Top Ten Tuesday – My Favourite Star Wars Comics

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics.  For this week’s Top Ten Tuesday, the official task participants were given were to list their ten most recent reads.  Instead, I thought that May the Fourth would be the perfect opportunity to highlight what I consider to be the best Star Wars novels and comics out there.

For this list, I checked out all of the Star Wars comics that I have read in the last couple of years in order to figure out which were my absolute favourites.  This was another fun experience for me, and I think I had a somewhat easier time deciding on my favourite comics than I did with my favourite Star Wars novels.  I was pretty happy with how this Top Ten list turned out, as it features 10 outstanding and impressive entries in my main list, as well as a decent honourable mentions section.  For some of the longer series (those with multiple volumes), I chose to feature the whole series on this list rather than individual issues or volumes.  I felt that this provides a much more comprehensive list, and as most series are written and drawn by the same people, it is really easy to lump them together as one big product.  This ended up being a pretty awesome list, and I think I have a fairly varied list of comics here.  I will admit that I have a bit of a dearth of knowledge when it comes to comics written before the current canon, as I have only read a few scattered comics from the Star Wars Legends range.  Still, I am happy with all the below entries, so let us see what made the cut.

Honourable Mentions:

Doctor Aphra (2020)

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So far, only the first volume of this intriguing series has been released, and while it was pretty good, it did not live up to the amazing heights of the previous Doctor Aphra series.  I have a strong feeling that the future entries of this series are going to be very awesome and it is entirely possible I will bump this series to the main Top Ten list this time next year.

The Rise of Kylo Ren

Star Wars - The Rise of Kylo Ren Cover

Kanan

Star Wars - Kanan Cover

Top Ten List:

Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith

Darth Vader Dark Lord of the Sith Volume 1

One of the first Star Wars comic series I ever read fully was Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith.  Written by the legendary Charles Soule (the only writer featured on both this list and my favourite Star Wars novel list) and drawn by Giuseppe Camuncoli, this series follows Darth Vader in the aftermath of his transformation from Anakin Skywalker in Revenge of the Sith.  This comic catches Vader at his rawest emotional period, and I loved the complex and powerful stories that Soule weaved around this iconic figure.  This comic had the perfect blend of emotion, action and character development, and every single entry (including Volume 2: Legacy’s End and Volume 3: The Burning Seas), was exceptionally well written and intensely addictive.

Star Wars (2015)

Star Wars (2015) Volume 1 Cover

You really cannot talk about Star Wars comics without mentioning this awesome long-running series, which was the centrepiece of the Star Wars comic franchise between 2015 and 2020.  Set between the events of A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, this series features the joint adventures of Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, C-3PO and R2-D2 as they attempt to overthrow the Empire.  Filling in many gaps between the films, this series contained some clever and unique storylines that explore the Rebellion and the harsh battles they fought.  This series started off big with an epic first volume, Skywalker Strikes, which not only had some awesome opening issues as the team faces off against Vader for the first time but which also shows the first time that Vader found out that Luke was his son (a very epic scene).  There is an immense amount of talent behind these comics, with several awesome writers, including original writer Jason Aaron, Kieron Gillen and Greg Pak, as well as an outstanding array of artists, such as John Cassaday, Salvador Larroca and Phil Noto.  The different teams produce a little variability in the series, but they managed to produce an excellent and clever array of stories and big moments that make this series an absolute treat to read from one end to the other.

Darth Vader (2015)

Star Wars - Darth Vader Volume 1 Cover

While I did read some other Star War comic series first, this would be the one the really made with fall in love with the genre.  Created by the awesome team of Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca, this great comic follows Darth Vader right after A New Hope and sees Vader set out to gain more power and influence after discovering the true identity of Luke Skywalker.  Teaming up with his new subordinate/prisoner, Doctor Aphra, Vader tears through the galaxy while coming to terms with the fact that he has a son.  An epic and powerful series that is consistently awesome from start to finish, this is one of the absolute best Star Wars comics out there and all four volumes (including Vader and Shadows and Secrets) are five-star reads.

Doctor Aphra (2016)

Doctor Aphra Volume 1

Spinning off from the Darth Vader (2015) series, this comic chronicles the wild adventures of the titular protagonist, Doctor Aphra, as she attempts to con everyone she comes across, be they family, former lover, deadly droid or Dark Lord of the Sith.  Initially produced by the character’s original creators, Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca, this long-running series was later written by Simon Spurrier, who produced some outstanding storylines with support from an excellent cast of artists, including Kev Walker, Andrea Broccardo and Emilio Laiso.  I absolutely loved this great series from its first issue, and it has some extraordinary storylines to it.  Both of the volumes I reviewed, Unspeakable Rebel Superweapon and A Rogue’s End got five star reads from me, and I would definitely give the same to most of the earlier volumes in this epic and extremely entertaining series.

