The Star Wars film series has spawned comic books since its very beginning. In April 1977, Marvel Comics began its long-running series that ran until June 1986. Two other comics based on the Ewoks and Droids television series of the mid-1980s were also produced, ending in July 1987. But Marvel ultimately forfeited its publication license to Dark Horse Comics. In 2014, though, Disney's acquisition of the Star Wars brand sparked a return to Marvel. Marvel wasted no time restarting the series, completely ignoring all the comics, novels, and other non-film and non-television content produced before.
The first and longest-running comic series released by Marvel remains the simply-titled Star Wars, began on 14 January 2015. As of the end of 2018, twelve graphic novels have been published within this series, including two official crossovers. The series is also closely tied to the Darth Vader and Doctor Aphra series. All three series take place in the three years between the end of Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope and beginning of Star Wars: Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, although two arcs and eight comic issues are entirely devoted to flashbacks to earlier periods.
The Darth Vader and Doctor Aphra series are much darker in tone. The first Darth Vader issue released only a month after Star Wars' debut, on 11 February 2015, and produced four graphic novels. After the series was cancelled in October 2016, a spin-off focused on Darth Vader's protégé, the rogue archaeologist Doctor Chelli Aphra, was ordered and continues to run today. Doctor Aphra is currently on its fifth graphic novel.
There is a minor amount of crossover between the Star Wars series and the Darth Vader and Doctor Aphra series, although the main characters only appear during official crossover events such as Vader Down or The Screaming Citadel. One character, however, has become a regular in Star Wars and Doctor Aphra: the smuggler Sana Starros, a former love interest to both Han Solo and Chelli Aphra. Other than her, each series has its own cast of colourful characters, some of whom appear in the film series, others who do not.
The following list is perhaps the best way to approach the three series if you want to maximise the crossovers and stay interested in the individual storylines. Spoilers have been minimised as much as possible in the summaries below, but there are some revelations that are unavoidable in order to outline the series properly.
- Star Wars,Vol. 1: Skywalker Strikes - This is where everything begins. The story starts a few months after the Battle of Yavin at the end of Star Wars: A New Hope. Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and Han Solo lead a raid into the heart of the Empire, but things do not go according to plan!
- Darth Vader, Vol. 1: Vader - Running parallel to Skywalker Strikes, Vader follows Darth Vader's punishment at allowing the Death Star to be destroyed. Emperor Palpatine takes on some potential rivals for Vader's power and Vader must come to terms with his decreased place within the Imperial hierarchy. Allying with Doctor Aphra, Vader must prove his worth or suffer the consequences.
- Star Wars, Vol. 2: Showdown on the Smuggler's Moon - This volume begins with a short story from the Journal of Old Ben Kenobi and then jumps straight back into the action. Han Solo is confronted with an interesting person from his past, while Luke breaks into the old Jedi Temple on Coruscant only to discover that things have changed over the past twenty years.
- Darth Vader, Vol. 2: Shadows and Secrets - Vader is forced to work under General Tagge, but he is fighting back in every way possible. His agent, Doctor Aphra, meanwhile is on a private mission from Vader, but her discoveries may prove to be deadly.
- Star Wars:Vader Down - Darth Vader has crashed on a remote planet and is being hunted by the Rebels! But no fear, Doctor Aphra and her two deadly droids, BT-1 and Triple-Zero have come to the rescue.
- Star Wars, Vol. 3: Rebel Jail - A collection of three different stories. Rebel spy Eneb Ray must help a group of Rebel-sympathising senators to escape the Imperial capital planet. Luke and company have captured Doctor Aphra but it doesn't take long before she escapes and begins causing mayhem. Follow their haphazard adventure through the Rebel prison! Lastly, enjoy a tale of Obi-Wan Kenobi during his time living on Tatooine.
