Top 10 Star Wars Comics!

Hey everybody!

I’ve been playing with movies again! At the weekend, I cobbled up a video running down my favourite 10 Star Wars comics from Dark Horse, since it’s a topic that’s been coming up a lot throughout this blog. So I thought you might like you see it!

First of all, this list was hard to put together. There are a lot of awesome comics from Dark Horse; trying to whittle the corpus down to just ten was super difficult.

10. Dark Lords of the Sith
I’ve talked about the Tales of the Jedi series here. Dark Lords of the Sith is, for me, such a good story because it’s the first in this series that feels comfortable in its surroundings. It introduces Exar Kun, who is a tremendously great character, but continues the tale of Ulic Qel-Droma begun in Knights of the Old Republic. It was very difficult to decide between this and The Sith War – or, y’know, to have a joint entry, especially seeing as how they’re very closely related, and could legitimately be grouped as such. But DLS has that special place for me simply because, as I said, it feels more natural, and not quite so bogged-down in scene-setting.

9. The Wrong Side of the War
The final story arc in the Empire run, I loved this tale when I first read it because it told a really awesome story. After building up Janek Sunbar in To the Last Man, which just felt like another Empire story (albeit a really enjoyable one), everything seems to coalesce in this story to make it one that feels like a real “timeline” story, like it has actual meaning for the characters. It also brings together a number of characters from the Empire run into something like a cohesive story, and links strongly to the Jabiim storyline from In the Shadows of their Fathers, an excellent story that sadly just missed out on making this list! In a sense, it also feels like it needs My Brother, My Enemy as a kind of coda for the story, but overall, I feel it’s worthy of standing on its own.

8. Claws of the Dragon
It was hard to decide which Legacy story to include, as I read these comics all in one go, thus it feels like one long story to me. However, Claws of the Dragon has a similar feel to DLS, where the scene has been set, and we’ve had all of the foreplay in a sense, so we’re now into the real meat of the series. All of the main characters we’ve seen so far have important roles, and of course, who can forget that shocking reveal! Exceptional storytelling.

7. Darklighter
One of the best, and indeed, if I was ranking these things purely on the storytelling and not on their sentimental/personal effect for me, it would have ended up much higher. Darklighter weaves the tale of Biggs prior to his death in the trench run, and he emerges as one of the most compelling characters of the entire saga. This comic uses a lot of the cut scenes from A New Hope that featured Biggs and Luke, so it’s pretty amazing to actually have that side of things too.

6. Mara Jade: By the Emperor’s Hand
This was one of the first Star Wars comics I read, and I was tremendously impressed with it. We follow Mara Jade immediately following the fall of the Emperor, as she tries to put her life back together. It shows awesome development of the character, and while a lot of the Mara Jade stories tend to be almost irrelevant in terms of the overall timeline, this turns out to be really very enjoyable.

5. The Last Siege, the Final Truth
So #5 and #4 are examples of essentially a two-volume entry that really do deserve to stand on their own. I love the Quinlan Vos storyline, and used to regularly re-read it from Republic through the Clone Wars, and could quite happily have included almost every entry in this top ten. However, the Siege of Saleucami really deserves to be singled out for greatness itself. For long-time readers of the Republic and Clone Wars stories, this tale has a lot to offer, as we see a lot of the “stable” of characters from throughout that series come together, almost as one last hurrah. Particularly important here, however, is the inclusion of the two-part Trackdown story, where we learn about Tholme training with Anzati assassins very much in a samurai-esque fashion, which speaks highly to the meta-origins of the franchise. Stunning artwork abounds – including Oppo Rancisis unleashed! Whoa!

4. Light and Dark
This entry is really a place-holder for the entire Quinlan Vos storyline, which began in Twilight and ran all the way through the Republic series. It’s pretty much top-notch storytelling, and I’m planning to do a blog showcasing just why I love it so much at some point. However, Light and Dark features four standalone stories that come together into a beautiful tale of Quinlan’s career during the Clone Wars. As a big Count Dooku fan, I particularly like seeing the Sith Lord’s manipulations during his eponymous Jedi: Dooku story (as well as all those Ishi Tib!). If you only ever read one story from the Clone Wars run, however, it ought to be this one.

3. Betrayal
My top three were, in one sense, no-brainers, but as I said earlier, this was also a really tough decision to make, given the high quality of Dark Horse comics over the years. The highest-placed of the three Empire entries is Betrayal, the inaugural arc of that series. I can still remember the sense of unadulterated joy the announcement of this comic stirred for me, as we were promised a different look at the Empire, stories set within the corridors of power rather than purely from the rebels’ point of view. Betrayal introduced Grand Moff Trachta, and features a web of deceit and, indeed, betrayal so dense that it takes a couple of read-throughs to really see the beauty of it. Highly recommended to anyone who will stand still long enough to listen!

