Today is Star Wars Day…May 4th (editor’s note: this got caught up in WordPress and didn’t get released until May 5th). While many have been disappointed in the recent movies, there is plenty of Star Wars stories out there to satisfy fans; many are also a good introduction to those who want to get into the deeper stories. Below are a few comics, novels, and TV shows that are good beginners for those wanting more.
I’ve excluded all the movies (since a majority of the population has seen them) and the Mandalorian (the highest point of new canon).
The Clone Wars (2008-2014, 2020)
If you would have told me that I’d have appreciated the prequel trilogy after watching this show, I’d have called you crazy. But that really happened. Many people feel that since this is a cartoon, it’s for kids; in actuality, it had a lot of deeper stories that adults can appreciate.
The main takeaway from the show is Ahsoka Tano, Anakin Skywalker’s apprentice; she starts out kind of an annoying character that has no real purpose, but she grows into the heart of the show. So much so, she keeps coming back (and will be showing up in the Mandalorian season 2). They also create a way for her to exist without being a contradiction to the movies, where she is never mentioned.
They also use an expanded cast of characters, introducing both new characters and expanding on existing ones. You see more of the fall of the Jedi, the reintroduction of Darth Maul, and aspects of the force that you never knew existed.
The first few episodes (and the accompanying movie) are cringe-worthy, but the show really finds it’s footing as it goes along. The newest season is some of the best Star Wars I’ve experienced and is worth Disney+ alone.
Note: The episodes are not released in order; the viewing order can be found here. It’ll help to understand the story and sets up the movie.
Think of this as a continuation of The Clone Wars. It brings back characters (Asoka, Maul) while introducing a new cast of character, including the teenaged Ezra Bridgers, a force sensitive street rat that finds a bigger purpose. The crew of the Ghost is a rag-tag group of characters that eventually win you over; the show, like The Clone Wars, it needs some time to get going.
Along with dealing with the new characters and the Planet Lothal, you get to see plenty of existing locales (Tatooine, the ship Tantive IV) and existing characters (Leia, Lando). You also get the ending to Maul’s story.
One of my favorite parts is bringing in Legends character Grand Admiral Thrawn, one of the best characters from the old canon. He’s also a very competent commander in a navy that is often shown as inept.
This show really has a beginning, middle, and end, but also leaves the story open to continue later on. Unfortunately, the supplemental material for these characters really hasn’t lived up to the show.
Dr. Aphra (2016 -2020)
W: Kieron Gillen/Si Spurrier, A: Kev Walker/Ashley Witter/Wilton Santos/Mike Deodato
Available in single issues, trades, and on Marvel Unlimited (6 month delay for new issues)
Aphra is one of the best new characters introduced in the new Disney canon. She debuted in the Vader comic at the launch of new canon. Aphra is an archeologist who is always on the watch for ways to better her financial situation; it leads her into the service of Darth Vader. Aided by the murderous droids Triple Zero and Bee Tee, Aphra goes across the galaxy double and triple crossing everyone she crosses. The comics coincides with the period between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, like the Vader and Star Wars comics it occasionally crosses over with.
The character is well rounded and hard to predict, which makes for an entertaining read.
To go with this, Disney announced this morning an exclusive audiobook detailing these adventures (to be released July 21st). There are also rumors that Aphra could become a live action character on Disney+, either in her own series or showing up in one of the currently scheduled shows (she’d be a good fit in the Cassian Andor show).
The comic also recently ended, with a new Aprha series launching today; it moves to after Empire, like the other Star Wars comics have done in this time period.
W: Charles Soule, A: Alex Maleev
Available in single issues, trade, and on Marvel Unlimited
This limited series (5 issues) features a Lando scheme before we meet him in Empire. Lando has a scheme to hijack a very valuable ship with the help of Lobot, but we soon learn who the ship belongs to and why it’s so valuable. You get more Lando in the series, which is something that has been lacking in the new canon before we saw Donald Glover take the role in Solo: A Star Wars Story. He’s very likeable while being a scoundrel.
This sets up the Lobot we see in Empire, which is a sad story, and why he’s an important part of Cloud City. Granted, he’s rarely mentioned after Empire and needs to have some of his own stories.
Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir (2014)
Dark Horse Comics
W: Jeremy Barlow, A: Juan Frigeri
Available in single issues, trade, and on Marvel Unlimited
Originally a script for The Clone Wars, Dark Horse adapted it as a limited series comic (4 issues) after the cartoon was cancelled. The story bridges the gap of season 6 of the show and the in progress season 7 (season 7 was to include this, the novel Dark Disciple, and a few unfinished episodes that didn’t air; all take place before the Bad Batch starts the current season). This explains more of Maul’s run in the Star Wars underworld and some of his background, while also featuring the Jedi and Sith.
I’d recommend reading it in conjunction with The Clone Wars between season 6 and 7 (after Dark Disciple), since that was were the story came from.
Lost Stars (2015)
This was the first novel I read of the new canon, and it’s what sucked me in (had I read Aftermath first, I would have been reluctant to move forward). The story, while aimed at young adults, does a great job of showing characters outside of those we’ve already seen. You follow 2 childhood friends (1 boy, 1 girl) as they join the Empire and move up the ladder. Eventually they split between the Empire and the Rebellion while still having feelings for each other. While it sounds like a YA novel, it does a great job of looking at what it’s like in the Imperial Navy and how people within it look at what’s happening.
The story also runs from before A New Hope to after Return of the Jedi, so you experience the movie through these new characters. What do they think about the destruction of Alderaan? How did the destruction of the Death Star impact them personally and professionally? You get appearances from established characters (Grand Moff Tarkin, Vader) and experience what it’s like to be around them.
After this book, I was willing to give everything else in canon a try and not turned off by a bad book here and there; the new canon, for the most part, is very good. Gray also has written other books in the new canon (Master and Apprentice, Leia Princess of Alderaan, Bloodline) which are very good and, in Bloodline, sets up the sequel trilogy.
The Thrawn Trilogy (2017, 2018, 2019)
People who read old canon know Zahn and Thrawn; Zahn pretty much created Star Wars novels with his original Thrawn Trilogy in the 1990s. When Disney announced they were making a new canon and all the existing novels were not part of it, these books are the reason many were upset. But Disney has taken better parts of Legends, like Thrawn, and incorporated them into the new.
Thrawn follows the story of an alien from the Unknown regions, who makes a deal with the Emperor and joins the Empire to help prepare them for a potential threat. Thrawn works his way up the hierarchy of the Imperial Navy to become a Grand Admiral. The 3 books are primarily set in the Rebels era (between the prequel and original trilogies) with flashbacks to pre-Empire Thrawn.
The stories are all well written, like the previous Zahn books, and show an intellectual character who is a competent leader (as mentioned up in Rebels). Zahn also builds a great supporting cast that goes from wondering about the outsider “pet” of the Emperor to respecting a military mind. The books also come as quick reads because you get sucked in quickly.
Dark Disciple (2015)
As mentioned in The Clone Wars, this story was a 8 episode arc on the cartoon that was converted to a novel after the series was cancelled on Cartoon Network. The story follows a Jedi plan to go against their way and assassinate Count Dooku. They use little known Jedi Quinlan Vos as the main character of the book, along with Asajj Ventress, the apprentice of Count Dooku who ends up a bounty hunter.
Vos is an interesting character to use; he’s typically undercover and was only seen in passing in The Phantom Menace (on Tatooine behind Qui-Gon Jinn, Padme, and Jar-Jar as they walk through Mos Espa) and a couple of episode of The Clone Wars. They build on his little screen time to make him into a very compelling character that you feel sorry for by the end of the book.
The story gets very dark at times and they are able to delve into that in the novel, since this is more focused for adults than the cartoon series was. It also shows the final breaking point of the Jedi order, which sets up Revenge of the Sith well.
Novelizations of the Movies
I wanted to mention the novelizations of the movies as good reads. They usually include deleted and original scenes that we don’t see in the movies. They have also been really good at explaining some of the plot holes that are common complaints after viewing the movies. I haven’t read the one for The Rise of Skywalker yet, but I’ve heard much of the same.
I know I’ve been guilty of complaining about this in the past, but much of the supplemental material is being used as set up for the movies now. It’s a problem, as many people don’t follow the supplemental material and feel lost in the movies. I’m usually explaining to many of my friends why parts of the movies didn’t make sense (I’ll get off my soap box now).
Did I miss something? List other materials in the comments so other’s can learn about good Star Wars.