Vader Down

Vader Down Cover

There was absolutely no way I could exclude this fantastic limited series off this list as it is the very definition of pure awesomeness.  Vader Down is a clever and memorable crossover between the 2015 Star Wars and Darth Vader series and features the creative teams from both comics coming together to create a joint story.  This cool limited series sees Vader forced down on a Rebel controlled planet while trying to capture Luke.  Facing off against a horde of Rebel soldiers and vehicles, Vader does what he does best and annihilates everyone he comes across as he hunts his prey and the people who betrayed him.  At the same time, Han, Leia, Doctor Aphra, and the entire supporting cast of both series get drawn into an epic showdown as they all try to escape with what they want.  An outstanding and action packed comic with some amazingly clever inclusions to it, this is an incredible piece of Star Wars fiction to check out.

Star Wars (2020)

Star Wars (2020) - Volume 1 Cover

Following the coordinated end of the original range of Star Wars comics, Marvel immediately started a new assortment of series in 2020, set between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.  The flagship series of this new range was the Star Wars (2020) comic, written by Charles Soule and featuring art by Jesus Saiz, Ramon Rosanas and Jan Bazaldua.  While I have so far only read the first volume, The Destiny Path, I am deeply enjoying this fantastic series which follows the key original trilogy protagonists (with the exception of Han, because he’s frozen) as they come to terms with their defeats in The Empire Strikes Back.  Featuring a great focus on Luke’s journey to become a Jedi master, Leia’s attempts to bring the Empire down and save the man she loves, and Lando’s quest for redemption, this series has a lot of potential and is a great recent entry to the canon.

Darth Vader (2020)

Darth Vader - Dark Heart of the Sith

One of the newest additions to this list is the excellent Darth Vader (2020) series by Greg Pack and Raffaele Ienco.  Set directly after Luke refuses to accept him as his father, this series contains an epic and powerful narrative about Vader as he comes to terms with his rejection in the most destructive way possible.  The first volume in this series, Dark Heart of the Sith, was one of the best things I read in 2020, and I have a feeling this entire series is going to be one incredible and powerful thrill ride.

Target Vader

Star Wars - Target Vader

From the minds of Robbie Thompson and Marc Laming comes this excellent limited series, Target Vader, which brings back iconic Star Wars Legends bounty hunter Beilert Valance.  This series follows Valance and a group of dangerous bounty hunters after they are given an impossible assassination mission to kill Darth Vader.  Watching a group of bounty hunters go up against Vader is pretty awesome, and there are some great moments to this compelling read.  I had a lot of fun with this series and it is definitely worth checking out.

Poe Dameron

Poe Dameron Cover

I have so far featured a few comics by Charles Soule so far on this list, but I also have to include the Poe Dameron series.  Working with artists Phil Noto and Angel Unzueta, Soule has done an incredible job of making Poe and his cohorts in the Resistance compelling and complex protagonists (something the films struggled with).  With fascinating connections to other Star Wars comic series, this great work is set in the lead-up to The Force Awakens and examines the complex shadow war between the Resistance and the First Order.

Vader: Dark Visions

Vader-DarkVisions-TPB

The final entry on this list is the entertaining miniseries, Vader: Dark Visions, which takes a unique look at Darth Vader.  This intriguing comic contains just five issues, each of which tell a very different story of Vader, which sees him viewed as a hero, a lover and the scariest being in the galaxy.  Written by Dennis “Hopeless” Hallum and featuring five separate artists (Paolo Villanelli, Brian Level, David Lopez, Stephen Mooney and Geraldo Borges), this is a truly unique look at Darth Vader and I loved every clever tale within.

That is the end of my second Top Ten Tuesday list of today.  I really enjoyed highlighting all these excellent Star Wars comics, and I would strongly recommend all of the above as they are really exceptional reads.  Just like with my Top Ten Favourite Star Wars Novels list, I am planning to revisit this list every Star Wars day, and it will be interesting to see how different it is in a year’s time.  I am not too sure what will get added to this list next time, although I think there are a few interesting crossovers coming, as well as the new High Republic comics.  Make sure to come back in a year to how the list will have changed.  In the meantime, check out my other Top Ten Tuesday list with my favourite Star Wars novels on it.  And May the Fourth be with you!

