Expanding the Star Wars Universe: 2016 Edition

To quote Ben Kenobi, the Star Wars films are merely the “first step into a larger world.” The comics, video games, and prose fiction that expand the Star Wars universe are legion. The Story Group at Lucasfilm is coordinating every single new story, giving them essentially equal weight in their contribution to the overall tapestry. Now is a great time to get into Star Wars in other media, also known as the Expanded Universe (EU) so here is a quick guide to help you get started.

Most of what I said in last year’s version of this post still applies, but I thought it would be good to update for the imminent release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

Television

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The current Star Wars animated series on television is Star Wars Rebels. Currently in its third season, it takes place 14 years after Revenge of the Sith, which is 5 years before A New Hope. It centers on a small cell of Rebels that are trying to undercut the Empire on a very small scale, though that expands with each season.

As the show has progressed, it connects to more and more of the overall Star Wars lore, including the prior Clone Wars series, film characters, and the no-longer-happened novels from the 1990s. There’s definitely something here for any Star Wars fan, and though some of it is clearly aimed at kids, that shouldn’t deter older fans.

The current season airs on Disney XD, or the episodes can be purchased digitally.

I should also note that Saw Gerrera, the character Forest Whitaker plays in Rogue One first appeared in the fifth season of Clone Wars, which is pretty cool.

The Novels

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When writing last year’s post, I had’t yet read Lost Stars by Claudia Gray. But I am so very glad I did. I was skeptical at first because the premise is basically a “forbidden love” story but with the Empire and Rebellion standing in for Montagues and Capulets (or vampires and humans, or something). However, this book is excellent. It’s one of the best written Star Wars novels of the past few years. And it’s vantage point of basically two soldiers trying to survive the Empire and the Rebellion leads to some interesting story implications. More than most it is able to create a sense of scale that is hard to see when we are just following the stars of the films. And how would a loyal Imperial solider feel if they had friends on the Death Star when it blew up? This might be the best Star Wars novel of the last few years.

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Also by Claudia Gray, Bloodline is a completely different type of novel than Lost Stars. Bloodline is a political novel, focusing on Princess Leia in her time as a senator for the New Republic. It sets up the origins of the Resistance we see in The Force Awakens, but that’s almost minor compared to the other things this novel focuses on. It really fleshes out Leia as a character, since she doesn’t really have much of an arc in the films, since she is a badass from the first time she appears in A New Hope all the way through the most recent film.

This book sees Leia struggling with her life being so public, not only her unorthodox (in her rarified circles) marriage to Han Solo, but the revelation to the galaxy that Darth Vader is her biological father. Political intrigue and personal crisis intersect in a fascinating way, and this book is much more House of Cards than debates around trade agreements.

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The most recent Star Wars novel, Catalyst is from all-star Star Wars author James Luceno, and is a direct tie-in to Rogue One. The book follows the path of a few characters from the film, mainly the parents of Felicity Jones’ character (played by Mads Mikkelsen and Valene Kane in the film) as they try to navigate the politics of the early Empire while trying to work on their research. Their relationship with Orson Krennic (played by Ben Mendelsohn) is at the center of the film. Not sure how essential this information will be to the film itself, if at all, but there’s something fascinating about how ‘regular people’ navigate then their government is turning into a dictatorship.

The Comics

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The Darth Vader comic, written by Kieron Gillen and drawn by Salvador Larroca seeks to answer the question how Darth Vader, seemingly disgraced at the end of A New Hope by the destruction of the Death Star, is commanding an entire fleet at the beginning of Empire Strikes Back. While portraying the Dark Lord of the Sith as a sympathetic character, the comic draws a lot on of both humor and intrigue based on the machinations and internal politics of the Empire.

Vader has his own agenda, distinct from that of other Imperials, and maybe even different from the Emperor. It also crosses over with the main Star Wars comic in a way that makes reading both a better experience while not making it feel shoehorned.

Sadly, the series recently ended, but it was one of the best comic books of the year. Gillen managed to weave together certain aspects of the prequels and the original films, all while keeping Darth Vader an imposing and unpredictable figure. I would highly recommend it to even the most casual of Star Wars fans.

Author: Ryan Silberstein

Ryan spends his days at a company named one of the best to work for in the Philadelphia area, and his nights as a mysterious caped vigilante saving his city from the disease that is crime watching movies. He lives on a diet consisting of film, comic books, experimental beer, black coffee, and those big metal historical markers around town. Follow him on Twitter and Letterboxd.

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