Those who are in the “Kenobi mood” even after the Obi-Wan show ended can take a peek at the latest Star Wars comic series. “Star Wars: Obi-Wan” is a five-volume series that started coming out in May 2022 and is focussing – you guessed it – at the titular character. Written by Christopher Cantwell and illustrated by Ario Anindito, “Star Wars: Obi-Wan” is yet another in the line of Star Wars comics published in the recent years. It definitely provides some content for those invested in the character, even though (thus far, three volumes into the series) it does not directly connect to the TV show.
Memories of the Old Hermit
The story begins with old Obi-Wan on Tatooine (we are talking Alec Guinness old), but that is only the necessary ouverture before the real tale. 90% of the stories consist of Obi-Wan’s memories of his early life as he goes through them while waiting in his hermit cave.
The first volume shows youngling Obi-Wan dealing with his childhood friend’s (and his own) attachment with a brief visit to Coruscant’s criminal underworld. The second one is a horror-esque visit of a mining colony by slightly older Obi-Wan and his Master, Qui-Gon Jinn. Third volume shows General Kenobi experiencing the reality of war and the moral challenges it brings to the Jedi during one of the Clone Wars’ early battles.
The first comic takes on a unique theme. We have seen Obi-Wan as a Padawan before, but seeing him as a youngling is something fresh. Unfortunately the authors seem to have used the potential for a fairly mediocre story. The premise to show little Obi-Wan deal with his first major attachment is interesting, but the way it is told seems somewhat lazy. Obi-Wan’s friend escapes the Jedi temple because she had a vision of her father dying, and Obi-Wan, in turn, follows because he is attached to her. Have we seen this before?
More importantly, the story – spoilers – leads nowhere. Obi-Wan eventually returns to the temple, but the story fails to tell what significant difference did the events make for Obi-Wan. Or why he originally followed the friend but later was suddenly willing to let her go. This may be “just” a comic, but one would have expected a point to the story.
There are other minor opportunities that also seem wasted. For instance, the authors decided to show the first time Obi-Wan used a mind trick. A brilliant move because mind trick is Obi-Wan’s iconic ability. Yet completely wasted – the comic could have made much more of it. In the course of three frames Obi-Wan tries, sort of succeeds, only to be forced to get out of trouble through different display of the Force.
This just illustrates the potential the authors wasted in the first volume.
…The Padawan, The General…
The second volume is considerably more interesting in terms of its setting. Padawan Obi-Wan and Master Qui-Gon face literal (not figurative) darkness on a mining planet where already dim sunlight seems to have been blocked or mysteriously disappearing. Unique setting even for sci-fi in general. Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan also 100% resemble and believably expand their Episode I selves. The story is a simple adventure with a horror vibe (not really), but it is entertaining.
The third volume is yet another take on the questions asked often around the Clone Wars. How the entire war was senseless and only brought deaths of millions of beings (clones included). And Obi-Wan is trying to answer for himself the question of what can a Jedi’s role possibly entail at times like this, when fighting inevitably means killing, but not fighting would also mean leaving others to die. The theme, however tackled many times before (let me name at least Karen Traviss’s Republic Commando books or Matthew Stover’s Shatterpoint novel, but also The Clone Wars animated series), is handled well and the story is interesting to follow.
But all the stories ultimately feel like a bit of a sidenote. Which they are. Do not expect anything that would alter your perspective of Obi-Wan (or anybody else); the story also does not very much deepen what we already sort of know. And like I said, there is no connection at all (thus far) to the series (not that I expected any, since the comics started to be published even before the actual TV series).
All in all it is something you may enjoy leafing through but that does not leave particularly notable trace in your memory. Neither in terms of storytelling nor visually – the graphics style is all right, I would especially (once again) praise the second volume that conveys well the atmosphere of growing darkness, but overall it is (probably via direction from the top) keeping carefully to a very similar style as majority of the previous Star Wars comics. Nothing innovative here, nothing that would stand out of the crowd.
The concept also lacks some central, connecting idea. Rather than one story, “Star Wars: Obi-Wan” is a collection of completely unrelated short tales. The bits with “present-day” Obi-Wan in the desert serve merely as introduction and frankly, the comic would have done without them. It is possible that the finale will bring some conclusion, but we will have wait for that. The fourth issue is supposed to come out on 31st August 2022 and the series should be concluded with its fifth volume on 14th September.
“Star Wars: Obi-Wan” is certainly something you can read on a train journey, but it does not reach the storytelling qualities of the likes of Doctor Aphra or Darth Vader, and it does not even provide a revealing insight into the character’s past like for example Cassian & K2SO did. Succintly put, it seems mostly like the result of “we have to publish something about Obi-Wan since we are making the series”. And that is a pity.