Star Wars: Vader: Dark Visions by Dennis “Hopeless” Hallum and Various

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Publisher: Marvel Comics

Publication Date: 27 August 2019

Length: 128 pages

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Prepare to see one of the most iconic and beloved villains in all of fiction, Darth Vader, in a whole new light as Dennis “Hopeless” Hallum and several talented artists present five new and clever stories of the Dark Lord of the Sith from across the galaxy.

To most of the universe, Darth Vader is the Empire’s ultimate symbol of power, authority and fear, delivering death and destruction upon all who incur his wrath. But to some he can be something even more potent and remarkable. On one planet he is a Black Knight, a beacon of hope that saved them from a terrible monster. To a certain Imperial Commander, Vader is a reminder that failure is unacceptable. To one Imperial nurse, Vader is her one true love. But no matter how people see him, the one universal truth is that those who encounter this Sith Lord are likely to end up dead.

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Vader: Dark Visions is a fun and uniquely intriguing Star Wars comic that I bought a few weeks ago while on holiday. Vader is easily one of my favourite Star Wars characters, especially as most recent pieces of Star Wars expanded universe fiction have gone out of their way to show him as the ultimate badass. For example, I have absolutely loved some of the recent Darth Vader comics that have been published, including the 2015 Darth Vader series, the Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith series (check out my reviews for Volumes 2 and 3 here), and he has also been exceedingly impressive as a villain in recent volumes of the 2015 Star Wars comic series and the always entertaining Doctor Aphra comics. I also loved his appearance in the second season of Star Wars Rebels and in novels such as Thrawn: Alliances (which features a very cool scene of Vader flying a Tie Defender). As a result, I have been looking forward to Dark Visions for a while, as I found the cool concept of five new and different stories about Darth Vader very appealing.

This collected edition of Dark Visions contains five separate, standalone comic issues that have been written by Hopeless, each of which features the talents of a different artist. Each of these separate stories is really cool, featuring some very interesting story elements, eye-catching artwork and interactions that give the reader a real sense of how terrifying and complex the character of Darth Vader truly is. I also liked how different each of the stories was as Hopeless goes in some very interesting directions to showcase Vader.

VaderDarkVisions1-LFY

The first issue of Dark Visions is Savior and it features the artistic talents of Paolo Villanelli and colour artist Arif Prianto. Savior is the set piece of the entire book and is probably the one that shows off how powerful Vader truly is as he faces off against a gigantic civilisation-destroying monster by himself. Not only is this a pretty epic fight, but everything is shown from the perspective of a young boy whose people have been living in fear of the monster for generations. To him, Vader appears as a great hero, a Black knight, who has come to save their planet, and who even rides a black horse-like steed into battle. However, even after he saves his entire world, the young narrator gets a sense of what Vader really is and is quite rightly terrified. This was an awesome, action-packed first issue and it serves as a great introduction to the entire volume. You also have to give props to the cool cover art that this story produced. The main cover for Issue #1 was used as the cover for the Dark Visions collected edition, and the shot of Vader as an actual knight is one of the main reasons why I wanted to grab this comic. I have also included the two alternate covers that this issue inspired as well, as they are a lot of fun, and show the behemoth that Vader faces off against

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The second issue of this comic is easily the funniest of the whole Dark Visions volume. Issue #2, Unacceptable, features an absolutely hilarious Moby Dick inspired story drawn by Brian Level and coloured by Jordan Boyd. The story follows an Imperial Commander who, after seeing Vader brutally kill an entire room full of officers when he was younger, is absolutely terrified of any form of failure. As a result, when a single Rebel spy escapes his attack and he learns that Vader is on route, he abandons the fleet to take his Star Destroyer after this spy in order to capture him, as “failure is unacceptable”. What follows is a destructive rollercoaster ride through space, as the Rebel spy pilots his ship through a range of obstacles and the Imperial Commander obsessively follows him no matter the risk. This results in a fantastically amusing story filled with laughs, disbelief, some very impressive artistic set pieces and an ending that brings the entire story full circle. Thanks to excellent artwork, the commander’s fall to insanity is pretty clear throughout the issue, and I absolutely loved the crazy obstacles he went through. If you’ve ever wanted to see a Star Destroyer fly into an exogorth (the giant space slug in Empire Strikes Back) then this is the comic for you.

