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UPDATE! The Ultimate Guide to the New Star Wars Canon

star warsDepending on how one looks at Disney hitting the RESTART button on the Star Wars Expanded Universe, or canon, it could be either a very refreshing thing or infuriating. If you have invested many dollars and hours pouring over previous Expanded Universe novels, games, and comics this could be discouraging that some of your favorite tales have been pushed aside and given the LEGENDS moniker; a title that means the stories are indefinitely “on-hold” in the new canon Disney is gearing up, or they are most likely to stay that way forever (Sorry, Jedi Academy fans). If you are like some Star Wars fans that did not go all-in on the Star Wars Expanded Universe, pre-Disney, you might find this new beginning of content to compliment the films you already know and love easier to embrace than its predecessor that has been churning since A New Hope…



Whatever side of this you land on I say to you: It’s done, just accept it.


Now that’s out of the way, let’s look at the chronology what we know so far.  This new canon makes it easier for the casual fans to do a bit of soul searching in the Star Wars Universe while crossing the days off of their calendar until this December. Instead of watching The Force Awakens teasers for the millionth time (not saying there is anything wrong with that), maybe we can take a second to step back and look at each story in what is now the chronology of Star Wars. There is so much to dig into before the Sequel Trilogy begins, not to mention Rogue One and the two TBA Anthology films. Let’s begin where the man himself, George Lucas, sees it beginning.


The Prequel Trilogy


the phantom menace

The Phantom Menace introduces us to a number of characters that not only span into the Clone Wars, but will show up in the Sequel Trilogy. Due to chance, or “the will of the Force”, a Jedi – master and his apprentice find themselves stranded on a remote planet and encounter a boy touched by the Force stronger than any other being they’ve encountered. That boy begins his journey toward learning more about his powers by the end of the film, and we have a brief insight into the childhood of the man who would eventually become Darth Vader. The Phantom Menace is the beginning of everything we know, so far. We learn from the film that the Republic and the Jedi have been around a very long time, the Sith have been extinct for a millennia, and there is a rule of the Sith that there can only be a master and an apprentice. The Sith “master and apprentice” rule is an ongoing plot point in the next two prequel films, as the apprentice we meet in this film is dispatched with by the end of it.



Set 10 years after The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones shows us a very conflicted Anakin Skywalker, on the eve of becoming a Jedi Knight, embrace his passionate feelings of love and hatred. He learns to love from the friend he made years ago as a child and learns to hate by his mother dying in his arms. In both cases, he violates strict Jedi Codes he has lived under since he began his apprenticeship, and this film is indeed the beginning of the end for a very troubled young man. We witness that the friendship between Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi was much more turbulent than warm. We see the Sith’s continued assault against the Jedi as the new Sith apprentice has set-in motion the events that cause a deep division in the galaxy, and put the Jedi Order at the frontlines of the Clone War.


An Interlude


The Clone Wars

The Clone Wars (animated series and film)


If you are entering the Clone Wars series for the first time, start with the feature film, then move onto the series itself. Picking up right after the events of Attack of the Clones, this series took on the difficult job of covering one of the most important periods of the Star Wars Universe.


starwars sod

In six-seasons, as well as a comic series based on Darth Maul: The Son of Dathomir, the Clone Wars told a fantastic tale, introducing new characters fans came to love and taking us to worlds we thought we might never see. This series only got better as it went on, and by the end of it, fans had an investment in the vivid depiction of the cost the Clone Wars had on the Star Wars Universe. It should not be overlooked by any fan.



While six seasons, a comic-series, and the Dark Disciple novel coming out this summer may seem daunting; the length of the episodes make it “binge – watch” friendly. If you have been holding off on this piece of the Star Wars Universe you are missing out big time. Get started.


The End of the Prequels and The Clone Wars



Revenge of the Sith ends not only the Clone Wars, but the prequel trilogy itself. It picks up three-years after the Clone Wars have begun. By the end of this film, the child introduced to us as a savior and embodiment of the Force, is rotted from the inside out by ultimately betraying his teachers and friends, and in turn, allying himself with the Sith out of a desire to change a tragic, presumed destiny shown to him in a vision. The Republic, as old as the Jedi Order itself, is down the dark road toward being revised as an Empire. The Sith have been behind almost every critical detriment to our heroes in this trilogy, and the dominos the dark lords have lined up are knocked down with precision. We see a Jedi Order almost completely destroyed, it’s two most powerful members set into self-imposed exile to await a better time to fight back, and the birth of two Skywalker twins that may one day answer the call to do the things their father could not.


Kanan The Last Padawan

It should be noted, as the Jedi are being murdered across the galaxy in Revenge of the Sith, the tale of another surviving Jedi is beginning, Kanan, who will eventually be a critical piece in the early days of the Rebel Alliance. The comic book series, Star Wars: Kanan–The Last Padawan, is only in it’s second issue, but is very promising so far. The second issue is especially good and one of the best new Marvel Star Wars issues that has been put out so far.