2. The Path to Nowhere
If you’ve read my recent ramblings about the Dark Times series, you’ll know how highly I rated this comic. It’s a really beautifully-told story, one that interweaves the lives of Vader and the Emperor with the rogue Jedi Dass Jennir and the rag-tag crew of the Uhumele. There’s a real sense of the quest as the good guys try to find Bomo Greenbark’s missing family, with truly horrible results, and while this comic is actually incredibly bleak and grim, it’s nevertheless so wonderfully constructed that you can enjoy it as a piece of art. Truly amazing work, this.

1. Crimson Empire
Should be no surprise about the top spot, if you read this blog from last year. This was the very first Star Wars comic I read, and introduced me to the medium along with a whole cast of awesome characters, headlined by Carnor Jax and Kir Kanos. Some amazing artwork, and a storyline that is utterly compelling, all the more so because it doesn’t feature any of the big movie characters, this tale should be on everybody’s shelf. It’s as simple as that!

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So there you have it, guys, my top ten! I’m sure I could probably augment this, adding in some more around the Legacy and the Quinlan Vos stories, as I predominantly view these things as storylines and don’t break them down into individual arcs. I enjoyed this look through the comics, anyway, and I think I might soon do something for the novels, as well!

What are your thoughts? Do you approve? Are you surprised there were no X-Wing/Knights of the Old Republic/Original Marvel stories in there? Are you scandalised I didn’t pick Dark Empire for my #1 slot? Let me know what you think!

Buy them from amazon:
Dark Lords of the Sith
The Wrong Side of the War
Claws of the Dragon
Darklighter
Mara Jade: By the Emperor’s Hand
The Last Siege, the FInal Truth
Light and Dark
Betrayal
The Path to Nowhere
Crimson Empire

Tales of the Jedi

It’s Sunday! You know what that means… well, I’m not quite sure where that is going, but it’s Sunday! And it’s the middle of the three-day-weekend! So I thought it might be nice to go for a bit of a feature-Sunday here (this probably won’t become a thing, but you never know!)

So, after my blog on the Dark Empire series, I’ve been feeling pretty bummed out. I think, more than anything, I feel like I’ve let myself down by being so derisive of what is often seen as a modern classic. It’s tantamount to blasphemy, almost! But anyway. I thought today I’d talk about another classic of the early years of Dark Horse comics publishing of Star Wars, the Tales of the Jedi saga. I’m quite the fan of these books, and read them fairly often, most recently in Feb/March this year, just outside the scope of this blog, hence I suppose why I’m writing this now. Anyway!

Tales of the Jedi

Tales of the Jedi began back in the 80s, when Tom Veitch was pitching ideas for Star Wars comics to Lucasfilm. Initially refused, on the grounds that the franchise wasn’t going anywhere, it was only after the success of Dark Empire that the team managed to get some renewed interest in the idea. George Lucas himself apparently got very interested in the idea of a comic series set 4000 years before the film trilogy, and personally approved the storylines for each.

Beginning in October 1993 with Ulic Qel-Droma and the Beast Wars of Onderon, the series would eventually run to 35 comics that told the whole story of Ulic from his days as a padawan, through his fall to the Dark Side, and his eventual redemption, alongside that of the unwilling Jedi, Nomi Sunrider. Further issues would explore even further back in the mythic past of the Jedi and the Sith. A year after the Onderon story began, the next arc of the saga came out, Dark Lords of the Sith. Opening the universe still further with the Jedi enclave on Dantooine, we are introduced here to the Jedi Exar Kun, who would fall to the Dark Side and unleash the terrible Sith War on the galaxy. Dark Lords of the Sith added the author Kevin J Anderson to the production team, who was currently working on his Jedi Academy trilogy of novels that dealt with the spirit of Exar Kun trapped on Yavin IV. With the comic series, Anderson was able to tell the backstory on this, slotting in his ideas neatly with Veitch’s, to create more of a homogeneous feel to the universe. Despite Veitch’s departure from the project before the end, the series was brought to a suitable conclusion at the beginning of 1996 in The Sith War, before Anderson launched into a prequel story set 1000 years before the saga of Ulic, The Golden Age of the Sith. This was a universe still being discovered, where ancient Sith Lords were more like mad alchemical scientists. Featuring stories around Naga Sadow and Ludo Kressh, as well as Empress Teta and the Great Hyperspace War, not to mention lightsabers that came with backpack power generators, the universe really does feel like a mythic past in this and the following arc, The Fall of the Sith Empire, which concluded late in 1997. Finally, in summer 1998, the saga of Ulic Qel-Droma began its conclusion with the emotionally-charged Redemption arc. In a series spanning five years, the Tales of the Jedi finally reached their conclusion.

