
4. THE BOUNTY HUNTERS
Despite ultimately not having much screen time, the bounty hunters from “The Empire Strikes Back” (1980) became one of the most popular parts of the “Star Wars” universe. Vader often uses them to do the dirty work he doesn’t want the Emperor to know about, and is seen hiring bounty hunters to carry out various tasks throughout the “Darth Vader” (2015) series. In issue #8 (2015) by Gillen and Larocca, however, the bounty hunters get a chance to shine on their own.
Dr Aphra — an assistant to Vader and original to the Marvel Star Wars universe — brings together Bossk, IG-90 (an assassin droid) and the wookie Black Krrsantan to rob an Imperial ship transporting a fortune across the galaxy. The group fakes an asteroid belt, boards the ship and escape with most of the fortune, and makes it look like the entire incident was just an asteroid strike and that the fortune was lost to space. The twist ending is that Aphra and Krrsantan double-crossed everybody and actually ended up stealing more than they let on, keeping the extra loot for themselves.
3. TRIPLE ZERO AND BEE TEE
R2D2 and C-3PO are the two most famous droids of the “Star Wars” universe. While there are countless droids in the galaxy, R2 and Threepio are the only two that are treated as actual characters in the original movies. This beloved duo, who are often played for comic relief, were given a dark counterpart with Triple Zero and BT-1. They first appeared in “Darth Vader” (2015) #3 by Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larocca, when Dr Aphra stole the Triple Zero personality matrix from a quarantined world.
BT-1 looks like a typical astromech droid, but it’s actually a blastomech droid. An undercover assassin, it’s designed to look like a harmless droid, but is packing major firepower. When it was activated, it destroyed the Tarkin Initiative base that built it, and then went into hibernation. Dr Aphra activated Triple Zero, who was built at the same base, to communicate with BT-1, wake it up and convince it not to kill her and Darth Vader. Once online, Triple Zero and BT-1 formed a similar relationship to R2 and Threepio, except with way more murder and mayhem.
2. OBI WAN’S STORY
At the end of “Revenge of the Sith” (2005), Obi Wan delivers an infant Luke to Owen and Beru Lars on Tatooine. He decides to stay close by, living as a hermit, to watch over Luke. In “Star Wars” #6 (2015) by Aaron and Cassaday, Luke finds Obi Wan’s old journal, which catalogs the old Jedi’s adventures between “Revenge of the Sith” and “A New Hope.” Throughout the “Star Wars” series, an occasional issue would be dedicated to telling one of these stories.
The stories occur in “Star Wars” #7 by Jason Aaron and Simone Bianchi, and issues #15 and #20 by Aaron and Mike Mayhew. They show Obi Wan protecting Luke from the dangers of Tatooine, like sand people, Jabba’s thugs and bounty hunters, all while Owen Lars desperately tries to prevent Luke from growing up and turning out the same way his father did. Obi Wan, meanwhile, wants to help the people of Tatooine, but knows that revealing himself as a Jedi would put Luke, and the future of Republic, in too much danger.
1. VADER’S DISCOVERY OF LUKE
At the end of of “Revenge of the Sith” (2005), Darth Vader is told that Padme died and lost the child. In reality, she gave birth to twins before dying: Luke and Leia. Vader clearly doesn’t know who Luke is in “A New Hope” (1977), but in “The Empire Strikes Back (1980), he reveals to Luke that they are father and son. The movies never reveal how Vader learned of Luke’s real identity, however.
In “Star Wars” (2015) #2, Vader meets Luke face to face. During the fight, Vader recognizes the boy’s lightsaber as his old weapon from before he became a Sith. In “Darth Vader” #1 by Gillen and and Larroca, Vader is shown hiring Boba Fett to find the boy who destroyed the Death Star. When Fett returns in “Star Wars” #6, he reveals to Vader that the boy’s name is “Skywalker.” Vader stands silently in front of his Star Destroyer’s view port. As he realizes the truth, the glass begins to crack as Vader’s anger builds. It’s a moment that’s both terrifying and emotional.
What are your favorite moments from Marvel’s Star Wars universe so far? Let us know in the comments!
“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” is set to be released to theaters on December 15, 2017.
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