7 Dark Horse ‘Star Wars’ Comics You Must Read Before Marvel Wipes Them Out… All Of Them
If you listened hard when Disney announced that it had bought Lucasfilm, you could hear it: millions of expanded universe stories suddenly crying out in terror, and suddenly silenced. For the last 23 years, Dark Horse Comics has been adding to the Star Wars saga, publishing a host of comics set in that galaxy far, far away, partnering with Lucasfilm to help weave a vibrant tapestry of stories, characters and settings to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the films, books, video games, trading card games, RPG handbooks, and (ugh) Holiday Specials.
Well, no more. Starting in 2015, Disney's handing the publishing of any and all new Star Wars comics over to Marvel Comics, with an all new, optimized-for-corporate-synergy canon that will spread across all their media platforms. Anything that's not a movie (especially one of the Original Trilogy movies), or a Clone Wars cartoon, will be unceremoniously Order 66-ed out of existence, giving future filmmakers a clean-ish slate to make movies (and money) on. But what about all those Dark Horse comics? That's where we come in with 7 Dark Horse Star Wars comics you should track down before they disappear.
This book, written by former Star Wars line editor Randy Stradley and beautifully drawn by Doug Wheatley (with fill-in arcs by a few other artists), follows a few of the survivors of Order 66, which effectively wiped out the Jedi. Whether we're following former Jedi soldier Dass Jennir or Jedi Master K'Kruhk and his group of young Padawans, the book manages to find compelling ways to ask how far these Jedi will go to protect themselves and their loved ones in a universe that now is actively hunting them, and how these decisions affect their connection to the Force.
It's pretty heavy stuff, more akin to The Walking Dead than anything else, where decisions have to be made in areas where the difference between the Dark Side and the Light aren't so apparent.
Star Wars Tales was a 24-issue anthology that was about as even as you'd expect for that sort of thing. Despite the quality varying from story to story, there was always a bright spot every issue, whether it was seeing Tom Fowler do a Jar-Jar story, Garth Ennis & John McCrae telling the tale of a storm trooper in over his head, Sergio Aragonés popping in every now and then to do a charming bit, some visually stunning shorts by Killian Plunkett, a pretty great Fantastic Four pastiche by Jay Stephens in issue #9, or stuff by talents as diverse as Craig Thompson, Scott Morse, Henry Flint, Stan Sakai, Andi Watson, Sean Gordon Murphy, Sanford Greene and a bunch of others.
The real treat here is issue #20. It's the last issue of Tales overseen by editor Dave Land, and boy, does he go out with a bang. Featuring stories by Tony Millionaire, Jason, Rick Geary, Peter Bagge, James Kochalka, Gilbert Hernandez (doing a "Young Lando Calrissian" story!!!), and more; it's a veritable who's-who of indie comics talent.
After issue 20, is sort of limps to a halt, with a format change that tried to do too much, but it's worth checking out if only to see the aforementioned talent tackling the Star Wars universe.
A spin-off from the novels that were a spin-off of a computer game, this series follows the exploits of the Rebellions most gifted -- and some would say, crazy -- pilots. Full of daring schemes, witty banter, high stakes and dangerous missions, we see big time space-baller Wedge Antilles and his comrades take on Hutts, Imperial remnants, space pirates, shifty spies, Sith magic and more.
There's a bit of a learning curve as Michael Stackpole (joined by Nexus co-creator Mike Baron for the first few storyarcs) learns to write for comics, and the art's iffy at times, but once it hits its stride, it's a lot of fun.
First off, yes, this is for volume 2. Volume 1 details the exploits of Luke Skywalker's great-great grandson or whatever who has a space-mullet and space-tribal tattoos. Let us never speak of it again. No, we're talking about Volume 2, which takes place sometime after volume 1, but requires no knowledge of that series for you to jump in and get going.
The series, written by Planet of the Apes: Cataclysm's Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman and drawn by Hardman and Brian Thies, follows the headstrong salvager and mechanic Ania Solo, a distant relative of those Solos, as she gets wrapped up in a crazy conspiracy when she finds a lightsaber inside an Imperial communications droid. Imperial Knights, doomed planets, dangerous dogfights and a hidden Sith menace all rear their heads as Ania and her friends, a reluctant Mon Calamari, a disgraced Imperial Knight and an IG-series assassin droid, try to stay alive long enough to figure out what's going on.
[Full disclosure: I was hired to design the print edition of Hardman's Kinski, but that happened long after I'd gushed about this series in last year's Best Of 2013 roundup.]
A collection of stories featuring the morally-ambiguous Jedi created by Suicide Squad superstar John Ostrander and artist Jan Duursema, it starts off as The Bourne Identity, with Voss waking up in a burning building with no idea how he got there or eve who he is. As expected from the guy who refined the Suicide Squad in the 1980s, it's an action-packed mystery, as Voss teams up with a very untrustworthy Devaronian named Villy to figure out who he is.
Along with a handful of other Quinlan Vos-centric storyarcs from Ostrander and Duursema, The collection also includes the Pat Mills-scripted, Ramon F. Bachs-penciled Infinity's End, which has Vos facing off against rancor-riding Nightsisters of Dathomir, giant sandworms and intelligent dinosaur-creatures.
If you like this, I'd also recommend Ostrander's two Agent of the Empire miniseries, which makes no pretense about being, basically, James Bond in the Star Wars Universe. And as long as we're talking Ostrander, any of his stories in the Clone Wars comics are really good (and are mostly Vos-centric).
Let's face it: Boba Fett pretty much sucks. He's kind of the Wolverine of the Star Wars Universe; a once-mysterious character who got less and less interesting the more we learned about him. (Besides, real cool people know that Dengar is the best bounty hunter.) But this miniseries is worth me lifting my "no Boba Fett" ban to recommend.
If you're going to commission a story about an emotionless bringer of justice relentlessly pursuing his quarry, you should probably hire the professionals, which is why 2000 AD and Judge Dredd alums John Wagner and Cam Kennedy are the perfect calls for this. It's a nasty, mean, lean book, with some amazing neon-drenched coloring and masterful page layouts. There's a lot of talk about Star Wars having a "lived in" look, but Wagner and Kennedy goes beyond that. This is lived in, spit on, burned at the corners and garish. It's wonderful. Here's a taste of a page showing Boba Fett chasing down some perps.
If you want more Cam Kennedy, check out the Dark Empire books he did with Tom Veitch. The stories themselves are a little iffy, with redundant captions and the dumbest retread of an idea ever (SPOILERS: A young, hunky Clone Emperor shows up int he second one.), but Kennedy's pretty pictures are worth checking out.
I know, I know. We said we were going to look at Dark Horse comics, but here's the thing: Dark Horse put together four great omnibuses that collect the Marvel series that ran from 1977 to 1986, issues that introduced a bunch of odd characters and unforgettable adventures while also adapting the Original Trilogy stories. If you ever wanted to see Han Solo and Chewbacca do a send-up of Seven Samurai with a character who is basically Green Bugs Bunny From Space, this is the book for you. Sure, Marvel's planning on 2 fancy hardcover omnibuses reprinting the original Marvel stuff (here and here), but these are easier to lug around, easier to read, and easier on the wallet.
Plus, there's an issue where Lando Calrissian cosplays as Captain Harlock to help find Han Solo's carbonite-frozen body.
So yeah, you need these.