Star Wars Canon Catch-Up: Everything You Need to Check Out Before Episode VII

This is a new era of Star Wars, and something of a fresh start for the decades-old franchise. However, despite Disney wiping the slate (mostly) clean, the timeline is filling back up at an alarming pace.

Taking a look at what’s been released so far, and what’s on the radar for the coming months, I was surprised at how much material Disney has generated in such a short amount of time. If you’re a canon junkie like me, that means a ton of stuff to catch up on before J.J. Abrams movie lands in December.

Here’s what we have so far in the new, official timeline:

The Core Canon

star wars movies

When Disney acquired Lucasfilm and Star Wars, they made the controversial choice to remove all of the Expanded Universe material from the canon. That meant nearly four decades of novels, comics, and video games were suddenly wiped from the official timeline (they’ll still exist, but will be treated as alternate timeline-esque material), and won’t factor into anything related to Episode VII and beyond.

That being said, not everything is gone. The six films are obviously still canon, as is the Clone Wars television series. These seven properties together will make up the “core” universe, with everything else building on that.

Star Wars Rebels

Star Wars Rebels

The first official addition to the new Star Wars canon is Rebels, the animated series currently airing on Disney XD. While it’s a little more kiddie than I think a lot of grown up fans were hoping for, it actually gets pretty good after a couple of episodes. There’s some weird tonal inconsistencies between it and what we’ve seen/heard about Episode VII, given it’s a cartoon and all, but on the whole it’s worth looking into if you want the “full” Star Wars picture.

The series takes place close to the beginning of the start of the Rebel Alliance, about five years before A New Hope, and it features a few fairly important connections between the end of the prequels and the start of the original trilogy. More interestingly though, it raises more than a few questions that will need to be addressed by the end of the series; namely, the fact that it has two light-side force users as major characters who are completely absent in Episodes IV-VI.

Star Wars (The Comic)

Star Wars The Comic

The second piece of the puzzle is an ongoing comic series, simply titled Star Wars. This story jumps ahead a few years to right after the ending of A New Hope. It’s currently three issues in, and will run up to, and likely beyond, the release of The Force Awakens.

So far it’s not incredibly revelatory story-wise, but it does provide some very interesting connective tissue between the first two movies of the original trilogy, including revealing that Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader met face-to-face long before their confrontation on Bespin (which would explain why Vader knows he’s his son in Empire).

Darth Vader

darth-vader-comic

The second of the three Marvel comic book series (so far), Darth Vader charts what the Dark Lord was up to after the events of A New Hope and the first arc of the Star Wars comic (hint: those did not go well for him). So far, it’s also set up how Vader assembled that team of Bounty Hunters we saw in Empire.

Princess Leia

Princess Leia Comic

The third Marvel comic book series to debut was Princess Leia, which literally picks up seconds after A New Hope ends. The five issue miniseries focuses on an aspect of Leia’s character that we don’t see much of in the movies: the fact that despite her status as a teenage “princess,” she also kicks a ton of ass.

In terms of connections, it (along with the other two comics) obviously bridges the gap between A New Hope and Empire. The series also sees Leia teaming up with a new character, Evaan, a Rebel Alliance pilot and fellow Alderaanian; along with a few cameos of Star Wars regulars like Wedge Antilles. Finally, an upcoming issue will see the pair traveling to Naboo, so we’ll probably get a look at what became of that sector of the galaxy after the events of the prequel trilogy.

Kanan: The Last Padawan

Kanan The Last Padawan

One of Rebels major characters will be getting his own Marvel comic next month. This series will be set before the events of the TV series, following the character (still an official Jedi Padawan then) in the aftermath of Order 66.

A New Dawn

A New Dawn

Another Rebels-centric story, A New Dawn reveals how Kanaan and Hera, another major character from the show, teamed up. I haven’t gotten a chance to read it yet, but reviews on Amazon have been pretty positive.

Disney is definitely pushing the Rebels era hard, with a TV show, a novel, and an upcoming comic series. I’m really curious to see how it all plays out, as the overall story obviously has to come to an end somehow before A New Hope begins.

