The Best of the Journey to ‘The Force Awakens’

James Akinaka
Comics Star Wars
Comics Star Wars

As the long wait for Star Wars: Episode VIII continues, now is a good time to look back at the literature that led into Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens. In September 2015, Lucasfilm began releasing a slew of novels, junior readers, comics, and reference guides under the banner Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens. This was the first major publishing campaign under the Lucasfilm Story Group, which oversees all of Star Wars continuity, and featured new canon titles from Marvel, Del Rey, Dorling Kindersley, and more.

Looking for some books to satiate your Star Wars appetite? Here’s a look at the best stories from Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Aftermath

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Aftermath, the first in a trilogy of new novels by Chuck Wendig, quickly establishes that despite its defeat at the Battle of Endor from Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi, the Empire didn’t fall. The novel is set on the remote planet Akiva, where a cast of new protagonists must thwart a secret meeting of Imperial leaders. The main characters include Temmin “Snap” Wexley, who later became a Resistance fighter pilot and can be seen flying opposite Poe Dameron in The Force Awakens; Imperial Admiral Rae Sloane, a recurring character in recent Star Wars literature; and Sinjir Rath Velus, a defector from the Empire and the second LGBT character in Star Wars canon, after Moff Delian Mors from Paul S. Kemp‘s Lords of the Sith.

Aftermath differs from other Star Wars novels in two major ways. First, it is written entirely in present tense, which is indicative of Wendig’s writing and adds a visceral quality to the story. Second, the novel is interspersed with interludes that broaden its scope beyond Akiva, showing how the entire galaxy reacts to the implosion of the Empire. Chancellor Mon Mothma lays the groundwork for a New Republic, while Han Solo and Chewbacca race back to the latter’s homeworld, Kashyyyk, to liberate it from Imperial occupation. The next installments in Wendig’s trilogy are entitled Life Debt (perhaps focusing on the liberation of Kashyyyk?) and Empire’s End, so it’s safe to say that the war against the Empire is far from over.

Lost Stars

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Romeo and Juliet. Anakin Skywalker and Padmé Amidala. Now, thanks to author Claudia Gray, we have Thane Kyrell and Ciena Ree. Lost Stars tells the story of Thane and Ciena, two star-crossed lovers from the Outer Rim world Jelucan who find themselves on opposite sides of the Galactic Civil War. The book chronicles their encounters over the years and offers some unique perspectives on events from the original trilogy, from the Battles of Yavin and Hoth to the Battle of Endor. The novel’s direct link to The Force Awakens is the heartbreaking tale of how the Imperial-class Star Destroyer Inflictor ends up crashing on the planet Jakku.

Perhaps the most surprising part of the novel is the fact that it explicitly references sex—not once, but twice. It’s definitely not the most important part of the story, but Lost Stars is still the first book in Star Wars canon to do so. In any case, if the idea of “Star Wars meets star-crossed lovers” appeals to you, then this is the book you’re looking for.

Short stories

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The short story is a genre in its own right, and the Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens gave us a number of new short stories. All of them focus on background characters from The Force Awakens, and each one has a distinctive flavor. “The Face of Evil” is horror, “High Noon on Jakku” is undoubtedly a western, and “All Creatures Great and Small” is a series of fables. The stories were released as separate eBooks in December 2015, and will be collected in Tales From a Galaxy Far, Far Away Volume I: Aliens next month.

My personal favorites are “The Perfect Weapon,” a tale of intrigue that features bounty hunter Bazine Netal; and “The Crimson Corsair and the Lost Treasure of Count Dooku,” which follows a crew of pirates led by Captain Sidon Ithano, and also includes a surprising link to the Star Wars: The Clone Wars TV series. With their variety of styles and tones, these short stories are sure to have something for everyone.

Shattered Empire

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Even more so than Aftermath, Greg Rucka‘s Shattered Empire miniseries delves into both the Empire’s and the Rebel Alliance’s frantic reactions to the Battle of Endor. The four-part comic series focuses on Rebel pilot Shara Bey and her husband, Kes Dameron, a special forces fighter in Han Solo’s Pathfinders. If the name “Dameron” sounds familiar, then it should, since Shara and Kes are the parents of a certain well-known Poe. (No, not Edgar Allan Poe.)

The term “team-up” has a particular meaning for comic fans. What makes Shattered Empire amazing is that even though it’s a team-up comic, it doesn’t overtly feel like one. Each issue, Shara collaborates with a different character from the original trilogy, from Leia Organa and Lando Calrissian to Luke Skywalker, while Kes joins Han Solo on a series of critical missions against the fractured Empire. Yet, Shara and Kes are far from flat characters. Their interactions with Leia, Han, and Luke mean something, and readers learn about Kes and Shara just as much as the Big Three. With meaningful storytelling, stellar artwork, and panel-to-panel action, Shattered Empire is one of the best installments in the lead-in to The Force Awakens.

After the Journey

SWBloodline

Even though the Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens is over, Del Rey still has an intriguing lineup of future titles as we wait for 2017 to bring us Episode VIII. In addition to the aforementioned Aftermath: Life Debt and Empire’s End, we also have another novel to look forward to: Bloodline, by Claudia Gray.

Set six years before The Force Awakens, Bloodline is the first canon book to feature Leia Organa as a protagonist, and it seems that it will focus on the state of the galaxy as we see it in The Force Awakens—namely, the New Republic’s complacency toward the First Order, as well as Leia’s founding of the Resistance. And with Darth Vader looming in the background of the cover, it looks like Bloodline is going to be pretty heavy.

Visit Wookieepedia to learn about all of the titles in the Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens!

 


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James Akinaka
James Akinaka arrives at Fandom by way of Wookieepedia. He covers Star Wars, superheroes, and animation and has mastered the art of nitpicking. Since he works in publishing, he reads far too many books.
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