Although George Lucas’ Star Wars franchise is best known for its movies and television adaptations, it also consists of both novels and comic books, which form an essential part of the expanded universe, both before and after the acquisition of Lucasfilm by Disney. In this article, we are going to talk about the Star Wars comic books and give you the best reading order if you want to start.
There are two ways you can start reading Star Wars comics – by starting with the Legends universe or the Disney canon.
When George Lucas launched the franchise in 1977, with the movie Star Wars (later titled Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope for continuity reasons), no one expected that it would become one of the biggest stories of the modern area. Star Wars wasn’t initially that successful, but as the years passed, the franchise became a cult classic, attracting generations of fans and now encompassing nine main continuity movies, video games, several TV shows, comic books and a variety of merchandise that made George Lucas famous. The franchise is today owned by Disney, but wherever it might go after the conclusion of the Skywalker Saga, Star Wars will undoubtedly remain one of the pivotal parts of modern culture.
Now that we’ve gone through the intro, let us focus on the main topic of the article – the comics.
Star Wars comics – an overview
What most people around the world might not know is that the Star Wars comic books are as old as the movies, since Marvel Comics published a six-issue adaptation of the original Star Wars movie about the same time the movie came out. Due to various historical reasons, these comics have not been available worldwide at the time, but are important in explaining the history of the comic book series.
There is a total of seven phases in the history of Star Wars comics, as follows:
- Marvel Comics (1977–1987)
- Pendulum Press (1978)
- The Newspaper Period (1979–1984)
- Blackthorne (1987–1988)
- Dark Horse Comics (1991–2014)
- Marvel Comics (2015–present)
- IDW Publishing (2017–present)
The Marvel series that started with the adaptation of the original movie ran for a total of 107 issues and three Annuals until 1986 and featured stories set between the films of the original trilogy, but also adaptations of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, the second and third instalments in the original franchise. From 1985 to 1987, Marvel Comics published two short-lived series based on the Star Wars animated series Droids and Ewoks, concluding its run with the franchise in 1987. Briefly, the publishing rights went to Blackthorne Publishing, which released a three-issue run of 3-D comics from 1987 to 1988. Then, three years later, the publishing rights for the Star Wars comics were acquired by Dark Horse Comics, who published the limited series Dark Empire in 1991 and ultimately produced over 100 Star Wars titles until 2014.
Following the now famous October 2012 acquisition of Lucasfilm by The Walt Disney Company, in January 2014, it was announced that the publishing rights for the Star Wars return to Marvel Comics starting from 2015 (Disney having previously purchased Marvel Entertainment and the Marvel Comics brand and publishing in 2009). In April 2014, Lucasfilm rebranded the majority of the Star Wars Expanded Universe as Legends, only keeping the theatrical Skywalker saga and the 2008 Clone Wars theatrical film and television series as canon. Most media released since then is considered part of the same canon, including comics.
How to read Star Wars comics?
Had you asked us this question 10 years ago, we would’ve given you a simple, straightforward answer. Today, the answer is still relatively straightforward, but it’s not that simple, all because of the above-mentioned acquisition of Lucasfilm by Disney.
When Disney took over Star Wars, it practically annulled the canon status of the former expanded universe, now known as Legends, keeping only the movies and the related television series within the official canon.
The Legends universe played and still generally does play an important part in the franchise, despite Disney trying to make its own continuity with the new comics and books. True fans will never disregard the original expanded universe, which is what makes the answer a bit complicated.
Namely, the Legends universe is essential to understanding a lot of the characters and events from the movies, but it’s officially not part of the current canon. Yet, its former canon status gives the whole brand a very important role in the franchise, which is why the titles from the Legends brand cannot be ignored. As for the canon comics, these are currently just the ones published after 2015, which we are also going to talk about in the article.
What you need to know is that most Star Wars comics are stand-alone stories and, although there are some sequels, prequels and tie-ins, you won’t have to know much of the comic book lore enjoy the titles as we’re going to present them to you.
