Brand new year, and we mark the one-year anniversary of Marvel’s return to Star Wars comics! We had a lot of great issues and series last year, and I’m really looking forward to what’s in store for 2016. Kanan will be ending soon, and we’ll be getting a Poe Dameron series. Vader Down crossover ended this month, and we have the brand new Obi-Wan & Anakin series hitting shelves. Let’s dive in!
Obi-Wan & Anakin #1
By Charles Soule and Marco Checchetto
After reading Shattered Empire last fall, seeing Checchetto’s name attached to another Star Wars project brings me great joy. I found his renditions of space battles to be top-notch, and the surreal nature of the environments to be enthralling (Andres Mossa provides coloring on Obi-Wan & Anakin, further cementing that surreal quality).
The canon is pretty light on Anakin’s history as a Jedi. We have The Clone Wars episodes and the movies, but we just don’t have Anakin as a boy under Obi-Wan’s tutelage. This new series tackles that empty space.
We are introduced to a calm relationship between the Master and Padawan. Like Billaba with Caleb Dume, Obi-Wan uses the events that naturally occur in their mission to teach Anakin about being a Jedi. On Carnelion IV, the two come across a destroyed civilization. Obi-Wan teaches that the civilization destroyed itself. When questioned about why this was not prevented, Obi-Wan further instructs that the Jedi are guides, not enforcers. Their role in the galaxy is to provide knowledge and guidance, not act as soldiers.
Here, we get an early glimpse into Anakin’s perspective. He believes that the Jedi should not stand back when others are in danger. Their role, in his opinion, should be much more active in the galaxy. Rather than hide away in the Temple, the Jedi should change. But, Anakin doesn’t have much time to argue his perspective as the two are under attack.
Interestingly, we learn that Anakin intended to leave the Order. The circumstances are unclear, but it is clear through a flashback that Anakin does not fit in with the other Padawans at the Temple. They taunt him behind his back, calling him a slave and emotional (which is the wrong thing to say to a Padawan who lacks emotional control, but you get the picture that these young teens aren’t the brightest crayons in the box). Anakin demonstrates his lightsaber prowess by altering the training program to simulate Darth Maul’s fighting abilities. While Mace and Obi-Wan are concerned about this unnatural focus on the Sith lord, Palpatine finds this an impressive display of skill.
Palpatine uses his position as the Chancellor to get his claws into Anakin at a young age. Palpatine’s request echoes his promise to Anakin in Episode I to watch his career with great interest, and that the two had a relationship prior to Episode III. However, we don’t have long to dwell on what Palpatine has in store for Anakin at this point as the reader is brought back to the present. The “dead” civilization may give Anakin his opportunity to show what a Jedi should be like.
Star Wars #14
By Jason Aaron and Mike Deodato
Vader Down part V
Black Krrsantan is getting a lot of panel time in this new comics canon. I’m not complaining, and now I’m even more interested in this bounty hunter’s history. This time, he’s featured on the cover locked in battle with Chewbacca.
Leia has been fantastic this crossover. She has the right to be the most afraid of Vader, to hate and fear him with every fiber of her being. Rather than cower, Leia heads to the frontlines and even stands up to Vader face-to-face. Vader, however, is not intimidated. He says one of the most perfect villainous lines:
“This is not a war, Princess. Wars are for lesser men than the Emperor and myself. This is a series of executions, and yours is long overdue.”
That is absolute perfection. It gave me chills. But Vader’s control of the situation is quickly lost as Karbin establishes himself as Vader’s executioner. Karbin is still vying for Vader’s position, and the key to his success will be the capture of Luke Skywalker. It’s time for a LIGHTSABER DUEL!
Meanwhile, Chewbacca is trying to cope with Krrsantan while poisoned. R2 gives a boost, and Chewie metes out Krrsantan’s punishment. The outcome is short-lived as Luke approaches the Temple Ben referenced in his journal. Sure, Luke is hungry for answers, but Ben knows exactly the limitations of Luke’s abilities at this time. And, presently, Luke’s got more limitations than abilities. He only survives the ambush because of Triple Zero and Bee-Tee’s dangerous intervention.
Luke isn’t the only one to stumble upon the Temple. Vader reaches it while fighting Karbin. He feels the Force in the Temple, distracting him long enough for Karbin to get the edge on him. (Karbin is not a Force wielder, and therefore is unaffected by the power residing in this place.)
Being the penultimate issue of the crossover, things look pretty terrible for our heroes. Fortunately, Darth Vader #15 gives us the conclusion!
