Go behind the masks of the Emperor’s elite in Crimson Empire!

We all know that the first Star Wars film changed the face of pop culture forever when it hit theaters 40 years ago today—but it’s not just the movie that’s celebrating that milestone in 2017. Star Wars comics arrived with force in 1977, and hundreds of issues later, they’re more popular now than ever.

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of Star Wars, we’re looking back at our 40 favorite moments from the history of comics from a galaxy far, far away—one day at a time.

Star Wars: Crimson Empire (1997) #1

Star Wars: Crimson Empire (1997) #1

What is Marvel Unlimited?

Until 1997, all Star Wars comics in some way heavily featured characters you grew to love from the films, from Luke, Leia, and Han to Boba Fett and Jabba the Hutt—even Wedge Antilles. For CRIMSON EMPIRE, writers Mike Richardson and Randy Stradley dared to expand the Star Wars universe in a way no other series had to this point—with no main characters you had ever heard of. The result stands up today as perhaps the most “cult classic” Star Wars series ever published.

Every Star Wars fan remembers the striking red uniform of the Emperor’s Royal Guard, as seen in “Return of the Jedi.” But that was all we really knew about them at this point. What is happening underneath those masks? How did they earn their spot among Palpatine’s elite? Are they even men in there? Though all of the action occurs years after “Return of the Jedi,” we get our first answers to those questions—including flashbacks, one featuring an incredible Darth Vader moment— as the remnants of the Empire fight their own internal battles for political control.

If you’re not intimidated by a book starring names like Carnor Jax, Kir Kanos, and Mirith Sinn, CRIMSON EMPIRE offers a welcome and unique take on the Star Wars universe. There’s even an official Handbook to guide through the cast of characters.

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A key player from the original trilogy gets his own comic spotlight!

We all know that the first Star Wars film changed the face of pop culture forever when it hit theaters 40 years ago today—but it’s not just the movie that’s celebrating that milestone in 2017. Star Wars comics arrived with force in 1977, and hundreds of issues later, they’re more popular now than ever.

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of Star Wars, we’re looking back at our 40 favorite moments from the history of comics from a galaxy far, far away—one day at a time.

Star Wars: X-Wing Rogue Squadron (1995) #1

Star Wars: X-Wing Rogue Squadron (1995) #1

What is Marvel Unlimited?

If you ask someone to name every character who appeared in all of the first three Star Wars films, you’ll probably be answered with Luke, Leia, Han, Chewbacca, the droids, and Darth Vader—maybe Obi-Wan, if Force ghosts count. You know you’re talking to real fans if they also reference Wedge Antilles, who emerged as a fan favorite for his understated but key roles in the Battle of Hoth and his attacks on both Death Stars.

In fact, as Wedge himself states in STAR WARS: X-WING ROGUE SQUADRON #1—the 1995 comic that dared to feature a rather unfamiliar face as the sole character on its cover—“General Calrissian usually gets the credit, but I dropped a [proton] torpedo on the coaxial when I split, and I think that was the straw that broke the Death Star’s back.” He actually said “photon torpedo”—writer Michael A. Stackpole must have been in a Star Trek state of mind when he wrote this.

After “Return of the Jedi,” Luke bequeathed leadership of Rogue Squadron to Wedge, and beginning in the months following that film, the X-WING ROGUE SQUADRON series follows the team’s adventures. In addition to seeing Wedge as a leading man, it also shines light on characters fans really only knew as names in battles beforehand, if at all; we learn much more about these guys than “good shot, Janson!”…like the fact that Janson’s first name is Wes. Meanwhile, characters like Tycho Celchu didn’t even regist names in the films, but we get their back stories and a better sense of the camaraderie that exists in Star Wars’ most iconic military unit.

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Mara Jade and Luke Skywalker tie the knot—and chaos ensues!

