All 8 long-running ‘Star Wars’ Legends comics series, ranked (Comic book commentary)

With the new ongoing Marvel comic series, not to mention the trailers for “Episode VII” and “Rebels” Season 2, drawing interest from new and casual “Star Wars” fans, I thought it’d be a good time to look back at the ongoing “Star Wars” comic titles from the now-defunct Expanded Universe (a.k.a. Legends) era of 1977-2014. While Disney is focused on its own continuity, it’s often the case that new fans become curious about old stuff along with the new stuff.

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‘Star Wars’ flashback: Stories in Pizzazz magazine and Marvel Illustrated Books (1977-82) (Comic book reviews)

  

When Marvel reclaims the “Star Wars” license from Dark Horse next year, one thing is certain: It’ll start off with better original stories than the first time it had the license. As I noted in my review of the regular Marvel series, Roy Thomas’ early issues featuring Han and Chewie are some of the roughest “Star Wars” yarns out there, but that wasn’t all Thomas was putting out at the time: His Luke-and-Leia adventure in Marvel’s Pizzazz magazine started the same month, in October 1977.

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‘Star Wars’ flashback: Marvel Issues 94-107 (1985-86) (Comic book reviews)

 

Three months and 100 issues ago, I started my “Star Wars” Marvel comics re-read by noting how horrible the Roy Thomas/Howard Chaykin issues were. Once Archie Goodwin took over with No. 11, the standard of quality improved for the next 80-some issues, but when the series ran down in 1985-86, those early troubles were unfortunately revived.

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‘Star Wars’ flashback: Marvel Issues 81-93 (1984-85) (Comic book reviews)

 

OK, here we go. All three films have been released, and it’s time for a fresh narrative start to the Marvel comics series after “Return of the Jedi.” More Han Solo stories. Maybe a battle for the galactic capital. Luke searching for new Jedi. A consistent, serial storyline. … Cue movie-trailer-style record scratch.

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‘Star Wars’ flashback: Marvel Issues 70-80 and Annual 3 (1983-84) (Comic book reviews)

 

I was looking forward to re-reading Mary Jo Duffy’s early issues in the Marvel run, as I vaguely recalled complex plots about the quest to rescue Han Solo and the search for missing X-wing pilot Tay Vanis, who possesses the Death Star II plans. About halfway through these 12 issues — which spring from the end of David Michelinie’s work and lead directly up to “Return of the Jedi” — the movie hit theaters, allowing Duffy to stop being vague and directly address story points.

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‘Star Wars’ flashback: Marvel Issues 60-69 and Annual 2 (1982-83) (Comic book reviews)

 

Part of the fun of the Marvel comics — and the whole EU, really — is seeing the Kenner action figures come to life. But the best non-main character from the Marvel run, by far, was a new invention, X-wing pilot Shira Brie, and she wasn’t cast in plastic until nearly three decades after her first appearance.

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‘Star Wars’ flashback: Marvel Issues 51-59 (1981-82) (Comic book reviews)

 

Taking over for Archie Goodwin — who took his talents to the “Star Wars” newspaper strip — David Michelinie proves he’s up to his predecessor’s high standards on his first batch of issues in the Marvel series. Granted, he makes some bad mistakes; Bespin has a planetary surface and Luke still uses an unexplained lightsaber at times. (Could some of the Luke-with-lightsaber issues be placed after the point in “Shadows of the Empire” when Luke constructs his lightsaber? It’s a potential fix, although this timeline places this chunk of stories before “Shadows.”) More than making up for that, the writer gives the best characterization of Leia so far in the series.

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‘Star Wars’ flashback: Marvel Issues 31-38 (1979-80) (Comic book reviews)

 

It’s a shame that the “Star Wars” Marvel comics are dismissed out of hand by some continuity gurus, because Archie Goodwin — the first long-term writer for the series — clearly cared about continuity. Issues 31-38, written between the announcement of the film’s name (“When the moment is right, the Empire will strike back!,” a villain not-coincidentally says in Issue 31) and the release of “The Empire Strikes Back,” provide clear examples.

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‘Star Wars’ flashback: Marvel Issues 24-30 and Annual 1 (1979) (Comic book reviews)

 

Before May 1999, we heard a lot about how the prequel era was off-limits to Expanded Universe writers since George Lucas was saving it for himself. Nonetheless, a few stories from this era slipped through the cracks. The very first one was Marvel issue 24, “Silent Drifting,” which hit newsstands in March 1979.

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