This is why our article will have two lists, or guides, one for the Legends brand and one for the current Disney-operated canon.
The best reading order of the Legends universe is based on the periods the comics are exploring. This is why we have decided to split our guide into several periods, each of which explores a different history of the Star Wars franchise.
These comic books explore the oldest period of the franchise, dating roughly 35,000 years before the establishment of the Galactic Republic. Most of these comics explore the origin of the Jedi, which is why the most important title from this period is titles Dawn of the Jedi. There are three important storylines within this series – “Force Storm” (#1-5), “Prisoner of Bogan” (#1-5) and “Force War” (#1-5) – all of which are seminal in understanding the initial phase of the franchise.
The Old Republic Era
The Old Republic is one of the oldest and most important periods of the Star Wars timeline. The Old Republic is a fan-favourite period within the franchise and there have been demands to adapt some of the stories on the big screen, since the Old Republic really does contain some of the most interesting stories in the franchise. It also chronicles the evolution of the rivalry between the Jedi and the Sith. The Old Republic Era can be further divided into three subgroups of stories, each of them exploring a different time period in the long-lasting Old Republic. The periods, along with the important titles you need to consult within them, are:
- Tales of the Jedi – these stories are set between 5000 and 3986 BBY and explore some of the earliest conflicts between the Jedi and the Sith. Important storylines from this saga include “The Golden Age of the Sith” (#0-5), “The Fall of the Sith Empire” (#1-5), “Knights of the Old Republic: Ulic Qel-Droma and the Beast Wars” (#1-2), “Knights of the Old Republic: The Saga of Nomi Sunrider” (#3-5), “The Freedon Nadd Uprising” (#1-2), “Dark Lords of the Sith” (#0-6), “The Sith War” (#1-6), the “Shadows and Light” story from Star Wars Tales #23, and “Redemption” (#1-5).
- Knights of the Old Republic – set between 3986 BBY and 3962 BBY, this saga chronicles the events before the globally popular Knights of the Old Republic video game and is part of the same lore. The saga includes issues #1-50, that have been collected in three omnibus editions, with the exception of a crossover event from issues #25-28. After that, you’ll want to consult the War (#1-5) storyline, as well as the story “Unseen, Unheard” from Star Wars Tales #24.
- The Old Republic – this saga chronicles the period of the Old Republic and is set 300 years after the above-mentioned video game and serves as a lead in to the MMORPG of the same name. It includes the original series (#1-6) and several other storylines, including “The Lost Suns” (#1-5) and “Tribe of the Sith – Spiral” (#1-5). The Knight Errant series, with the stories “Aflame” (#1-5), “Deluge” (#1-5) and “Escape” (#1-5), also forms a part of this saga and should be read after the original series. After reading this, a good choice for you would be the stories “The Apprentice” and “All For You” from Star Wars Tales #17, and finally – the Jedi vs. Sith (#1-6) comic book, the final storyline from the Old Republic canon.
Rise of the Empire
This very large period is actually a prequel to the Prequel Trilogy, but also includes storylines from that period that expand the original movies. This period contains a lot of material, so be ready to do a lot of reading if you’re intent on exploring the whole series. These stories can be divided into three groups:
- Original Series – this series includes the prequel stories to the Prequel Trilogy, as well as stories set between Episode I and II. Most of the main stories have been published in Star Wars (#1-45), but a lot of them have been explored in other issue, including the tie-ins to The Phantom Menace. Some of the stories set in this period include Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan, Jedi – The Dark Side (#1-5), Jedi Council: Acts of War (#1-4), a Darth Maul stand-alone series (#1-4), several stories from Star Wars Tales, Jedi Quest (#1-4) and Star Wars: Republic (#46-48). This is not a full list, but you’ll find your way around the whole series when you start reading.
