ByTom Bacon, writer at Creators.co
I'm a film-and-TV fan who grew up with a deep love of superhero comics! Follow me on Twitter @TomABacon or on Facebook @tombaconsuperheroes!
Tom Bacon

It's not long now till Rogue One: A Star Wars Story returns us to the desperate days of the Rebellion, as a handful of Rebels strove to overcome the ruthless might of the Empire! As we all know, the Rebels successfully stole the plans for the Death Star, launching us into the classic original Star Wars movie. But the tale of the Rebellion doesn't end there; over in the comics, #Marvel is charting the course of the Rebellion, between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back! Here's your guide to the comics so far...

Princess Leia

The legacy of Alderaan is in danger! Image: Marvel Comics
The legacy of Alderaan is in danger! Image: Marvel Comics

Writer: Mark Waid

Artist: Terry Dodson

A five-issue miniseries launching straight out of the climax of A New Hope, Princess Leia is a fascinating character study exploring Leia's grief after the destruction of Alderaan. With the Empire seeking out surviving Alderaanians for reprisal after the Death Star's destruction, Leia dedicates herself to protecting her homeworld's heritage. Waid's writing is top-quality, and Dodson's art perfectly suits the Galaxy Far, Far Away. This is probably the best Star Wars comic published to date.

Chewbacca

Chewie makes a new friend! Image: Marvel Comics
Chewie makes a new friend! Image: Marvel Comics

Writer: Gerry Duggan

Artist: Phil Noto

A fairly random side-story, Chewbacca features the Wookiee on his own deciding to help a young girl on the planet Andelm IV. It's supposed to be set fairly soon after the Battle of Yavin, with Chewbacca going on an unspecified personal mission. Of all the Star Wars comics to date, this is probably the least significant.

Star Wars Book I: Skywalker Strikes

Vader confronts Luke. Image: Marvel Comics
Vader confronts Luke. Image: Marvel Comics

Writer: Jason Aaron

Artist: John Cassady

In January 2015, Marvel relaunched the flagship Star Wars comic, with popular comic book writer Jason Aaron taking the helm. Sales of this first volume were through the roof.

Book I kicks off to dramatic style, with Aaron proving his familiarity with these iconic characters. Destroying an Imperial weapons plant brings Luke face-to-face with Darth Vader himself, and makes him realize just how little he knows about being a Jedi. Desperate, he returns to Tatooine in time to have a run-in with none other than Boba Fett, but successfully recovers a journal Obi-Wan left behind.

The climax is breathtaking. On the one hand, Aaron toys with radically changing canon by revealing Han Solo's wife; on the other, he has Fett report in to the man who hired him — Darth Vader. Fett was hired to bring in the man who destroyed the Death Star, but all he can give Vader is his name: Skywalker. Vader's reaction is superbly dramatic.

Darth Vader Book I: Vader

Dark times for Darth Vader. Image: Marvel Comics
Dark times for Darth Vader. Image: Marvel Comics

Writer: Kieron Gillen

Artist: Salvador Larroca

Darth Vader's reputation takes a dramatic hit after the destruction of the Death Star, and he is plunged unwillingly into a world of Imperial politics. Kieron Gillen spins a fantastic tale, integrating original characters such as Black Krrnstan seamlessly into the ongoing. Particularly impressive is the fact that this arc runs concurrently with the end of Star Wars Book I, and does so seamlessly. Ultimately, "Vader" brings the Sith Lord into conflict with the Emperor's latest scheme - a test to see whether or not Vader himself can be replaced...

The book ends with the same revelation as in Star Wars Book I; Vader learns the name 'Luke Skywalker'. Where that was a short, chilling moment in Star Wars, Gillen dives into the emotional turmoil that Vader feels. It's perfect.

Star Wars Book II: Showdown on the Smuggler's Moon

Luke battles the droids of the Clone Wars! Image: Marvel Comics
Luke battles the droids of the Clone Wars! Image: Marvel Comics

Writer: Jason Aaron

Artist: Stuart Immonen

Book II of Star Wars is a fantastic read, taking Luke Skywalker on an ill-advised quest to Nar Shaddaa, the so-called 'Smuggler's Moon'; recognized as the last of the Jedi, he's soon trapped in an arena. Meanwhile, Aaron continues to develop the character of Sana, Han Solo's 'wife', quickly making her a fan-favorite character.

This arc absorbs countless elements of the old Expanded Universe — such as Nar Shaddaa — into the new canon. Aaron also sets up promising new foes in Vader's Fist, an elite team of Stormtroopers who quickly develop a grudge against Luke.