A Few Novels



Approximately 5 years after the Prequel Trilogy, the novel Lords of the Sith picks up where our lost hero Anakin Skywalker ended and Darth Vader began. We meet a much more conflicted Vader and discover that the Emperor is nervous about the conflict we will later discover stirs in his new apprentice. It’s a great read and provides great insight into the relationship between Sidious and Vader.



Not long after Lords of the Sith, the events in the novel Tarkin take place. This novel serves primarily as a biography for Wilhuff Tarkin, but Darth Vader plays an important role, as well. An interesting revelation is no one actually knows who Darth Vader is. Some people suspect he may be a former Jedi, but no one is aware of Anakin Skywaylker’s betrayal against the Jedi, and it seems most Imperials just assume the Jedi have been eradicated. We also see the construction of the Death Star is one of the most carefully guarded Imperial secrets.


a new dawn

A New Dawn tells how Kanan came to meet his friend and co-pilot, Hera. Other than the two of them coming together, there are no huge implications for the rest of the Star Wars Universe. It takes place 8 years after the end of the Prequel Trilogy. Its sole purpose is to set the stage for what would come 6 years later…


Star Wars: Rebels



We are just through the first season of Rebels, but each episode only saw the next improve. Set 5 years before A New Hope, the animated show is based around one of the first groups that ultimately formed the Rebel Alliance. We see the galaxy in the tight grip of Imperial control through the eyes of Ezra Bridger, an orphaned teen, living on the planet Lothal. Once Ezra joins up with the crew of the ship Ghost, one of the last surviving Jedi, Kanan, sees his skill in the Force and takes it upon himself to see Ezra trained in the ways of the Force. Familiar faces from Tarkin to Lando Calrissian to Darth Vader to Asohka Tano have shown up and are bound to be in the second season as well.


Star Wars Anthology Rogue One



Under the moniker of “Anthology”, most speculate this film will show those who discovered and stole the plans of the first Death Star. Other than the brief teaser glimpsed at Star Wars Celebration, we can assume it takes place almost immediately before the Original Trilogy begins. Rogue has often been a call-sign of Rebellion pilots, so we can also assume it follows a Rebellion squadron of X-Wings.


The Original Trilogy


A New Hope

A New Hope meets the son of Anakin Skywalker, Luke, who has no idea of his lineage due to being raised on the remote planet Tatooine by his grumpy uncle in a fringe society. After stumbling upon a transmission of a distressed princess, Luke ventures off his planet to assist in a rescue mission under the guidance of Obi-Wan Kenobi (who tells him nothing of what his father has become). Along with Han Solo, a gun/pilot for hire, Luke and company rescue the princess from the Empire aboard their deadly weapon, the Death Star. Luke lends his skills as a pilot to flying an attack against the Death Star and saving one of the largest outposts of the Rebel Alliance. The rippling implications of this film are Obi-Wan’s death, leaving Luke to wonder about what the Force is and how he will become a Jedi without his old-friend’s guidance, as well as Darth Vader sensing something different about the young Rebel greatly touched by the Force.


Another Novel and A Few Comic Books



Immediately after the Death Star’s destruction, it is Princess Leia the Empire deems Public Enemy Number One and responsible for orchestrating the attack against the Death Star. No one really knows or cares about the unknown Skywalker…yet. The Marvel series Star Wars: Princess Leia covers Leia searching for the survivors of her recently destroyed home planet of Alderaan. This series takes place literally hours after the events of A New Hope.



Although there is no specific timeline assigned to Heir to the Jedi, it does not seem to take place very long after the events of A New Hope and the Princess Leia-comic. This story concerns Luke Skywalker gathering intelligence for the Rebel Alliance and snatching up a defecting cryptographer. There is nothing of consequence in Heir to the Jedi, other than being inside young Luke Skywalker’s head for a few hundred pages, as the novel presents a first-person narrative. It may be the first place where the Excalibur-style lightsaber description appears, but the few sentences are vague, at best.



From there, we have the overlapping Star Wars and Darth Vader comic series, which take place not long after Heir to the Jedi. The first tells of Luke’s first face-to-face encounter with the Sith Lord during a mission to destroy an Imperial factory.  This encounter sends Luke back to his home planet of Tatooine to search the home of the late Obi-Wan Kenobi. Darth Vader is beginning to sense who Luke might be, especially when Luke brandishes the lightsaber constructed by Anakin Skywalker. The seeds of Vader’s obsession with finding Luke are planted. Darth Vader picks up somewhere we can imagine Star Wars ending (NOTE: Neither of these arcs are complete, so where exactly they overlap in chronology is uncertain). The arc follows a disgraced Darth Vader, searching the galaxy for an army he can call his own, as he has a feeling his master is about to replace him.  Both of these series are excellent and are highly recommended.



It should be noted there is another Marvel series, Lando (scheduled for July 8 release), that will take place before he joined the rebellion, and before he ran Cloud City. The story will be about Lando trying to steal a very valuable ship with Lobot at his side.



