Lucasfilm is taking its first step back into a larger world.

On the surface, there’s nothing especially newsworthy about Marvel Comics’ latest Star Wars project. This week Marvel announced Star Wars #108, a continuation of the original Star Wars comic that ran from 1977 to 1986. The scope of this project is small. It’s just a single, standalone story aimed at tapping into nostalgia for a bygone era of the Star Wars franchise. But in truth, this lone issue is actually one of the most significant projects Marvel has announced since reacquiring the Star Wars license in 2015. It’s the first sign that Lucasfilm and Disney are willing to return to the dormant “Legends” universe, and that should get fans plenty excited.

For those not familiar with the term Legends, that’s the current branding Lucasfilm uses for all the novels, comics and video games that were released before Disney’s Star Wars acquisition. Because Lucasfilm elected to wipe the slate clean and start fresh with new sequels, pretty much everything but the movies themselves and the animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars was eliminated from official Star Wars continuity. What was once known as the Expanded Universe – novels like the Thrawn Trilogy and the New Jedi Order series, comics like Dark Empire and video games like The Force Unleashed – is now confined to pop culture history.

This wasn’t necessarily a bad move on Lucasfilm’s part. Many fans plenty of nostalgia for the old EU stories, and some of those projects truly lived up to the legacy of the Original Trilogy. But it’s hard to argue with Lucasfilm’s perspective here. Why not start with a fresh canvas? Why force the creators working on the new Star Wars movies and TV shows and comics and novels to slog through those decades of preexisting continuity, much of which is convoluted and even contradictory at this point? Why limit the new movies to either adapting existing EU tales or trying to insert themselves in the middle of a crowded timeline? It’s safe to say the franchise needed that clean break, for the sake of both fans and creators.

Lucasfilm’s mistake, though, has been to so completely close the door on the old Expanded Universe. Sure, they’ve mostly kept that old material in print, but there haven’t been any new stories set in the Expanded Universe since 2014’s Star Wars: A New Dawn officially rebooted Star Wars continuity. There’s a hard line separating what came before and what’s being published now.

It’s understandable why so many older Star Wars fans feel hurt by the quick, quiet death of the EU. For many fans, the EU was a fundamental part of their Star Wars experience growing up, just as the new movies are defining Star Wars for a younger generation. Why can’t the two Star Wars universes find a way to coexist and thrive together? If audiences can handle so many simultaneous incarnations of the Marvel and DC Universes, what’s the problem in maintaining two Star Wars timelines? Star Trek has been managing it just fine since 2009.

That’s what makes the announcement of Star Wars #108 so intriguing. It appears, at long last, that Lucasfilm is willing to revisit the old Expanded Universe with actual new content rather than simply reprinting classic stories. This lone issue isn’t likely to make huge waves. Again, it’s more a nostalgic throwback to a comic whose place in the Star Wars canon was always dubious. But that’s sort of the point. Since 2014, Lucasfilm has been laser-focused on ensuring that each new Star Wars project serves as a piece of a larger puzzle. Everything exists as an official point on the singular Star Wars timeline, even a plot-free multiplayer shooter like Star Wars: Battlefront. That approach has its merits, for sure, but is it really so important that every single Star Wars story adhere to one strict continuity?

Star Wars #108 cover by Walt Simonson. (Marvel Comics)

Star Wars #108 cover by Walt Simonson. (Marvel Comics)

Apparently not, as this announcement shows. It suggests Lucasfilm is easing up on its approach to the franchise and allowing for stories that don’t contribute to the singular puzzle it’s been constructing for the past five years. We can have stories that take place in a different version of the Star Wars universe, one with its own unique characters and where the Star Wars saga takes its own twists and turns. And given that these stories aren’t beholden to Lucasfilm’s overarching master plan, there’s far more room to experiment and break the toys.

The hope is that this lone comic will pave the way for plenty more Star Wars projects set in the Legends universe. We could see more novels and comics featuring characters like Revan, Mara Jade and Jaina Solo who don’t exist (and may never exist) in the new Star Wars timeline. For those fans who just can’t abide the thought of Jedi Master Luke Skywalker becoming a cranky old hermit, the Legends universe offers a look at versions of Han, Luke and Leia who never parted ways and continued fighting to protect the galaxy well into old age.

There’s also a huge chance here for Disney and Lucasfilm to provide closure on those many Expanded Universe stories that were never properly concluded. Since The Force Unleashed III will likely never happen in video game form, Marvel could finally wrap up that unfinished story as a comic. Disney Publishing Worldwide and Random House could finally release the Sword of the Jedi trilogy, novels that would have continued where the Fate of the Jedi series left off. And with Lucasfilm currently so reluctant to tell stories about the pre-Episode I Star Wars timeline, that’s all the more reason to revive the Expanded Universe and properties like Knights of the Old Republic.

No doubt the new, Disney-approved Star Wars universe will continue to receive the bulk of the company’s attention. They’ve worked too hard to plan and establish that new universe to suddenly shift gears. But there’s absolutely no reason why the Legends universe can’t co-exist alongside its replacement, even if only in a limited form. Reviving the EU simply gives fans more options and allows Disney to cater the franchise to an wider audience. That seems like the best way to achieve balance, and isn’t that what Star Wars is all about?

“Between the Panels” is a monthly column from Jesse Schedeen that focuses on the world of comics. You can see more of his thoughts on comics and pop culture by following @jschedeen on Twitter, or Kicksplode on MyIGN.

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