Darth Vader Book II: Shadows and Secrets

Even starfighters aren't safe against him. Image: Marvel Comics
Even starfighters aren't safe against him. Image: Marvel Comics

Writer: Kieron Gillen

Artist: Salvador Larroca

Even as Darth Vader strives to survive the political games the Emperor has set in motion, he maintains a relentless focus on Luke Skywalker. The story leads in perfectly to the first Star Wars comic event, "Vader Down", with Vader finally learning Luke Skywalker's location. As before, Gillen's plotting is careful and precise. He shows Darth Vader as a true powerhouse — not just in ways of the Force, but in tactical skill. It's an excellent portrayal.

Vader Down

Fear him. Image: Marvel Comics
Fear him. Image: Marvel Comics

Writers: Jason Aaron and Kieron Gillen

Artists: Mike Deodata Jr. and Salvador Larocca

The first Star Wars comic book event, "Vader Down" is a crossover between the ongoing Star Wars and Darth Vader comics. It's a smartly plotted adventure, neatly tying together the ongoing plots of both books and with consistently strong characterization. A dogfight between Luke and Vader leads to the two crashing on the planet Vrogas Vas, and soon we have a desperate game of cat-and-mouse — with the Rebels throwing everything at Vrogas Vas in an attempt to kill Vader! The event serves as a potent reminder of the sheer power of Darth Vader, as he takes on everything the Rebellion can throw at him.

Star Wars Book III: Rebel Jail

Well, he did destroy the Death Star... Image: Marvel Comics
Well, he did destroy the Death Star... Image: Marvel Comics

Writers: Jason Aaron and Kieron Gillen

Artists: Mike Mayhem, Angel Unzueta and Leinil Francis Yu

Jason Aaron continues to explore the wider Star Wars galaxy, this time shifting focus to Sunspot Prison: a prison where the Rebels keep the most dangerous prisoners they've managed to capture. It's a fascinating location, and a prison takeover leads to some intriguing discussion of the Rebellion's morality. The graphic novel also includes Marvel's first Star Wars annual, which sets the scene for these events.

Darth Vader Book III: The Shu-Torun War

Vader's competition play their hand. Image: Marvel Comics
Vader's competition play their hand. Image: Marvel Comics

Writer: Kieron Gillen

Artist: Salvador Larroca

Following straight on from the events of "Vader Down", Gillen takes Darth Vader into the midst of a warzone — one that must end, for the good of the Empire. It's a fascinating story, and gives Larroca the chance to draw visual parallels with Revenge of the Sith. The story ultimately concludes with Gillen putting the pieces in place for Book IV, with Vader's games uncovered by his Imperial Adjutant.

Darth Vader Book IV: End of Games

Now it's war! Image: Marvel Comics
Now it's war! Image: Marvel Comics

Writer: Kieron Gillen

Artist: Salvador Larroca

Darth Vader's 'competition' has been exposed for their treachery, and "End of Games" sees him tasked to destroy them once and for all. This final arc of Darth Vader ties together all the threads Gillen has been working with in an explosive climax. Most impressively of all, he does so while presenting probably the most intense character study of Darth Vader even seen in Star Wars comics. It's pretty much essential reading.

Star Wars Book IV: Last Flight of the Harbinger

The rebels capture the Harbinger! Image: Marvel Comics
The rebels capture the Harbinger! Image: Marvel Comics

Writer: Jason Aaron

Artist: Jorge Molina

With conflict raging across the galaxy after the destruction of the Death Star, the Rebel Alliance launch a desperate plan to rescue a world from an Imperial siege. This story is currently in progress, and features the Rebels successfully stealing an Imperial Star Destroyer — their plan being to literally ram the Star Destroyer through the siege lines! Unfortunately, they're opposed by the elite Vader's Fist...

Where Jason Aaron's first Star Wars arcs attempted to tie in to major events a little too closely, by "Last Flight of the Harbinger" he's much more comfortable with the galaxy he's writing — and clearly no longer feeling the pressure. As a result, the arc continues to develop the central characters and ideas, while working as a fun standalone story.

See also:

With these comics, we know where the journey will end — on the forest moon of Endor, with a second Death Star blasted apart by a rebel strike. Marvel get to reveal the secrets of that journey, fleshing out some tremendous character arcs and giving us a whole new experience of the Galaxy Far, Far Away — don't miss them!

Are you looking forward to the dawn of the rebellion in Rogue One? Let me know in the comments!