- Clone Wars – this series, of course, follows the events of Episode II, the Clone Wars that followed and concludes with the events of Revenge of the Sith. Along with the official movie adaptations and its tie-ins, most of the stories from this series have been published in Star Wars: Republic (#49-77, 81-83), Clone Wars Adventures (vol. 1-10; comics based on the Clone Wars TV series), several stand-alone titles based on different characters (Yoda, Count Dooku, General Grievous, etc.), the Obsession series (#1-5) and several titles from The Clone Wars.
- Dark Times – this is what anime fans would call a filler series, although it does – we can’t lie – have more narrative sense than anime or manga fillers. Dark Times explores the period between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, focusing mainly on the consequences of Order 66 and the early adventures of Darth Vader, but also expands to include several Droid adventures and the early adventures of Han Solo. The Star Wars: Republic series (#78-80) is completed in this period, while the main stories of this period are Dark Times (#1-10, 13-32) and Star Wars: Empire (#1-12, 15). Still, a lot of important stories are explored in various Darth Vader-based series – “Lost Command” (#1-5), “Ghost Prison” (#1-5), “Ninth Assassin” (#1-5), “Cry of Shadows” (#1-5) – and the Star Wars Droids series, which also includes several titles. An important mini-series was the Agent of Empire.
The Rebellion Era continues where the previous era left of, chronicling the events in the franchise until after the Return of the Jedi. This era and all the ones that follow are actually very complicated to read because they follow a completely different post-Return of the Jedi chronology than was actually established by Disney. This is why most of these titles aren’t actually canon today, because Disney decided to follow its own path with the Star Wars movies and established a different canon continuity in its comic books. This is why all these titles became part of the Legends universe, rather than the canon expanded universe. The Rebellion Era encompasses a total of four periods and a special series entitled X-Wing Rogue Squadron (#1-35 + one Speical). The groups are as follows:
- Original Series – this group is relatively small and follows the events directly related to the movie A New Hope, the first movie in the Star Wars franchise. The main comic is the adaptation of the movie (#1-6), which has already been mentioned above. There was also a special edition series (#1-4) and the mini-series Tag & Bink Are Dead (#1-2).
- Post-Battle of Yavin – these stories are set in the period between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, following the events surrounding the Rebellion and the Empire. The majority of the story was published in 1977’s Star Wars (#7-44 + Annual #1) and the 2013’s Star Wars (#1-20) comic books, and the Star Wars: Rebellion (#1-14) series. Star Wars: Empire (#12-14, 16-40) also continues where it left of in the previous era. Other relevant titles from this period are Vader’s Quest (#1-4), Classic Star Wars: The Early Adventures (#1-9) and Classic Star Wars (#1-19), several Star Wars Tales stories, River of Chaos (#1-4) and the adaptation of the novel Splinter of the Mind’s Eye (#1-4).
- Post-The Empire Strikes Back – these stories practically continue where the previous left off and follow the events after Episode V. All the major stories were published in the main Star Wars (#45-81 + Annual #2-3) comic book (the 1977 edition) and the Return of the Jedi (#1-4) prequel comic. This period also includes several Star Wars Tales stories, as well as the titles Shadows of the Empire (#1-6) and Mara Jade: By the Emperor’s Hand (#0-6).
- Post-Return of the Jedi – this is the first series that contains stories that contradict Disney’s current canon, established by the Sequel Trilogy. The preceding stories might or might not be canon, but they don’t directly contradict Disney’s narrative choices. These stories were created before there even was a Sequel Trilogy, meaning that the artists could explore their own stories about what happened after the fall of Sidious and Vader. The main stories are once again published in the main Star Wars (#82-108) comic (1977 again), while other titles expanded on the main narrative. X-Wing: Rouge Leader (#1-3) started this period continuity-wise. There are also – again – several Star Wars Tales stories and the Shadows of the Empire: Evolution (#1-5) series.