Tarkin

Tarkin-Novel

Tarkin is the second new-canon novel to be released, and as the title suggests, it follows Grand Moff Tarkin. You know, the asshole who ordered the destruction of an entire planet in Episode IV.

Aside from being an interesting look at a character who gets a fairly one-note treatment in the films, Tarkin is also an important piece of the puzzle as it reveals what happened to the Republic’s clone soldiers during the rise of the Empire.

Heir to the Jedi

Heir to the Jedi

This novel reveals what Luke Skywalker was up to shortly after the end of A New Hope. If this bit of the timeline is starting to feel a little cluttered to you, you’re not wrong. This particular story fits right in between the end of the movie and the start of the Star Wars comic book series.

Lords of the Sith

Lords-of-the-Sith

Lords of the Sith is a novel that will be released next month, and will explore the Apprentice/Sith Master dynamic between Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine.

It’s set soon after the events of Revenge of the Sith, and further bridges a few gaps by including a character named Cham Syndulla. Syndulla has appeared on The Clone Wars, and is also the father of a major character on Rebels.

Dark Disciple

Dark Disciple

Due out in July, this novel features the return of Asajj Ventress, a villain/anti-hero who had a big role in the Clone Wars animated series. Dark Disciple will explain what happened to her after the end of the show, and is likely adapted from some of the series’ scripts that went unused after its cancellation.

Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Journey to the Force Awakens

Do you want to know what happened in the 30 years in between episodes VI and VII? Good, because you’ll be getting 20 freakin’ books in a series called Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The collection will be a mix of children’s books, young adult novels, and more mature-oriented novels, as well as a few more comics from Marvel. All of them will be considered canon though, even the kid stuff. There’s no release date yet, but expect it all to be kicked off in gratuitous fashion over the next few months.

A few of the books have been revealed, and they include:

  • Star Wars: Aftermath, which sounds like it would take place right after Return of the Jedi.
  • Journey to the Force Awakens, a Marvel comic from C-3PO’s perspective.
  • Moving Target, a Princess Leia story by Cecil Castellucci.
  • The Weapon of a Jedi, a Luke Skywalker story by Jason Fry.
  • Smuggler’s Run, a Han Solo story by Greg Rucka.
  • Lost Stars, something mysterious by Claudia Gray.

Disney will also be releasing novels set in between and during the original trilogy movies, although they haven’t revealed what those will look like yet.

Star Wars: Battlefront

2605595-battlefront

The final piece of the puzzle (so far) is a video game. EA acquired the exclusive rights to publish all “core” Star Wars games shortly after the Disney acquisition, and they immediately put three of their best studios to work on projects that will become official parts of the Star Wars universe. So far, only one of those games has been announced: DICE’s Battlefront.

A reboot of sorts of LucasArts’ shooter series, the game will feature a singleplayer mode that is heavily rumored to tie into The Force Awakens. Specifically, it will feature a section that will be set right before and during the opening segment of the film.

The Timeline So Far

That’s a lot of material to go over (and we still have dozens of unannounced books, comics, and games to go), so let’s break it down into a more manageable timeline. If you’re looking to catch up on everything in order, here’s what we’ve got so far:

  • Episode I: The Phantom Menace
  • Episode II: Attack of the Clones
  • The Clone Wars (the film, followed by the TV series)
  • Dark Disciple
  • Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
  • Kanan: The Last Padawan
  • Lords of the Sith
  • Tarkin
  • A New Dawn
  • Star Wars: Rebels
  • Episode IV: A New Hope
  • Heir to the Jedi
  • Star Wars/Darth Vader/Princess Leia comics (they take place roughly around the same time as each other).
  • Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
  • Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
  • Journey to Star Wars The Force Awakens
  • Star Wars: Battlefront
  • ???
  • Episode VII: The Force Awakens

There’s around eight months to go until The Force Awakens hits theaters, so get started now if you want to be completely caught up by then.

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