rom lightsaber duels, starfields, and iconic costumes, Star Wars lends itself well to the medium of comics. There are also plenty of backstories and side stories that are simply meant for comics as opposed to film, TV, or prose.
Let’s face it though—there are hundreds and hundreds of Star Wars comics—one-shots, miniseries, ongoing series; comics set thousands of years before the films, a hundred years after Return of the Jedi, even comics that serve as an alternative history to the films themselves.
The first Star Wars comic was released prior to the first film back in 1977, after all! From Canon to Legends, we’ve got you covered. Here you’ll find five recommended starting places for reading Star Wars comics, as voted on by Youtini’s comics experts (plus honorable mentions).
The first question, before which comics to select, is how to even get your hands on these in the first place! There is no shortage of different methods to acquire Star Wars comics. Each method has its inherent advantages and disadvantages: price, availability, and convenience are all primary factors that might inform your decision.
We suggest checking out our guide on the best way to read comics. There, you’ll learn all about Comixology, Marvel Unlimited, dive deep into the massive back catalog of Legends comics, single issues, trade paperbacks, graphic novels, hardcover omnibi ... We weren’t joking that there are a lot of ways to engage.
One great way to get to know your local comics community is to start a pull list at your local comics shop and ask them to hold any and all new Star Wars new releases.
The Foundational Five
When Star Wars comics returned to their original home at Marvel Comics in 2015, it was a day long remembered. On the one hand, the massive catalog of Dark Horse comics was relegated to “Legends” status, a bittersweet decision for EU fans—it was a sidelining of beloved continuity, but also a much-needed fresh start! And what a start it was.
The initial run of Marvel’s Star Wars hit the exact right notes—a classic adventure story set immediately after A New Hope, starring all of the main characters we know and love. The premise revolves around the Rebels’ mission on Cymoon 1, where they attempt to sabotage an Imperial weapons factory, all while interacting and intersecting with Darth Vader (2015) series in surprising and interesting ways.
It’s full of jaw-dropping, larger-than-life moments that only comics can provide—AT-ATs bursting through walls, a Luke vs. Boba Fett showdown in Ben Kenobi’s hut, and a duel with Darth Vader before their fateful encounter in The Empire Strikes Back!
It’s possibly the single greatest jumping-on point in the history of Star Wars comics. Jason Aaron and John Cassaday’s synergy was off the charts. Cassaday described drawing the galaxy's "junk-like" aesthetic as a "headache and an absolute pleasure all at the same time.” The series would go on to run for 75 issues with a number of crossover events with Darth Vader and Doctor Aphra.
It spun an interesting web of original characters as well as deliberate logical emotional development for the Big Three in the time between Episodes IV and V. Luke, for example, has to learn how to summon a lightsaber to himself as we see in the Wampa’s lair on Hoth. Han and Leia clearly have developed a tremendous amount of pent-up romantic tension that will come to fruition in the cramped hallways of Echo Base and the Millennium Falcon.
All of that and more can be found in 2015’s mainline Star Wars series.
Originally introduced as a foil for the dark lord in Darth Vader (2015), Doctor Aphra is a scrappy space archaeologist with a questionable moral compass, accompanied by murder droids and somehow has a compelling heart of gold.
After blowing us away in her initial introduction, Star Wars fans around the galaxy were shocked and thrilled to learn that Chelli would be receiving her own self-titled ongoing series—the first original new EU character to receive such a series!
The series is unique in more ways than we could possibly describe here. In fact, our first roundtable of Youtini’s brand-new comics live show, The Cosmic Force, began with a breakdown of this exact work. In the style of Indiana Jones, Doctor Aphra is often in way over her head in search of ancient artifacts, hunted by bounty hunters and allies-turned-sour after having been double-or-triple-crossed.
It goes to unbelievably wild places, especially when you factor in the mania of the murderous Triple Zero, C3PO’s dark counterpart. It’s dark, violent, humorous, heartbreaking, original, and romantic. It even won the 2020 GLAAD award for an outstanding comic.
Since her debut, Aphra has gone on to headline her own original audio drama reimagining her arc from the 2015 Darth Vader series, a script book of said audio drama, yet another ongoing series, and even received her own Black Series action figure! In many ways, the audio drama is a good introduction to check out before reading this 2016 series, though not necessary. Aphra herself certainly wouldn’t play by the rules, after all.
Perhaps no Star Wars comic has captured the cultural consciousness of the Star Wars fandom quite like Charles Soule’s Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith. At first, we were surprised. “Another Vader comic?!” After all, Kierron Gillen’s 25-issue series had just concluded, and Dark Horse had churned out one excellent Vader series after another. But that puzzlement quickly turned into amazement.
Pitched as “Baby Vader” by Soule himself, the 2017 series picked up right where Revenge of the Sith left off—during the ending of Episode III, in fact! The 25-issue series is the true burial of Anakin Skywalker as he reckons with the death of Padmé, hunts down surviving Jedi, constructs his own lightsaber, and oversees the construction of the magnanimous castle first introduced in Rogue One.
Soule truly established himself as one of the greatest minds to ever play in George Lucas’s sandbox with Dark Lord of the Sith. Paired with artist Giuseppe Camuncoli, the duo truly delivered.
From the moment we laid eyes on Kylo Ren and his unruly, red, crossguard lightsaber in the 2014 Thanksgiving teaser trailer, we were dying to know his backstory. It wasn’t until the Sequel Trilogy reached its conclusion that our eyes were opened via the release of The Rise of Kylo Ren from Charles Soule and Will Sliney. Although a brief four issues long, this is quite possibly the most important Canon Star Wars comic in existence.
