The Star Wars Expanded Universe is no more. In many cases; this is no big loss — some stories and characters are best tossed into a black hole and never spoken of again. But the EU had plenty of good stories, too — tales so good we’re genuinely sad they will lose whatever little canonization they had. Here are the 10 Expanded Universe books, comics and more that we’ll miss the most.
1) The Thrawn Trilogy
We’ll begin with the obvious. Now that Star Wars is pretty much omnipresent in entertainment, it can be hard to remember that once the franchise was pretty well dead. After the cartoons of the ’80s and toyline died done, there was nothing Star Wars until Timothy Zahn’s 1991 book Heir to the Empire, which rekindled interest in the movies and helped get us to where we are today. The story was about an imperial admiral named Thrawn who led the remnants of the Empire against the new Republic; it wasn’t perfect, but it introduced a bunch of characters who became EU mainstays — and more importantly, it felt like the movies (sometimes, a little too much). For the best experience, read the trilogy on graphic novel — it’s a Star Wars story that needs to be seen, not just read.
2) The X-Wing Series
Although inspired by a few popular video games, Michael A. Stackpole’s X-Wing books didn’t lack depth. Captain Wedge Antilles led his elite group of pilots against the remnants of the Empire. Stackpole’s first four books — Rogue Squadron, Wedge’s Gamble, The Krytos Trap and The Bacta War — tell one epic story, one that includes the Rebel Alliance’s invasion and occupation of Coruscant while still telling a thrilling action-adventure. The rest of the books in the X-Wing series are good, but these are the four you need to read.
3) Dark Empire
In retrospect, the writing of Dark Horse’s 1991 comic miniseries doesn’t hold up as well as most of the entries on this list, and its story — of cloned Emperors, Force storms, hyperspace wormholes, and prophecies — was insane by even Star Wars standards. But no Star Wars fan can forget how they felt the first time they saw Luke Skywalker kneel before the Emperor and join his side. Watching Luke succumb to the dark side as his father did was essentially powerful enough that author Tom Veith could have written the rest of the comic using old scripts from the Ewoks cartoon and we still would have been blown away. It remains an essential part of the E.U.
4) Darth Plagueis
Regardless of how you felt about the Prequel trilogy, you have to admit there were more than a few gaps in the story. Many Expanded Universe tales tried to fill in these gaps, but also managed to improve the prequels at the same time by adding depth, motivation, and history to characters. One of the best was James Luceno’s 2008 novel Darth Plagueis, the Sith who recruited Palpatine, set the plan against the Jedi and the Republic in motion, from ordering the clone army, killing the King of Naboo so the young Amidala would take his place, and tying in much, much more. The book spans decades, and even covers the events of The Phantom Menace, tying the prequels together in a way the movies didn’t, and giving Palpatine and his eventual minions far more depth.
Most of the Expanded Universe books, comics, and whatnot are set after the events of Return of the Jedi. While sagas like the Jedi Academy series are good, is can be kind of disheartening to see all the work Han, Luke and Leia did in the movies slowly unravel, or watch their families implode. Dark Horse’s Legacy comic series avoids this by being set over 125 years in the future, when the Star Wars universe is both vastly different and comfortingly the same. There’s a benevolent Empire in charge until a Sith named Darth Krayt takes over; and Cade Skywalker, a descendent of Luke, has abandoned the Jedi Academy to become a space pirate, making him Luke and Han in one. Legacy truly expanded the Expanded Universe, and watching Cade slowly accept his heritage and, well, his legacy, is a vastly entertaining but still original Star Wars tale.
6) Clone Wars
The Clone Wars cartoon started out about as dire as can be — with a movie featuring a homosexual stereotype Hutt as well as a baby Hutt named Stinky who farted a lot — but it slowly became the most Expanded Universe story most integral to the movies. The prequels only featured the very beginning and the end of the Clone Wars, and briefly — watching the Jedi and the clone army fight the separatists added the pathos and grandeur that Obi-Wan only hinted at in A New Hope. It actually showed us Obi-Wan and Anakin’s friendship, making their eventual split much more powerful, and through the character of his apprentice Ahsoka, Anakin’s slow disillusionment had agency and a cost. Also, Clone Wars didn’t gloss over portraying the cost of war, and gave names and personalities to the clones whose sole purpose was to fight and die. Not every episode was perfect, but hell, it managed to give depth to Darth Maul, and he was cut in half back in The Phantom Menace.