New Republic Era
As we’ve stated, these and all the following comics follow a narrative that is immensely different from the current canon as established by Disney. The authors had a lot more liberty with the storylines, so practically everything that happened in them is not canon and – officially – it never happened in the universe. This era, which is set cca. 5 years after the Return of the Jedi and lasts for an additional 20 years, has three distinct subgroups:
- Original Series – this series kicked of with several Star Wars Tales stories and the Boba Fett: Twin Engines of Destruction one-shot. All the other stories were spread across three major narratives, them being Heir to the Empire (#1-6), Dark Force Rising (#1-6) and The Last Command (#1-6).
- Dark Empire – this series deals with the New Republic having to deal with some remnants of the Empire still threatening its existence. The main narrative was published in Dark Empire (#1-6), Dark Empire II (#1-6) and Empire’s End (#1-2), with additional stories from the Bobba Fett series.
- Crimson Empire – the last series from this era explores the remnants of the Emperor’s Guard and their adventures. It is a trilogy consisting of Crimson Empire (#1-6), Crimson Empire II: Council of Blood (#1-6) and Crimson Empire III: Empire Lost (#1-6). There are also additional stories from the Star Wars Tales series, as well as the titles Jedi Academy: Leviathan (#1-4) and Union (#1-4).
New Jedi Order Era
This is a relatively short era, set 25 years after the Original Trilogy and mostly involving the Yuuzhan Vong War. The original story was published in Chewbacca (#1-4) and a story from Star Wars Tales #18. The second period within this era deals with the Yuuzhan Vong War directly and was published in the Invasion trilogy, consisting of the storylines “Refugees” (#1-5), “Rescues” (#1-6) and “Revelations” (#1-6), with an additional story from Star Wars Tales #21.
The Legacy Era is set in the distant future, more than 130 years after the Original Trilogy. It follows a set of completely new characters and stories, one of them being Cade Skywalker. The stories from this era were published in the main series comic Legacy (#0-27, 32-50), but also in the Legacy: War (#1-6) comic book as well as the 2013’s Legacy (#1-18) series.
The Vector Crossover
The Vector Crossover isn’t actually a separate series or continuity, but rather a crossover that spans many eras throughout the four Star Wars comics that were being published at the time at Dark Horse Comics. Due to their specific nature, they are usually separated from the rest of the comics and include the following titles:
- Knights of the Old Republic #25 (Part 1)
- Knights of the Old Republic #26 (Part 2)
- Knights of the Old Republic #27 (Part 3)
- Knights of the Old Republic #28 (Part 4)
- Dark Times #11 (Part 5)
- Dark Times #12 (Part 6)
- Rebellion #15 (Part 7)
- Rebellion #16 (Part 8)
- Legacy #28 (Part 9)
- Legacy #29 (Part 10)
- Legacy #30 (Part 11)
- Legacy #31 (Part 12)
We’ve already told you what happened with the expanded universe when Disney took over Lucasfilm and the Star Wars franchise. The comics reverted back to Marvel in 2015 and everything published after that is considered canon, although these stories still don’t have the reputation of the Legends stories listed above.
The stories from this canon aren’t really systematised as the Legends universe, so we are just going to bring you a list of the titles and issues based on the period they are set in, referring to the movies as a starting point. So, the reading order would be as follows:
- Clone Wars period – Star Wars: Obi-Wan and Anakin (#1-5), Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir (#1-4)
- Post-Revenge of the Sith and pre-A New Hope period – Kanan: The Last Padawan (#1-12), Lando (#1-5)
- Original Trilogy period – Chewbacca (#1-5), Princess Leia (#1-5), Han Solo (#1-5), Star Wars (#1-25), Darth Vader (#1-25)
- Post-Return of the Jedi – Shattered Empire (#1-4), Star Wars: Poe Dameron (#1-12)
And that’s it for today. We hope you had fun reading this and that we helped solve this dilemma for you. See you next time and don’t forget to follow us!