Is Star Wars Telling Worthwhile Stories in Comics and Novels?

James Akinaka
Star Wars Comics
Star Wars Comics

As Lucasfilm saturates us with Star Wars material, there’s a question on the minds of many fans. How much is too much Star Wars? Since the Lucasfilm Story Group rebooted the franchise back in 2013, the saga’s films, TV shows, novels, and comics have felt more connected. Yet, with such a high volume of stories, inevitably some of them become less memorable than others.

In its zeal to increase demand for Star Wars, Lucasfilm has begun churning out material at an astounding rate. And sometimes, the Star Wars brand alone isn’t enough to ensure a story’s success. Here are some stories that show us that sometimes, not every Star Wars story might be worth telling.

Lords of the Sith didn’t add enough to the saga.

Lords of the Sith

Based on sales, Star Wars novels are killing it right now. Since 2015, nearly all of Del Rey’s Star Wars adult novels have become New York Times bestsellers. Aside from the near-complete Aftermath Trilogy, all canon novels have been standalone, which has enabled them to tell tight, meaningful stories. Nevertheless, not all of them have been up to par.

Lords of the Sith is a road trip novel featuring the franchise’s leading Sith Lords. Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine put down a local insurgency on Ryloth led by Cham Syndulla and his co-insurgent, Isval. Yet, even though Vader and Palpatine serve as the novel’s chief protagonists, they don’t receive much development. Their tenuous bond as master and apprentice goes on interrupted. Even Cham Syndulla, who debuted on The Clone Wars TV series, doesn’t get developed as much as he should.

Cham Syndulla

For the record, I don’t mean to criticize Lords of the Sith‘s author. I really enjoyed Paul S. Kemp’s prose — more than those of some other Star Wars authors, in fact. However, it just doesn’t seem like Lords of the Sith has a story to tell. Part of the problem is that other areas of the saga have failed to integrate material from the book into their own stories. To date, Cham Syndulla has twice received guest roles on Star Wars Rebels. Yet, neither appearance did anything to suggest that Lords of the Sith even happened.

There needs to be more of a payoff for having interconnected stories. The Lucasfilm Story Group is almost four years old, and it needs to do more to take advantage of these opportunities for integrated material. Even if Lords of the Sith isn’t compelling enough on its own, other stories can still add to it — or at least acknowledge its existence. There’s always room for improvement.

We don’t need another Darth Maul comic series.

Full disclosure: I have akin to a personal bias against Darth Maul, at least in terms of how his story has trailed on. Yet, I still don’t understand why Marvel is giving him yet another comic miniseries. Predictably, it’s entitled Darth Maul. Before his debut in The Phantom Menace, Dark Horse gave him a comic miniseries under the exact same title. And if that wasn’t enough, another Legends story, a novel called Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter, chronicled Maul’s first encounter with a Jedi.

So far, Marvel has only released the first issue of the new Darth Maul miniseries, so perhaps it’s too early to judge whether this story is worth telling. Nevertheless, it already feels like the comic is rehashing old stories, for both Maul as well as similar characters. Even Asajj Ventress only achieved her true potential as a character after The Clone Wars broke off her apprenticeship to Count Dooku. In contrast, it will be difficult for this comic miniseries to add anything to Maul’s story that fans haven’t already seen.

The other drawback of the new Darth Maul miniseries is that it feels too fan service-y. Yes, the recent film Rogue One performed well thanks to its overdose of fan service, from memorable cameos to more Vader. Yet, as I said before, there’s a point when “too much” really becomes too much. The Darth Maul comic is including The Clone Wars bounty hunters Cad Bane and Aurra Sing, for crying out loud. I’m a fan of these two characters, but they just don’t fit in a Darth Maul story. Perhaps it’s a sign that this comic miniseries is trying too hard to justify its existence.

So, what constitutes a worthwhile story?

Moderation, which is perhaps the opposite of fan service, tends to be the key to producing meaningful stories. To use Maul as an example, the main reason I’ve become so jaded with his story lately is the fact that his excessive appearances have undercut his impact. By contrast, season two of Star Wars Rebels gave fans the right amount of Vader. Even though he was technically the season’s main antagonist, he showed up sparingly. If Vader had appeared in every single episode, it wouldn’t have worked. That’s why it’s important for storytellers to carefully weigh the decisions they make.

The other component to creating a meaningful story is simply making sure it’s worth telling. Characters can’t only exist on a page or on screen — they need to do something. At an entertainment panel with Steven Spielberg, a certain George Lucas remarked, “Storytelling is about two things. It’s about character and plot.” Those are simple words, but for authors and filmmakers, they’re words to live by. As long as Lucasfilm prioritizes quality over quantity, Star Wars will survive.

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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