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This Wednesday, the first issue of Marvel Entertainment’s Journey To Star Wars: The Force Awakens — Shattered Empire will be released, revealing all new details about what happened in a galaxy far, far away after the destruction of the second Death Star. It’s one of the most high-profile Star Wars comics published by Marvel, but the company has a long history of publishing great, and occasionally very, very strange, Star Wars comics. To help prepare for what’s to come, here’s a selection of the highlights of Marvel’s Star Wars career to date.
(For those looking to track down these issue, they’re available digitally via ComiXology, and also Marvel’s subscription service Marvel Unlimited.)
Eight For Aduba-3 (Star Wars Nos. 7-10, 1977-1978)
The first original Star Wars story to follow the movie is one that demonstrates that not everyone has the tone of the movie down just yet — a space-age rehash of The Magnificent Seven starring Han Solo and Chewbacca sounds like a great idea until you get to the cynical bright green anthropomorphized rabbit, after all. As a relic of the days when rules surrounding Star Wars were far more lax, it’s definitely a keeper — and, if you can get past the goofiness of the whole thing, it’s a lot of fun, too.
To Take The Tarkin (Star Wars Nos. 51-52, 1981)
Years before Return of the Jedi revealed construction of a second Death Star, Marvel’s Star Wars comic had introduced the Tarkin — a planned second generation of the Death Star idea, more powerful than the first and named after the Grand Moff in charge of the space station from the first movie. The two-part story that saw Luke, Leia and Lando go undercover in Empire territory to stop construction didn’t just predate the mission from Jedi — it arguably delivered a superior story in the process.
Shira’s Story (Star Wars Nos. 60-63, 1982)
In general, the Marvel series peaked in the era between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi; the two movies had given enough of an idea of what made a Star Wars story “feel” right, while almost all of the major players remained on stage for the comic creators to deal with (Han Solo, of course, was lost in carbonite, but he was available for the occasional flashback when necessary). This let creators explore areas that the movies hadn’t touched on without feeling too off-brand, as in this story arc about characters lost in the course of duty, and the possibility of double agents going undercover in enemy territory. (Shira Brie, the eponymous X-Wing pilot protagonist of this arc, would later re-appear in a significantly different form as the series drew to a close — but more on that later.)
Jawas of Doom (Star Wars Nos. 81-85, 1983-1984)
After the (literally) explosive finale of Return of the Jedi, the monthly Star Wars series decided to kick back and relax with a number of issues focusing on the heroes trying to settle back into their lives post-war, with mixed results. Armed with a lot of humor to offset the derring-do adventures, these short stories act as almost an antidote to the melodrama of the final movie to date, while also playing for time when it comes to the all-important question of where does the franchise go without Darth Vader and the Emperor…?
First Strike (Star Wars Nos. 96-97, 100-107, 1985-1986)
The answer to that question, it turned out, was creating an all-new opposing force called the Nagai, made up of new characters and leftover Stormtroopers that really didn’t want this “peace” thing to catch on. Amongst their number, a new Darth Vader-esque figure who wielded a “lightship,” instead of a “lightsaber,” and who’d later be revealed to be the presumed-dead Shira Brie, rebuilt as a cyborg. Despite the Marvel series’ disconnection from larger Star Wars mythology, the character would prove popular enough to reappear in a number of “Expanded Universe” novels.
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