May the Fourth Be With You

  • Posted on: 3 May 2019
  • By: Jon Schafle

    May the Force be with you, always. It's become a tradition to celebrate all things Star Wars on May the Fourth (get it?), and we have lots of materials available to help you get into the spirit of a that galaxy long ago and far, far away whether you're feeling nostalgic, looking to jump back in, or curious and just starting fresh we have the perfect places for you to start!

It can be a bit daunting given the sheer number of books and comics written in the Star Wars universe, moreso because in recent years the franchise has changed hands to Disney which altered the timelines a bit from what had previously been set out, although a little continuity tweaking in nothing new. With the original comic book series published by Marvel in 1977 and the first novel, Splinter of the Mind's Eye, published in 1978 the ground work was set for what would be called the "Expanded Universe." Both were written before Star Wars was a hit and still had a very unclear future, Splinter of the Mind's Eye was written in a way that if Star Wars wasn't a critical success that it could be adapted into a low-budget sequel and as such it primarily takes place planet-side on a swampy mist-blanketed landscape. As for the comic series, the first six issues were a direct adaptation of the first movie and starting with issue seven was completely new material. Since the writers of the comic book weren't sure what Lucas had planned going forward they tried to stick with one-shot stories or small storyarcs and not to write any big changes, although they did add some strange new characters such as the green bunny-man Jaxxon. Beyond adapting the other two movies years later, the comic series mainly followed it's own direction and introduced a host of new characters never seen before or since, it lasted from 1977-1986 and run 107 regular issues and 3 annuals.

On the other hand, the books that were written were slightly more guided by George Lucas and all fit into the order of timeline of the original trilogy, with some even bridging the gaps between movies. They helped to flesh out the world of Star Wars, it's many planets, species, politics as well as make us more familiar with fan favorite characters that we'd glimpsed in the movies but hadn't gotten much screen time, like the bounty hunters from Empire. After Marvel quietly canceled the comic series in 1986 due to the diminished demand it was picked up very briefly by a small publisher called Blackthorne that produced a few 3-D comics before it Dark Horse acquired it after a new deal with Marvel fell through. Dark Horse published dozens upon dozens of Star Wars series and miniseries from 1991-2014 that added even more depth to the Expanded Universe.

When Disney acquired Star Wars, that branded all the previous works of the Expanded Universe as "Legends"  and considered them non-canonical (meaning that were no longer part of the mainstream accepted universe) since the new movies starting with The Force Awakens directly contradicted previously written material. The comics reverted back to Marvel since Disney had acquired them as well and preferred to keep it in-house so new series were began as well as new novels to bridge the gaps into the new trilogy and to provide backstory on new characters such as Captain Phasma.

I've complied a reading guide for all the Star Wars books (even ones we don't currently have in the collection) that are listed in chronological order of where they fit in the Star Wars universe both in the old Expanded Universe/Legends timeline as well as the new Disney timeline, you can check in out here.

Below I've selected some of my all time favorite books for the occasion:

The Thrawn Trilogy by Timothy Zhan

The Thrawn Trilogy is made up of Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, and The Last Command is from the Expanded Universe/Legends timeline and takes place a year after the events of Return of the Jedi. Although The second Death Star, Darth Vader and the Emperor gone the Empire itself still clings to life, though driven back to the outlying areas of their once mighty holdings. There the wayward fleet is unified by the most brilliant military mind of the Empire, perhaps even the galaxy...Grand Admiral Thrawn! He has a plan to bring the Empire back from the brink and crush the newly formed Republic with the help of his secret weapons, one of the Emperor's technology storehouses from the Clone Wars and the mad Dark Jedi C'baoth.Han and Leia are married and expecting twins while trying to build the new Republic and ferret out spies and dissenters and Luke is struggling as the first Jedi knight to establish a new order as he must face off against the temptations of the Dark Side as he meets C'baoth. This is a fan favorite series with Grand Admiral Thrawn being the most popular Star Wars character not to appear in a live action movie. 

Thrawn by Timothy Zahn

Grand Admiral Thrawn was such an immensely popular character that when Disney decided to make the Expanded Universe lore non-canon they brought in Thrawn's creator to pen a new story to new him about into the new timeline. This story follows a young Thrawn and how he finds himself in Imperial space exiled from his home planet and eventually joins the Empire and rises through the ranks. How is it than an alien from the unknown reaches of distant space find his way to the heart of the Imperial homeworld and join the usually racist and elitist Imperial Army? Why did the Emperor take such a liking to Thrawn? Find out here!

Shadows of the Empire by Steve Perry

Bridging the gap between the Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, Shadows of the Empire follows Leia and Lando as they go undercover in Jabba's palace in an attempt to rescue Han- still trapped in carbonite. Meanwhile, the head of the powerful Black Sun crime syndicate, Prince Xizor, is looking to ingratiate himself to the Emperor by taking out the Empire's most wanted criminal....Luke Skywalker! Luke is still struggling with becoming a full fledged Jedi and rescuing Han all the while trapped between two deadly enemies, Xizor that wants him dead and Vader that wants him corrupted and turned to the Dark Side. This book not only spawned a comic book adaptation, video game, but also a line of action figures!

Phasma by Delilah S. Dawson

Captain Phasma's rise through the First Order isn't appreciated by everyone, especially elite stormtrooper with his own set of unique armor. He's bent on finding any sort of incriminating evidence to take her down and now he may have a Alliance spy who's last movements were to Phasma's homeworld. Cardinal interrogates the operative to find the mysterious backstory of how Phasma came from a desolate and harsh world to become the dread commander we see in The Force Awakens.