- Darth Vader, Vol. 3: The Shu-Torun War - This is where the plot of both Star Wars and Darth Vader take off and set the course for much of the rest of the series. Vader intervenes in a civil war on the planet Shu-Torun and allies with the young Princess Trios, a figure who will return with a vengeance later.
- Star Wars, Vol. 4: The Last Flight of the Harbinger - Meet Scar Squadron, an elite group of stormtroopers who will stop at nothing to stop the Rebels from achieving their goals. Also, the wookiee Bounty Hunter Black Krrsantan has been hired for a job by Jabba the Hutt, but Obi-Wan Kenobi intervenes.
- Darth Vader, Vol. 4: End of Games - Darth Vader returns to favour in the eyes of the emperor but before returning to his duties, he must deal with his rivals and tie up lose ends.
- Star Wars, Vol. 5: Yoda's Secret War - Luke Skywalker is captured and looks back into the Journal of Old Ben Kenobi to realise that the great Jedi Master Yoda was in a similar situation a long time ago. Meanwhile, Leia is on a secret mission against the Empire!
- Doctor Aphra, Vol. 1: Aphra - Aphra has escaped from Darth Vader with BT-1 and Triple Zero and now she returns to her former profession: finding dangerous archaeological relics across the galaxy. But bounty hunters aren't far behind.
- Star Wars: The Screaming Citadel - Luke and Doctor Aphra join forces to investigate the Screaming Citadel and confront its deadly queen in this eerie and somewhat strange cross-over series.
- Doctor Aphra, Vol. 2: Doctor Aphra and the Enormous Profit - Aphra picked up an important artifact in The Screaming Citadel and now she's trying to sell it off, but things do go quite according to plan...
- Star Wars, Vol. 6: Out Among the Stars - Luke, Leia, Han, Chewbacca, Lando Calrissian, Sana Starros, C-3PO, and Scar Squadron all feature in this collection of seven interrelated stories.
- Star Wars, Vol. 7: The Ashes of Jedha - Luke, Leia, and Han return to the planet Jedha, ruined by the Death Star in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, to try and recruit the surviving members of Saw Guerrera's ragtag band of Partisans.
- Doctor Aphra, Vol. 3: Remastered - Triple Zero has led a coup against Aphra, turning her from master to mastered. Now she must do everything in her power to escape the clutches of the evil protocol droid.
- Star Wars, Vol. 8: Mutiny at Mon Cala - The Rebels head to the planet Mon Cala in a desperate attempt to bring the Mon Calamari fleet to their side. But the Empire finds out and sends their navy to suppress the Mon Calamari once and for all.
- Doctor Aphra, Vol. 4: The Catastrophe Con - Aphra has exchanged one master for another, having been captured by the Empire and placed in a forced labour camp. But her love interest, Inspector Tolvan, unexpectedly appears to help her just as another old flame, Sana Starros, arrives with a ship and the same purpose.
- Star Wars, Vol. 9: Hope Dies - As the Rebels repair the Mon Calamari fleet at a hidden rebel shipyard, the Empire moves in for the kill sparking the single largest battle between the two forces since the Battle of Yavin. Will the Rebellion survive?
- Star Wars, Vol. 10: The Escape - Set immediately after the events of Hope Dies, the Rebellion is on the run and the Empire is in close pursuit. They must call in every favour that they have to escape and keep the Rebellion alive.
- Star Wars: Storms of Crait - This book takes place after the chronology above. It serves as a good short story within the general series of events between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back while also connecting to plot points from the novel Leia, Princess of Alderaan, and the film Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
This brings the current storyline established in 2015 to the beginning of 2019, but both Star Wars and Doctor Aphra are ongoing and new issues are scheduled through the year. There are also many other Star Wars stories that take place in other eras or are not clearly associated with the main series here. In any case, this is a good starting point for anyone interested in getting into Star Wars graphic novels. Together, they comprise 133 individual comic issues and counting. Storms of Crait is not yet available as a graphic novel, but everything else on this list is available, or will be shortly, from Christchurch City Libraries.