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Next we come to the third issue of Dark Visions, Tall, Dark and Handsome, which has David Lopez and Javier Pina as the artists and Muntsa Vicente as the colour artist. Like Unacceptable, the story within Issue #3 is a tale of obsession; however, it goes in a very different direction. Tall, Dark and Handsome follows an Imperial nurse on the Death Star who, after treating Vader and feeling his power, starts to fall in love with him and begins to imagine an epic romance with him. This story pretty much ends the way you would imagine, but it is a very dark and emotional journey to the conclusion. While this story is pretty messed up, it is written and drawn extremely well, and you can’t help but feel sorry for the nurse who is slowly losing her mind. The artists did a fantastic job showcasing the various stages of the nurses obsession, from the initial stages of her infatuation, to the look she gives him after he knocks her down with the force (a look that can only be described as “thirsty”), to the scenes at the end where she finally cracks and goes into full-blown crazy stalker mode. I also loved the various sequences generated by the nurse’s imagination, which show her idealised versions of the romance, and they are a great portal into her shattered mind.

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The fourth issue of Dark Visions is titled Hotshot and featured Stephen Mooney as the artist and Lee Loughridge as the colour artist. This is a rather interesting story that examines the impact Vader has on the psyche of the Rebel pilots he flies against. In this issue, Vader goes up against a group of skilled Rebel pilots, including a young hotshot flyer with boundless confidence. However, Vader’s superior skills and reputation as a pilot soon have a noted influence on his opponent’s minds, and Vader is able to defeat one solely through fear. I really liked seeing a story that focused on Vader’s ability as a pilot, as it is one of his more impressive abilities, and is pretty cool when focused on (his appearance in the season 2, episode 1 of Star Wars Rebels springs to mind). The various space battles that occur within this issue look fantastic, and you get a real sense of how skilled Vader is in the cockpit.

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The fifth and final issue contained within this volume is called You Can Run…, and it was drawn by Geraldo Borges and coloured by Marcio Menyz. This final inclusion focuses on the general aura of fear that Vader exudes as he hunts down a person carrying valuable information on a hostile jungle world. Vader is already pretty terrifying on his own, but when his target gets dosed by a hallucinogenic compound and begins to see all sorts of horrors around him (like the Scarecrow’s fear toxin in Batman), Vader’s scariness gets amped up to 11. The artists come up with some pretty impressive fear-induced sequences throughout this issue, and the various exaggerated ways that Vader is shown are quite inventive (there is a hint of the Predator in one of them).

Overall, I think that this was a really varied and enjoyable combination of different stories that all examine a different aspect of this great character. All five of these issues are done extremely well and feature a fantastic combination of intriguing stories and amazing artwork. I absolutely loved each of the first three issues, and also quite enjoyed Hotshot and You Can Run… However, I actually found it really hard to pick out my favourite story, mainly because they were all enjoyable in such different ways. I do think that these various stories came together into a very satisfying overall volume that is extremely entertaining. As a result, I would strongly recommend Vader: Dark Visions, and it is an excellent read for all fans of the Star Wars franchise.

Top Ten Tuesday – Book Titles with Numbers in Them

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics. While the proposed topic for the October 15 Top Ten Tuesday is actually Books I’d Give Different Titles To, I have decided to mix things up a little and instead, I will be doing a topic from a few weeks ago. The topic I have chosen to do instead is Book Titles with Numbers in Them, where the challenge is to try and come up with a list of 10 books, each of which has a number between one to ten in the title.

Unfortunately, I was away overseas on the Tuesday that this topic ran for everyone else, so I was unable to participate (poor me, forced to relax on a beach in Fiji). While I was just going to miss this topic, after seeing some of my fellow bloggers come up with some pretty cool lists, it got me thinking about the names of books I have read, and whether I could come up with a list like this. I had to scour my library of books pretty darn carefully, but I was eventually able to come up with a list. I do admit that in order to complete this list I had to be a tad liberal with what constituted a number, and I may have included a third and a fifth in place of a three and a five, although I personally think that they should count. This turned into a pretty varied and intriguing list in the end, and I was pretty happy that I was able to complete this challenge.

Honourable Mentions:

Let us start things off with a couple of my favourite books that have numbers in their title outside of the numbers one to ten.

0 – Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry

Patient Zero Cover

My first honourable mention is Patient Zero, the first book in the wildly exciting Joe Ledger series, which I have been slowly powering through in the last year and is probably one of my favourite series at the moment. Patient Zero is a very fun novel that not only sets up an outstanding series but also contains some amazing horror elements in the form of a modern zombie plague. Special mention should also go to the sixth book in the Joe Ledger series, Code Zero, which I just finished and will hopefully review soon.

16 – Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City by K. J. Parker

Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City Cover
One of my favourite books of 2019 so far, this is a hilarious piece of fantasy fiction that I just could not put down.

1000 – Veronica Mars: The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham

The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line Cover
My final honourable mention is this clever and enjoyable tie-in novel to the popular Veronica Mars television show. Written by the show’s creator and containing an excellent mystery and interesting additions to the canon, this is a must read for Veronica Mars fans, especially in its audiobook format, which is narrated by Kristen Bell.