We all know that the first Star Wars film changed the face of pop culture forever when it hit theaters 40 years ago today—but it’s not just the movie that’s celebrating that milestone in 2017. Star Wars comics arrived with force in 1977, and hundreds of issues later, they’re more popular now than ever.

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of Star Wars, we’re looking back at our 40 favorite moments from the history of comics from a galaxy far, far away—one day at a time.

Star Wars: Union (1999) #1

Star Wars: Union (1999) #1

What is Marvel Unlimited?

If you’ve read past entries in this series, you’ll remember Mara Jade’s mission in both HEIR TO THE EMPIRE and MARA JADE: BY THE EMPEROR’S HAND: to kill Luke Skywalker. What a difference a few years makes! Mostly through the Star Wars novels of the 1990s, once Mara realized that maybe she had not made the best career choice serving Emperor Palpatine, she and Luke fell in love. And in STAR WARS: UNION, writer Michael A. Stackpole and artist Robert Teranishi married the former adversaries.

But naturally, much like Reed and Sue or Peter and Mary Jane, no comic book wedding can go off without a hitch. In this case, objectors allied with both the Imperial Remnant and the New Republic had their own plans on stopping the wedding in the most dramatic of ways. But in the end, the two are wed until death do they part—and you might want to read the “New Jedi Order” novels to find out how that turns out…

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Meet Mara Jade, the Emperor’s Hand!

We all know that the first Star Wars film changed the face of pop culture forever when it hit theaters 40 years ago today—but it’s not just the movie that’s celebrating that milestone in 2017. Star Wars comics arrived with force in 1977, and hundreds of issues later, they’re more popular now than ever.

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of Star Wars, we’re looking back at our 40 favorite moments from the history of comics from a galaxy far, far away—one day at a time.

Star Wars: Mara Jade - By The Emperor'S Hand (1998) #1

Star Wars: Mara Jade - By The Emperor'S Hand (1998) #1

What is Marvel Unlimited?

If you know HEIR TO THE EMPIRE and the rest of the “Thrawn Trilogy,” then you’re very familiar with Mara Jade, one of the greatest new characters created by writer Timothy Zahn. As the Emperor’s personal assassin—aka, the Emperor’s Hand—she believed Luke Skywalker killed Palpatine and set out to take her revenge. But what about her days of serving The Emperor? Typically a novelist, Zahn himself developed a story exclusively for comic books to tell this tale—STAR WARS: MARA JADE: BY THE EMPEROR’S HAND—with fellow Star Wars author Michael A. Stackpole acting as writer and Carlos Ezquerra illustrating the adventure.

Right away we’re greeted with a very familiar setting, as Mara pleads to board Jabba’s skiff and assist with the execution of Luke Skywalker, as seen in “Return of the Jedi”—we learn Palpatine sent her there to capture him and bring him before The Emperor. When Jabba denies her request, she reports back to her master that she proved unable to kill Luke, then finds herself on a quest to assassinate the leader of Black Nebula—an offshoot of Black Sun, which you may remember from SHADOWS OF THE EMPIRE. By issue #2, she learns of the Emperor’s demise through the Force—though in the way he wants her to see it. But that doesn’t mean she’s done with her mission…

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Ki-Adi-Mundi gets to the heart of a mystery involving a missing Jedi Knight!

Each week Star Wars Spotlight combs through the digital archives of Marvel Unlimited to showcase one classic story from that distant galaxy filled with Jedi, Sith, princesses, scoundrels and droids.

Jedi Knight Ki-Adi-Mundi took center stage in the first arc of the 1998-launched STAR WARS series and then returned in issues #712 to seize the spotlight once again in a pre-Prequel tale thanks to writer Tim Truman along with artists Tom Raney, Rob Pereira, Rick Leonardi, and Al Rio. Called “Outlander,” the story kicked off on Tatooine at a trading depot called Mochot Steep with a Corellian couple named Conil and Camelle looking for weapons to protect their new home. There, Conil heard tell of a recent Tusken Raider attack on Anchorhead that revealed the usually clan-like race had worked together under one warleader. According to the Jawas nearby, the leader wasn’t a Sand Person himself, but instead an outworlder. Moments later the Raiders attacked Mochot Steep, leaving Conil dead, but sparing Camelle’s life. During the fray, the leader revealed that he wielded a red lightsaber.

