George Lucas’ first Prequel turns 20 years old this weekend, and it spawned some great tales beyond the film.
Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace is still a lightning rod of controversy for fans, even 20 years after its release (the film celebrates that anniversary this Sunday). And though The Last Jedi seems to be taking its place as the preeminent controversial Star Wars movie, the fact is, love it or hate it, The Phantom Menace rebirthed the galaxy far, far away for a new generation.
But even if you fall into the camp that doesn’t particularly enjoy Episode I, there are still some stories from the early Prequel era of Star Wars, ~30 BBY (Before Battle of Yavin) to be specific, that are incredible and simply wouldn’t exist without the characters, locales, or themes of The Phantom Menace.
Some of these stories now only “exist” in Legends canon and some were published as recently as last month, but all stand as a great example of what the Prequels did best.
Cloak of Deception
Though released two years after The Phantom Menace, Cloak of Deception details the months leading up to the Battle of Naboo, as Palpatine moves his galactic chess pieces on the board that will set his master plan into motion.
Written by Star Wars scribe extraordinaire James Luceno, Cloak of Deception is as much a political thriller as it is a science-fiction novel, with plots of manipulation and assassinations in the middle of blaster fights and Jedi Knights. If the political side of the Prequel era doesn’t do it for you, you might worry that Cloak of Deception might lean a little too far in that direction, but rest assured it’s written with such gusto that it’ll keep you riveted.
Darth Maul Shadow Hunter
In somewhat of a companion novel to Cloak of Deception, Michael Reaves’ Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter is the more physical side to Palpatine’s chess game. In Cloak of Deception, we get to see a great portrayal of Palpatine’s scalpel-like manipulation and strategy, but Shadow Hunter is about seeing his blunt instrument in action.
Set about a year before The Phantom Menace, Shadow Hunter shows Maul at his most dedicated, hunting down a Neimoidian who Palpatine believes has betrayed him and is trying to put a stop to his plan with the Trade Federation. Even in an era where we aren’t as desperate for more Maul stories as we once were, an itch the various Star Wars cartoons have gratefully scratched in the years since, Shadow Hunter stands as one of the best takes featuring the mysterious Sith Apprentice.
Master & Apprentice
Written by Claudia Gray, Master & Apprentice is set quite a few years before the events of Episode I, but is essentially a meditation on a critical portion of the film: Why is Qui-Gon Jinn so free to disrespect the ways of the Jedi and its Council?
This is a tale of Obi-Wan’s apprenticeship to Qui-Gon, questioning his methods and trying to understand his motives, ironically a similar relationship Anakin would later have to Obi-Wan himself. On the opposite side, Qui-Gon struggles with his own failings as a teacher, despite his best intentions to impart his Padawan with the skills necessary to succeed. All of these ideas swirl around a thrilling mission to a dangerous planet, and as a result, give us a good look at one of the most underserved relationships of the Prequel era.
Obi-Wan & Anakin
This great mini-series from the early days of Marvel’s modern run with the Star Wars license, written by Charles Soule with art by Marco Checchetto, offers a great in-canon adventure that shows us a critical portion of the Skywalker saga we’ve never really seen at length: young Anakin’s time as a Padawan under Obi-Wan.
Set a few years after The Phantom Menace, the two Jedi are dispatched to the world of Carnelian IV to get involved in a feud between factions. All things considered, it’s a pretty standard Jedi mission—which is exactly why it’s great. We get to see the relationship between these two in action on an ordinary day as a Jedi, building the bond that would be severed so brutally in a few years’ time.
Outlander (Star Wars: Republic #7-12)
Dark Horse Comics’ Star Wars: Republic series launched in late 1998 (originally titled just “Star Wars” until adding “Republic” with issue #46 in 2002) and its early arcs introduced readers to Ki-Adi-Mundi, the Cerean Jedi Knight with a very distinctive forehead who we were bound to meet in The Phantom Menace.
While the opening salvo, Prelude to Rebellion, depicted his appointment to the Jedi Council, the second arc, Outlander (written by Timothy Truman with art by Tom Raney, Rod Pereira, Rick Leonardi, and Al Rio), is the more memorable thanks to its integration of familiar locales and characters. Here, Ki heads to Tatooine in search of a rogue Jedi-turned-Tusken Raider, and as if that idea wasn’t cool enough, comes face-to-face with Jabba the Hutt, Aurra Sing, and even a Krayt dragon.
Imagine you’re a teenager who basically grew up being queen and now you’re about to go out into the world and do… what, exactly? That’s the basic premise of E.K. Johnston’s fantastic Queen’s Shadow, which opens on Padme Amidala’s final days as queen of Naboo, as she wrestles with what she should do next.
What follows is a story of a young woman finding her place in the complicated political landscape of the Republic, having to forge tenuous relationships for the betterment of her own people and the galaxy at large. Simultaneously, it’s a heartfelt exploration of her deep bonds with her handmaidens who have stood bravely by her side for years—and always would, until the end.
The Hunt for Aurra Sing (Star Wars: Republic #28-31)
Like Boba Feet in the Original Trilogy before her, bounty hunter Aurra Sing was barely a blip on camera in The Phantom Menace, yet she sparked a wave of interest from fans who wanted to know more about her thanks to a cool look and presumed badass demeanor.
Those suspicions were confirmed with this story from Dark Horse Comics, written by Timothy Truman with art by Davidé Fabbri, in which Aurra is wanted for the murders of multiple Jedi on Coruscant. What follows is a fun cat-and-mouse story across multiple planets as a group of Jedi, led by Ki-Adi-Mundi, try to track her down while Aurra continues her killing spree.
What are your favorite Phantom Menace-era stories? Discuss in the comments!