Top Ten List:

One – Batman: Year One by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli

Batman Year One Cover.jpg

I was initially planning to use either DEV1AT3 by Jay Kristoff (which would have been kind of cheating) or First Watch by Dale Lucas, but then I remembered Batman: Year One. This is one of the most iconic Batman comics of all times, which completely reinvented the origins of Batman for an entire generation and served as the main inspiration for the Batman Begins film. Special callout also to Batgirl/Robin: Year One as well, which are both pretty awesome comics.

Two – The Two Towers by J. R. R. Tolkien

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This caused me a bit of trouble, mainly because I had two great options to choose from. I was sorely tempted to use The Two Swords by R. A. Salvatore, mainly because Salvatore is one of my favourite authors, but in the end, I decided I could not pass up on the fantasy classic that is The Two Towers, even if it has been a rather long time since I last read it.

Three – The Third Day, the Frost by John Marsden

The Third Day, The Frost Cover

The Third Day, the Frost is the third book in Marsden’s Tomorrow series, which is an absolute classic Australian series and one of my personal favourite sets of books to read and re-read. I was very glad that I was able to include this book on this list, although I was also tempted to use The Third Nero by Lindsey Davis. The Third Day, the Frost is an amazing part of the overall series, not only because it contains some major plot developments, but because it puts all of its characters, and by extension the reader, through an extreme emotional wringer. All of the books in the Tomorrow series come highly recommended, and The Third Day, the Frost has some extremely well-written and harrowing moments in it.

Four – All New Wolverine – Volume One: The Four Sisters by Tom Taylor and David Lopez

All-New Wolverine Volume 1 Cover

The first volume in an extremely fun comic book run of Wolverine, The Four Sisters introduced Marvel Comics fans to the female version of the character, as X-23 took on her father’s mantle following his death. This first volume does a wonderful job setting up the entire series, and it has a special place in my heart for introducing one of my favourite recent Marvel characters with Gabby, aka Honey Badger, X-23’s juvenile clone who is responsible for much of the series’ comedy.

Five – The Fifth Elephant by Terry Pratchett

The Fifth Elephant Cover.jpg

You know a book list is good when it includes a Terry Pratchett novel. Pratchett is probably my favourite author ever, and I am always glad when I can mention one of his books on this blog. The Fifth Elephant is unfortunately the only Discworld book that has a number in its title; however, it is a great addition to this list, especially as it is a key addition to the excellent City Watch subseries and features a comedic murder mystery in a Transylvanian inspired wilderness.

Six – Secret Six (2008) by Gail Simone

Secret Six Cover.jpg

Secret Six was a severely underrated comic book series back in 2008 that followed a small team of villains in the DC universe. Spinning off from the Infinite Crisis connected limited series, Villains United, the Secret Six featured a great roster of characters including the surprisingly badass Catman, Deadshot, Bane, Rag Doll, Scandal Savage and the banshee Jeannette. Lasting for 36 issues, this was an extremely well written series that had some real heart and lot of fun. I decided to include the entire series rather than any specific volume, as you need to read the whole run to really appreciate it.

Seven – The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle Cover

Known as either The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle or The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, this was probably one of the first books I considered when I came up with this list. A unique and clever murder mystery, this was one of my favourite books from 2018 and is a heck of a good read.

Eight – Pieces of Eight by John Drake

Pieces of Eight Cover

It took me a while to come up with number eight on this list, but luckily, I was able to dig up this novel from the bottom of my bookshelf. Piece of Eight is a fun reimagining of Treasure Island that was actually one of the first books I ever reviewed professionally as it featured in my debuting article with The Canberra Times.

Nine – Firefly: The Magnificent Nine by James Lovegrove

Firefly The Magnificent Nine Cover

The second in a new line of Firefly books, The Magnificent Nine is a fun tie-in to one of my favourite television series of all time, Firefly, that also draws inspiration from the classic western The Magnificent Seven (or Seven Samurai for film purists). I was also strongly considering using the recent novel, Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir, but I think The Magnificent Nine fits in a lot better.

Ten – The Lost Ten by Harry Sidebottom

The Lost Ten Cover

The final book on my list is the latest novel from one of my favourite historical fiction authors, Harry Sidebottom. The Lost Ten is a cool and enjoyable read that combines an ancient history setting with a modern special forces storyline to create an excellent book that comes highly recommended.

That is my Top Ten List of Books with Numbers in the Title. I was pretty happy that I was actually able to come up with titles for each of the numbers, as it is surprisingly harder than you would imagine. Let me know what you think in the comments below and I hope you’ll check out my future Top Ten Tuesday lists.