After viewing footage of the attack on Coruscant, Ki-Adi-Mundi recognized that the lightsaber once belonged to the legendary Jedi Sharad Hett. Yoda posited that the warleader could actually be the long-thought-dead Hett returned in some way. The Council selected Ki-Adi-Mundi for the mission because he stood as the only member who never knew Sharad Hett and wouldn’t falter in taking care of him, if need be. With his mission in hand, the Jedi took off for the planet he had just visited and didn’t particularly like. As Yoda suggested, the Knight made a trip to Jabba the Hutt’s palace his first priority to ask for safe passage through the desert. Jabba agreed and offered help, but all that proved a trap that led to betrayal, a skiff battle, and a crash in the desert.

Star Wars (1998) #7

Star Wars (1998) #7

What is Marvel Unlimited?

Before long both the Jedi and bounty hunter Aurra Sing headed towards The Needles, otherwise known as Tusken Raider headquarters. Ki arrived first to fight a Krayt Dragon while the warchief—who indeed revealed himself as Sharad Hett—looked on. The two made peace as Hett tried explaining why he appreciated the Tusken Raider lifestyle, which revolved around survival in a place constantly trying to kill them. Along the way, we also learned quite a bit more about Tatooine’s gaderffi aficionados.

Eventually the complicated truth revolving around warring Hutt factions and Jabba’s plans to goad the Tusken Raiders into becoming threatening so he could sell bad weapons came to the surface. A great battle commenced on Tatooine leaving one Jedi dead, one with a new Padawan and one with a lot of rage that eventually turned him to the dark side. Of course, that will be a story for another day…

From the Jedi Temple Archives

Bounty hunter Aurra Sing spent a lot of this story explaining things from afar, narrating the tale and then swooping in to attack, and even kill, Jedi. But what’s her deal? She first appeared on screen in “The Phantom Menace” but only briefly. She would go on to recur regularly in “Star Wars: The Clone Wars,” taking a teenage Boba Fett under her wing and using his rage against the Jedi for her own advantage. Once a Jedi Padawan herself, Sing trained with Dark Woman until pirates kidnapped her and she eventually wound up with Anzati assassins who not only educated her in their ways, but also implanted a computer into her brain. Feeling abandoned by the Jedi, she took any job possible where one of them might end up in her crosshairs.

Next time, pick back up with Kerra in the pages of STAR WARS: KNIGHT ERRANT – DELUGE by John Jackson Miller, Ivan Rodriguez and Iban Coello!

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The first ever original Star Wars novel gets a comic book adaptation!

We all know that the first Star Wars film changed the face of pop culture forever when it hit theaters 40 years ago today—but it’s not just the movie that’s celebrating that milestone in 2017. Star Wars comics arrived with force in 1977, and hundreds of issues later, they’re more popular now than ever.

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of Star Wars, we’re looking back at our 40 favorite moments from the history of comics from a galaxy far, far away—one day at a time.

Star Wars: Splinter Of The Mind'S Eye (1995) #1

Star Wars: Splinter Of The Mind'S Eye (1995) #1

What is Marvel Unlimited?

Timothy Zahn’s “Heir to the Empire” may stand out as the most popular Star Wars novel adapted to comics, but Alan Dean Foster’s “Splinter of the Mind’s Eye” may be the most interesting, speaking solely as a piece of Star Wars history. Foster’s work debuted at bookstores in 1978, a year after the original “Star Wars” hit theaters, and was written in an almost “just in case” manner; should “Star Wars” have failed to warrant a big-budget sequel, Foster’s story may have served as a follow-up on a smaller scale.