Soule rightly nicknamed the miniseries “From Ben to Ren,” as it depicts a teenage Ben Solo as he encountered the Knights of Ren, was seduced by Snoke, and turned against his classmates at Luke’s Jedi academy. In many ways, it is the most in-depth of a story we have about Ben Solo/Kylo Ren outside of the Sequel Trilogy, showing both his heart and his heartbreak, his strength and his weakness.
As the only truly self-contained miniseries on the list, it’s the shortest read of our Foundational Five. There is no additional required reading, but there are Easter eggs for the High Republic! It will absolutely change your perspective on the character; you’ll never watch the Sequel Trilogy the same way ever again.
We had to have at least one Legends recommendation on our Foundational Five, didn’t we? Dark Empire, divisive as it is, is truly a staple of the Expanded Universe. Having regained relevance by the recent resurrection of Palpatine in The Rise of Skywalker, it first shocked Star Wars fans in 1991 as Dark Horse’s first foray out of the gate with the Star Wars license. From visionary creators Tom Veitch and Cam Kennedy, Dark Empire was a deep dive into the nature of the Force itself.
Luke Skywalker, changed by the events of Return of the Jedi, realizes that the only way to truly defeat Palpatine (for real this time) is to penetrate the dark side itself, taking up his father’s mantle at the Emperor’s side, gaining Palpatine’s secrets—most importantly, the secret to underdressed Palpatine’s immortality. But will Luke lose himself to the dark side? Was Yoda correct when he croaked, “Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny?”
Luke isn’t the only character who gets time in the spotlight in Dark Empire. Not only that, Leia also wields a lightsaber for the first time in the EU, depicted brilliantly in Dave Dorman’s cover art. Leia bears the future of the Jedi in her womb—and dark forces compete to claim her spawn for their nefarious purposes.
Han returns to seek aid from his smuggler buddies on the rats’ nest world of Nar Shaddaa, where he is ambushed by none other than Boba Fett, whom the sarlacc “found somewhat indigestible.”
Despite having a bit of an adversarial relationship with The Thrawn Trilogy, largely for having been written by two brilliant authors at the exact same time with conflicting stories set shortly after Return of the Jedi, Dark Empire is one of the pillars of the Legends universe. After its initial six issues, it received another six issue sequel series, and a brief two-issue conclusion, Empire’s End, in 1994 and 1995, respectively.
Congratulations! You’ve taken your first steps into a larger world. What a large world it is!
Where to go from here? Fear not! We’ve got tons more comics coverage headed your way.
One option is to pick an era, a character, or a favorite film, or creator and dive in deep. You can do so with our collection of assorted reading guides! Want to read the story of Mara Jade? We’ve got you covered. Love the works of Charles Soule? Buckle up. How about all of the comics that tie into The Rise of Skywalker? That’s a great way to go.
If that’s too open-ended for you, here are a few of our favorites that almost made the list.
Legends Clone Wars Comics: Republic
From legendary comics creators John Ostrander and Jan Duursema, this is one of the most expansive, character-centric works of Legends comics. It follows rogue Jedi Quinlan Vos and Aayla Secura in their back-and-forth battle against the dark side, set against the backdrop of the Clone Wars. Beginning in 1998, Republic was truly ahead of its time, running for 83 issues. Vos’s duel darkness would eventually gain Canon status in Christie Golden’s beloved novel, Dark Disciple.
In true Legends style, the numeration of this series is a bit dicey, as its plotines began in Dark Horse’s mainline Star Wars title, and continued beyond the pages of Republic into Dark Times. For simplicity’s sake, we recommend checking out the Twilight story arc in Republic issues 19-22.
‘Age of’ One-Shots
What’s amazing about this ongoing series of one-shot issues is that a tremendous number of characters get their moment in the spotlight. Whereas one-shots are typically self-contained and disconnected from any ongoing story arc, these play off of one another in a way that forms a tapestry of complex characters, heroes, villains, and droids alike, across all three eras—Republic, Rebellion, and Resistance.
Some of the standout issues are Qui-Gon Jinn’s story and Supreme Leader Snoke’s. From Jody Houser, Grek Pak, and Tom Taylor.
Tales of the Jedi
One final Legends recommendation is also one of the earliest-written in real-world chronology. From Tom Veitch (Dark Empire) and Kevin J. Anderson, Tales of the Jedi forms the backdrop of the Old Republic. It would later be expanded upon and included in dozens of classic Star Wars stories, including Knights of the Old Republic, the Darth Bane Trilogy, and the Jedi Academy Trilogy. It’s epic and personal, medieval and Shakespearean all at once. Have you ever heard the tragedy of Ulic Qel-Droma? It’s a story we love to tell among the Legends-lovers at Youtini.
Connect with Us
Want more comics content from Youtini? You’re in luck! We’ve just started a brand-new, comics-centric show, The Cosmic Force! Catch Tyler, Jacob, Emma, and Caleb live every Wednesday at 8 PM EST. From Aphra, Vader, Valance, and Sskeer, we’ve got panels, news, and roundtable discussions over the best of the best of Star Wars comics.
With these foundational books under your belt, you should be armed with a better understanding of the EU. From here, you can decide where you want to travel next. No single path works for everyone. That’s why we created our ultimate guides to point you to the best Star Wars books of all time and reading collections so you can browse stories by character, theme, or genre. And don’t forget to check our release schedule to stay up to date on the newest additions to the EU.
Be sure to share your journey with us on our Discord and hang out with the friendliest Star Wars community in the galaxy.