I really enjoyed this series. The core of the saga, which follows Ulic on his journey from Jedi apprentice to Sith apprentice, through being stripped of his Force powers and finally to his redemption, is really nicely done. Despite the fact that Ulic falls to the Dark Side in a misguided attempt to learn its secrets and thus to defeat it from within, I still think this is a much better tale than that eventually told by the Star Wars prequel movies. It’s also a lot better than the execution in Dark Empire of Luke’s fall, but I won’t go over that again.

There are all sorts of things in these ‘early’ stories, perhaps most notably the idea that anyone can be trained to use the Force, back when the idea appeared to be more in terms of a mystical religion than a biological phenomenon. Satal Keto and his cousin Aleema are described as “bored aristocrats” with no particular affinity for the Force, and yet through the power of the Sith amulets they find, they are able to control the mystical energy field. Hm. Personally, I prefer this view as being much more, well, sensible. But anyway.

The key to success with any Star Wars story, for me, lies firmly between boldly-drawn characters and epic situations, and the whole saga has that. Even what are, I suppose, the bit-players are really compelling characters, including Shoaneb Culu, the first Miraluka to appear in the universe (perhaps more famous examples include Jerec from Dark Forces, and Visas Marr from KOTOR2). The series is made increasingly rich as we follow first Ulic and then Nomi on their very different paths through the Jedi way. From the beginning, we have incredibly compelling situations, as Ulic, his brother Cay, and the Twi’lek Tott Doneeta travel to Onderon to help mediate in the Beast Wars. Some epic storytelling, including incredible reversals, launches the galaxy-spanning epic. By the time we’re introduced to Exar Kun, the figures of Ulic Qel-Droma and his companions already have something of a celebrity feel about them. By the end of the series, we feel like we know these characters as well as the films of the original trilogy.

I don’t often mention the art when I’ve looked at comic books in the past, largely because I’m not really that much of a connoisseur. However, I have to say that I absolutely love the art of Christian Gossett, who drew most of the Dark Lords of the Sith arc, and whose art was, for many years for me, synonymous with Star Wars comics.

Of course, having grown up with the Bantam books, and the Jedi Academy trilogy were among the first that I’d read, when I eventually got into the comics and started to read these stories, they really were like reading the long-lost history of the galaxy. Reading about Exar Kun’s exploits when I’d only previously known him as a disembodied spirit wreaking havoc on Yavin IV, that was particularly gratifying. Somehow, the names of these characters and locations have a mythic feel to them, too – Ulic Qel-Droma, Nomi Sunrider, Arca Jeth, Vodo Siosk-Baas, Satal Keto, Freedon Nadd, and of course, Exar Kun himself. While we have the classic Yavin IV location, which explains what those jungle temples the Rebel Alliance were using were all about, we also visit Dantooine, but also have new locations such as Onderon and the Dxun Moon, the Jedi training centre on Ossus, and the Sith ‘homeworld’ of Korriban. All of these things are so intrinsically part of Star Wars lore that I can’t help but feel like it’s part of something really special.

Aside from the Jedi Academy trilogy, the events and situations were most strongly referenced in the later Dark Empire stories, where Leia takes refuge on Onderon to escape the Emperor’s attempted kidnapping of her son Anakin. In later media, the novel Darth Bane: Rule of Two features a trip to Onderon in a sort of pilgrimage to find the tomb of Freedon Nadd. The Sith stronghold of Ziost plays a significant part in the Legacy of the Force novel series, while Korriban, as a sacred world to the Sith Order, features strongly in pretty much any story where the Sith are prominent, either by name or an actual appearance. Perhaps the greatest homage was paid by Lucas himself, however, when he modeled Darth Maul’s twin-bladed lightsaber on that of Exar Kun.

Before the advent of BioWare’s Knights of the Old Republic┬áreinvigorated interest in the ancient history of the Star Wars universe, Tales of the Jedi sat apart from the rest of the canon, which centred around the original trilogy and, as the prequels came out, ventured no further into the past than forty or fifty years before A New Hope. But now, there’s all sorts of stuff going on at that end of the timeline, including even earlier stories, Dawn of the Jedi.

Ulic Qel-Droma
Ulic Qel-Droma
Nomi Sunrider
Nomi Sunrider
Exar Kun
Exar Kun duels Vodo Siosk-Baas
Cay Qel-Droma
Cay Qel-Droma
Arca Jeth confronts the spectre of Freedon Nadd
Arca Jeth confronts the spectre of Freedon Nadd

It’s a really great series of comics, and I can heartily recommend you take a look!

Buy it from amazon:
The Golden Age of the Sith
The Fall of the Sith Empire
Knights of the Old Republic
The Freedon Nadd Uprising
Dark Lords of the Sith
The Sith War
Redemption

Tales of the Jedi: Omnibus 1
Tales of the Jedi: Omnibus 2