Released in 1995, the comic version of SPLINTER OF THE MIND’S EYE illustrates that smaller scale nicely, with the action occurring only in space and on one planet, and the only recognizable movie characters being Luke, Leia, the droids and Darth Vader. In the spirit of basing a low-budget potential film from this story, that’s one less Harrison Ford and expensive Wookiee suit. At the same time, slight updates to the original story include Vader speaking with Captain Piett of the next two movies.

The story also introduces a key element to Star Wars lore: with a powerful Force-powered gem known as the “Kaiburr Crystal.” That idea has evolved to what Star Wars fans now know as kyber crystals—the source of power for lightsabers and, as we learned in “Rogue One,” the Death Star’s super laser.

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Comics adapt a classic Star Wars novel with Heir to the Empire!

We all know that the first Star Wars film changed the face of pop culture forever when it hit theaters 40 years ago today—but it’s not just the movie that’s celebrating that milestone in 2017. Star Wars comics arrived with force in 1977, and hundreds of issues later, they’re more popular now than ever.

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of Star Wars, we’re looking back at our 40 favorite moments from the history of comics from a galaxy far, far away—one day at a time.

Of all the Star Wars novels written over the years, “Heir to the Empire” stands out to most fans as the most important; released in 1991, it still ranks among the best, and largely gains credit for making Star Wars cool again. Four years later, writer Mike Baron and artists Olivier Vatine and Fred Blanchard pleased fans by adapting the beloved book to comic form in STAR WARS: HEIR TO THE EMPIRE #1, the debut of a six-issue series.

Star Wars: Heir To The Empire (1995) #1

Star Wars: Heir To The Empire (1995) #1

What is Marvel Unlimited?

As the first installment of what’s now known as “The Thrawn Trilogy,” HEIR TO THE EMPIRE not only continues the adventures of Luke, Leia, and Han five years after “Return of the Jedi,” it also introduces beloved new characters to the Star Wars Legends universe, most notably Grand Admiral Thrawn and Mara Jade. Though everyone who had read the novels likely already had their own depictions of these characters in their heads, the comic brought them to life like never before: The poise of Thrawn. The vengeful determination of Mara. The madness of former Jedi Jorus C’baoth. Fans of the books received a whole new reason to experience the great story all over again, followed up by DARK FORCE RISING and THE LAST COMMAND, both in 1997.

Remarkably, some of Zahn’s creations have emerged from the Legends universe into the current Star Wars canon. Grand Admiral Thrawn serves as a main adversary in “Star Wars Rebels,” and longtime Star Wars actor Warwick Davis will voice his loyal assistant, the alien Noghri named Rukh, in the next season. Also, Zahn named and characterized the Imperial capital planet of Coruscant, brought to the big screen in 1999 for “The Phantom Menace”

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Tales of the Jedi shows us the Force warriors in their prime!

We all know that the first Star Wars film changed the face of pop culture forever when it hit theaters 40 years ago today—but it’s not just the movie that’s celebrating that milestone in 2017. Star Wars comics arrived with force in 1977, and hundreds of issues later, they’re more popular now than ever.

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of Star Wars, we’re looking back at our 40 favorite moments from the history of comics from a galaxy far, far away—one day at a time.

“For over a thousand generations, the Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic,” Obi-Wan Kenobi told Luke Skywalker in “A New Hope.” But even as late as 1993—16 years after those words hit the screen—we as fans knew nothing more about any of those generations than that one of them included something called Clone Wars. Writer Tom Veitch and artist Chris Gossett changed that with the novel idea behind STAR WARS: TALES OF THE JEDI.

Set 4,000 years before the events of the Star Wars films, TALES OF THE JEDI dared to introduce us to an entirely new cast of characters from a time much longer ago in a galaxy far, far away from any that we’re used to. Though this limited series only last for five issues, the journey of protagonist Jedi Knight Ulic Qel-Droma would continue to other TALES OF THE JEDI series such as THE FREEDON NADD UPRISING and DARK LORDS OF THE SITH, wherein he fell to the dark side millennia before Anakin Skywalker.