The three comics series that make up Infinites are like the Expanded Universe’s expanded universe. They’re what if tales, showing how one change in each of the original trilogy’s movies could have had vastly different results. It was really an excuse for writers to go crazy, and it worked so, so well. For instance, if Luke’s photon torpedo failed to destroy the Death Star, the new events of Return of the Jedi essentially become Luke fighting the A Dark Side-powered Leia in the Emperor’s throne room. If Luke freezes to death on Hoth in Empire Strikes Back, Leia is the one told to visit Yoda. And if C-3PO broke down in Jabba’s Palace and was unable to translate for Leia, Luke and Leia confront Vader together in the Emperor’s throne room, with a wildly different conclusion. The Infinities comics aren’t even EU canon, but they’re a ton of fun. It’s a shame they didn’t do more of them.
8) Knights of the Old Republic
It may seem weird that a couple of video games would be listed in the best stories category, but then you’ve probably never played the Knights of the Old Republic games. Bioware’s two RPGS allowed players to travel the Star Wars universe 4,000 years before the events of the movies, with was both wildly different and comfortably familiar, especially with a Jedi-Sith fight that encompassed that universe. The whole series felt almost mythic compared to the movies and modern stories, which was perfect for tales of ancient Jedi and their foes. The game allowed players to choose either the Light Side or the Dark Side while embarking on an adventure that felt suitably epic. But the real star is the ancient setting, which was so awesome it spawned countless comics and novels — nearly as many as the modern era of Star Wars. Frankly, Disney should probably just decide to keep this canon and leave it alone. Who would it hurt?
9) Genndy Tartakovsky’s Clone Wars
There is a whole generation of Star Wars fans who, after seeing the messes that were The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, began to question their love for Star Wars. I know I did. The movies weren’t fun, weren’t cool, and for the first time, Star Wars was making us sad. And that’s when Genndy Tartakovsky came along. The Samurai Jack creator was hired to make several short cartoons, bridging the gap between AotC and Revenge of the Sith, and the results were… phenomenal. He made Star Wars awesome again. Admittedly, he did this by cranking the action up to 11, which meant Mace Windu took on thousands of Super Battle Droids by himself and completely kicked their arse, elite Clone Troopers became badass Navy Seals, Obi-Wan had a speederbike joust — it was so much fun. Tartakovsky even gave us little thrills, like see the rain hiss and evaporate on the lightsaber. And most impressively, it introduced General Grievous and made him absolutely terrifying. The CG Clone Wars may be the objectively better story, but in terms of pure entertainment value, I’ll take Tartakovsky’s Clone Wars every time.
10) The Dark Lord Trilogy
Labyrinth of Evil, the Revenge of the Sith novelization and Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader all deserve to be on this list. In fact, the three books were not intended to be a trilogy at all, but they chronicled Anakin Skywalker’s transformation into Dark Vader so perfectly, and work together so well, that fans began calling it the Dark Lord Trilogy and eventually Del Rey published them in one collection. Labyrinth of Evil focuses on Anakin and Obi-Wan learning about and trying to track down Darth Sidious, a major improvement in that the Jedi are suddenly no longer completely oblivious to their antagonist. Like Darth Plagueis, the Revenge of the Sith novelization wonderfully adds detail, depth and motivations to the characters in the movie, making for a much richer, more satisfying experience — especially in terms of watching Anakin’s descent to the Dark Side. Dark Lord is about Vader’s early days, and his internal struggles with his new status, his new body, and his new master, all while hunting down the remnants of the Jedi. These three books don’t just improve Revenge of the Sith, they improve all six Star Wars movies, and add so much more to Anakin’s fall, and thus his eventual redemption. If there’s one thing that should survive the death of the Expanded Universe, it’s this trilogy.