Very recently a new novel called Star Wars Battlefront: Twilight Company was announced. The novel will be based on the video game and is set for a Nov. 3 release from Del Rey Books. It will be penned by Alexander Freed (writer for Dark Horse Comic’s Star Wars: The Old Republic and former writer for Mass Effect developer BioWare). The story is set between Heir to the Jedi and TESB, and will be about the fight between highly trained elite stormtroopers and the Rebel Forces in the trenches of worlds like Sullust, Coyerti, Haidoral Prime, and untold others.


Back to the Original Trilogy



The Empire Strikes Back, set 3 years after A New Hope, could very well be called the “watershed” story in the Star Wars Universe. The most important thing to walk away from this story is that Luke Skywalker is on his way to becoming a Jedi Knight and he knows who his father is and what has become of him. Obi-Wan Kenobi lied to Luke and by the end of the film our hero is in pieces, physically and emotionally. The opening of this film also establishes that the destruction of the Death Star was not such a crippling blow to the Empire after all, as they swiftly crush the latest outpost of the Rebel Alliance.



Return of the Jedi, taking place one year later, shows us the end of the Empire and the Sith’s complete rule over the galaxy. Luke finally confronts his father, and in doing so, reawakens what is left of Anakin Skywalker. Anakin fulfills the prophecy of overthrowing the Sith, killing his master Darth Sidious, and restoring something resembling balance to the Force. Luke also discovers he is not the lone surviving Skywalker, Leia is his sister. The Original Trilogy comes to an end with Luke looking over a funeral pyre of Darth Vader’s armor. In the last seconds of the film, we see the Force-ghost of Anakin Skywalker, joining that of Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi, letting us know the late Jedi has become one with the Force.


Star Wars Uprising poster

Then we have Star Wars: Uprising – an upcoming mobile game, set shortly after the events of Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi, that deals with the aftermath of the Battle of Endor. This will be our first canonical look at how the galaxy comes to terms with death of the Emperor, and exactly how staggering a blow this really was. Gameplay takes place in the Anoat sector, home of Hoth and Bespin, and introduces new characters and locations.


Galaxy of Heroes

Also there is another mobile game called Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes, expected to be released sometime in 2015. The game will allow players to collect characters, vehicles, and more from the prequel trilogy, The Clone Wars, Star Wars Rebels, the original trilogy, and beyond and put those characters into the battle.


There are several other games like Battlefront, Commander, Galactic Defense, Beginnings, where characters and planets are canon but the gameplay is not.


Now what?



This September, Del Rey and Marvel will begin releasing installments in what Lucasfilm is calling Journey To The Force Awakens. Del Rey will give us Aftermath, which takes place immediately after Return of the Jedi, and will show the scrambling Empire trying to dig its heels into the parts of the galaxy they control.


Shattered Empire

Marvel’s contribution will be a comic series called Shattered Empire that covers what is happening with our heroes post their victory at Endor. It’s not clear how far past the events of ROTJ these stories will take us, but from the moniker of the series, we should have some idea of where our characters may be when the Sequel Trilogy comes to us.


The Sequel Trilogy



The few solid things we know about The Force Awakens. It takes place 35 years after the events of Return of the Jedi. Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo, Chewbacca, C-3P0, and R2-D2 will be somehow involved in the story. There are characters named Rey, a young female who resides on a desert planet called Jakku; Finn, a Stormtrooper who looses his garb at some point in the film; Poe Daemeron, an X-Wing pilot; Kylo Ren, an ominous figure who wields an Excalibur-style lightsaber which color indicates he is something of a villain (red lightsabers are traditionally used by Sith); Captain Phasma, a chrome Stormtrooper with a crimson trimmed cape; Maz Kanata, some sort of MOCAP character; and Supreme Leader Snoke, another MOCAP character that sounds a bit more foreboding. There is something called First Order that one could speculate is related to the Empire…but we are going to stick to the facts here. There are TIE Fighters, Star Destroyers, X-Wings, the Millennium Falcon, and some wrecked Star Destroyers to go along with them all.


The story and how it pushes the chronology forward while connecting back to the other stories featured in this chronology? Your guess is as good as mine ;).


Episode VIII

There will be an Episode VIII and IX, but both are yet to be titled and it’s doubtful more than a handful of people have any idea of what they will be about. There are also two more Anthology films, but no one is certain what they will cover and where in this chronology they will land.


There You Have It


Taking into consideration the Disney reboot, this is chronology of the events leading up to The Force Awakens, or more importantly the Sequel Trilogy and what else is to come. There is plenty of days left until December, so you should feel compelled to revisit as much of this chronology as you can. Or, maybe you want a fresh start, and would rather see The Force Awakens with a clear head. That’s fine too, and you can think of this as where we’ve been and (we can finally say) where we are going.



NOTE: There is a significant amount of junior novels, young readers books and color/sticker books, that are also considered canon, but we won’t cover them, since they have very little impact on the overall story.


Kyle Larson lives in Portland, Oregon. When he’s not running trails, he’s reading and writing.


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