Star Wars: Tales Of The Jedi (1993) #1

Star Wars: Tales Of The Jedi (1993) #1

  • Published: October 01, 1993
  • Added to Marvel Unlimited: May 07, 2015
  • Writer: Tom Veitch
  • Cover Artist: Dave Dorman
What is Marvel Unlimited?

The influence of TALES OF THE JEDI can perhaps best be felt in Star Wars video games. In “The Clone Wars” for Xbox, GameCube and PS2, Ulic speaks to Anakin as a Force ghost, warning him of the dangers of falling to the dark side. But more importantly, TALES OF THE JEDI partly inspired what many consider the best Star Wars game of all time: “Knights of the Old Republic” for Xbox and PC.

“Deciding to set ‘KOTOR’ 4,000 years before the original trilogy was very much inspired by the TALES OF THE JEDI comics,” says Mike Gallo, LucasArts’ producer on the game. “In fact, that was our original working title internally. We also had ‘Age of the Jedi’ on the table, as a bit of a play on the GOLDEN AGE OF THE SITH comics and to differentiate from TALES. But it turns out ‘Knights of the Old Republic’ would be a pretty great title in its own right!”

Of course, that circle would become complete with the launch of STAR WARS: KNIGHTS OF THE OLD REPUBLIC comics in 2006.

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The Sith Lord carries out his deadly mission under the pen of Charles Soule!

Many Star Wars fans cite the instant in “Revenge of the Sith” when the clone armies turn on their Jedi comrades and mow them down as one of the most heart-breaking moments in the films. Thanks to the insidious Darth Sidious, the Jedi fell swiftly in order to give birth to his galactic empire. And that, in turn, gave us one of the greatest villains in all of pop culture: Darth Vader!

This week, Charles Soule joins up with all-star artist Guiseppe Camuncoli to bring readers to that moment in time with the new DARTH VADER series out now. But before you get your copy, read on and find out why fans find this new series to be…most impressive.

Marvel.com: Last we spoke, Charles, you mentioned your interest in Emperor Palpatine, most notably that while he may be complete evil, you didn’t find there to be a lack of complexity with him as a character. Can you explain that a little further?

Charles Soule: Palpatine has an uncomplicated goal—ultimate power!—but he goes about it in an extremely complex, subtle way. His greatest power is his ability to manipulate, and you can’t manipulate without—and this word will seem strange when describing Palpatine—empathy. You have to truly understand what makes a person tick in order to move them in the direction you want without them realizing it, and The Emperor is a master.

Marvel.com: Now, as you know from all of the stories that have emerged in the years since “Revenge of the Sith,” Order 66 didn’t exactly kill off all of the Jedi. Do you see it as a one-time initiative or more like a standing executive order?

Charles Soule: I think it was a hard-coded part of the Clone Troopers’ “operating instructions,” if that makes sense. That said, it’s certainly emblematic of the Empire’s policy towards Jedi, which is basically: kill ‘em all. Whether the few Jedi survivors end up going from a literal application of Order 66 or another way—such as a certain brand new Sith with a grudge—the end result is the same.

Marvel.com: Aside from his immense power, what else do you think positions Darth Vader to be so effective at hunting Jedi?

Charles Soule: Well, he was one, which means he knows their tactics, their weak spots, their training. He has a thorough understanding of the Jedi mindset; always useful when hunting them.

Marvel.com: I’m always finding myself struck at the difference between the two identities of Anakin Skywalker: the powerful Jedi Knight and the Sith Lord. Do you think Vader’s armored and robotic self makes him more deadly or less so? Maybe put another way: which version do you think a Jedi on the run would want to face?

Charles Soule: No one wants to face Darth Vader in any guise. If I had to choose, though, probably the armored suit would be scarier, because it has various abilities and enhancements that allow Vader to be even more terrifying than he already was. Vader’s suit can take enormous damage and keep on ticking; he’s basically a Terminator.

Darth Vader #3 cover by Olivier Coipel

Marvel.com: Just for fun, let’s say you were a young Jedi on the run from the Empire, targeted by Order 66. What methods would you employ to remain off the radar?

Charles Soule: I would never use the Force again, for one thing. But what’s the point, then? If you’re a Jedi, you are a living vessel for the Force. This might sound harsh, but I think most Jedi would rather die fighting than renounce the Force forever.

Marvel.com: Darth Vader clearly stands at the forefront of the Emperor’s arsenal to extinguish the Light Side; however, one does not become Emperor through betting on only one horse. What other resources does Palpatine have at his disposal to continue the hunt for the Jedi?

Charles Soule: Well, the massive Imperial military, for one thing; and I’m sure he’s put bounties out and all sorts of things. But his primary tool other than Vader is a group of skilled dark-side adepts called the Inquisitorius, which was introduced in the “Star Wars: Rebels” TV series. We’ll see them in the DARTH VADER comic as well—maybe even their beginnings!

Marvel.com: We come to understand that, unlike Anakin Skywalker, the clones didn’t really have a choice when Emperor Palpatine gave the command to execute Order 66. Once the effects of the programming chip cleared, how do you suppose the clones who served alongside their Jedi compatriots felt upon discovering the genocidal tragedy they helped enact?

Charles Soule: The “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” TV show did a great job of establishing that clones were somewhat individual emotionally and mentally despite their identical physiologies. So, I’d guess they had a wide variety of actions. Still, like many regular galactic citizens, they were told that the Jedi were traitors. Some probably believed that, some didn’t; I don’t think it was uniform.

Marvel.com: Ultimately, we know that Order 66 wasn’t entirely successful with Jedi such as Yoda, Obi-Wan, Kannan Jarus, and others having survived the culling. Despite the tragedy of it all, do you think there was any good that came of it? Can we find any silver lining in such wanton loss?

Charles Soule: That’s a hard no on that one. Order 66 was heartbreaking. Despite the flaws of the Jedi Order—and I think there are a bunch—it was ultimately a force for freedom, generosity and good, which was brought down by a force dedicated to selfishness and the accumulation of personal power. Just a darn shame, really.

You can get DARTH VADER #1 by Charles Soule and Giuseppe Camuncoli right now, and look for more Order 66 aftermath in issue #3 on July 12!

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Kieron Gillen shares his favorite Darth Vader moment—written by Jason Aaron!

We all know that the first Star Wars film changed the face of pop culture forever when it hit theaters 40 years ago today—but it’s not just the movie that’s celebrating that milestone in 2017. Star Wars comics arrived with force in 1977, and hundreds of issues later, they’re more popular now than ever.

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of Star Wars, we’re looking back at our 40 favorite moments from the history of comics from a galaxy far, far away—one day at a time.

Star Wars: Vader Down (2015) #1

Star Wars: Vader Down (2015) #1

  • Published: November 18, 2015
  • Added to Marvel Unlimited: May 23, 2016
  • Writer: Jason Aaron
  • Cover Artist: Mark Brooks
What is Marvel Unlimited?

As the writer of 25 issues of DARTH VADER, Kieron Gillen knows a thing or two about scripting amazing moments for the iconic Sith Lord. But, when asked to name his personal favorite moment in Star Wars comics, he’s quick to cite the last few pages of STAR WARS: VADER DOWN #1 by Jason Aaron.

“Vader facing an entire rebel army,” recounts Gillen. “One brave soul shouts at him: ‘Lay down your weapons! You’re surrounded!’ Vader raises the red saber and addresses the crowd. ‘All I am surrounded by is fear. And dead men.’

“And the crowd goes wild. Jason Aaron, Mike Deodato and Frank Martin Jr. basically give the single most defining image of Vader in the new Marvel comics. I can only applaud. And seethe with professional jealousy, of course.”

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