Darth Vader #15
By Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca
Vader Down part VI
The conclusion is nigh! Leia has Vader in her crosshairs, but something spectacular happens. One complaint (I have) with A New Hope is that Leia quickly brushes off the destruction of Alderaan. We know that there has to be more to that moment for her. In the Princess Leia miniseries, we explore that past. In fact, the destruction is her opportunity to actively protect her culture. Here, the planet’s death flashes before her eyes as she prepares to shoot. The sequence is silent; we have no idea what exactly she is thinking. Without her inner narrative, we rely on Larroca’s artistic interpretation. Yes, she could attempt to shoot Vader. She may succeed. But, regardless, she would lose her friends. Their conditions are sensitive and require her intervention immediately. We can see how their lives and Vader’s dance before her. In the end, she relinquishes the shot and goes to her friends.
Leia’s decision early on in this issue is hard to move past, at least for me. I keep coming back to her choice, and how uncharacteristic it appears. However, it humanizes her. In that moment, she sees just how important her friends are to her and how unlikely it is that she could land a hit on Vader. In a way, she gives up. Her consolation prize is the life of her friends.
Karbin is giving Vader a run for his money, especially when his team is taking Skywalker away from Vader’s clutches. Aphra has a moment to redeem herself, and proves herself to be Vader’s trusted ally. Vader channels the Force and disables the shuttle holding Luke. The shuttle crashes, and Luke reunites with Han. Leia arrives to save the day, and Aphra is taken prisoner.
Not a bad ending to the crossover.
Star Wars #15
By Jason Aaron and Mike Mayhew
From the Journals of Old Ben Kenobi
Here we go – another Obi-Wan-in-the-desert issue! I love these little palate cleansers, these breaks from the galaxy-spanning story to focus on everyone’s favorite Jedi. Or, maybe just my favorite Jedi.
These Obi-Wan stories aren’t just about Ben. Luke is featured fairly heavily in this installment. We hear of Luke’s piloting skills, his T-16 back home, and Beggar’s Canyon. Here, we get to see it. Ben sees it too, and he frets as Luke navigates dangerous curves. While he cannot intervene, Ben urges Luke to tap into the Force from a distance. Ben cannot help but make comparisons to Anakin’s skills as a pilot, and he starts to believe that Luke is strong with the Force.
Luke may be a decent pilot, but he is still a kid. And, as many of us know, kids don’t always have the best decision making skills. Luke wrecks the skyhopper. Owen and Beru are not in a position to fix the ship, much less afford the parts that are required. In his anger, Owen vows to never let Luke fly again.
Ben cannot let this stand. In his communications with Qui-Gon during his seclusion, Ben is convinced that Luke needs to know how to fly. These young years are important, and keeping him interested in flying and escaping his current life may be the key to Luke journey to becoming a Jedi (hint: he’s right). Ben takes a risk by helping the Jawas fend off Tusken Raiders in exchange for parts for the wrecked ship.
The parts come to the family without Ben’s direct involvement, but Owen knows better. He refuses to take the parts, instead demanding that Ben leave Luke alone before he gets him killed. Regardless of Owen’s feelings about Anakin or the Jedi, it is clear that Owen takes responsibility for the life of Luke, and possibly even loves him as a son. Owen genuinely believes the best way for Luke to survive is to shun anything and everything connected to his father, including Ben.
Ben’s time in the desert is making him stir-crazy. It’s likely that he will do something rash soon.
Also, Krrsantan is back. Take a drink!
By Greg Weisman and Pepe Larraz
First Blood part IV
Caleb Dume’s first foray into battle may not have ended exactly like he planned. Luckily for him, he had his master’s Clone Battalion to protect him. The clone Stance, in particular, proved himself to be the hero of the day.
We’re reminded of the framing of this story from the beginning. Kanan, who was severely injured at the end of the first arc of the series, is still recovering in a bacta tank. He reminisces peacefully as his companions are ambushed by Imperial forces. The Rebels are left to hold their ground; Kanan isn’t ready to rejoin his team in the present.
Caleb is pulled out of his bacta tank after his two blaster wounds healed to head out on Billaba’s next mission: Mygeeto. If you thought Caleb was excited about his first mission, then you haven’t seen him on the second. Now with a battle under his belt and a deeper relationship with the Clones, Caleb walks onto the field with the confidence of a Jedi.
Caleb and Billaba make a fantastic team. Watching them in a sequence of fighting is incredible. The two are in sync, further solidifying that Billaba made the best choice in selecting Caleb – and that Caleb may have been heavily influenced in the Force when he started to pursue Billaba as his master.
Billaba takes even the most mundane moments of Jedi life to teach Caleb. In this case, she uses the example of her lost robe as a lesson in sacrifice. She is essentially preparing him for her eventual death. We know, from the last arc, that Billaba’s death will hit Caleb hard. From her perspective, she knows how precious life is and how easy it can be to lose that life in battle. After all, she did witness the decimation of her troop.
Also, a brief hint at a Force power…Could it be that Caleb has the gift of premonition?
As the issue accelerates towards the end, we get a true Clone Wars episode. The troop is stranded on a platform, and hundreds of droids are crawling up the side. What follows are pages upon pages of action, Jedi, Padawan, and Trooper side by side eliminating targets. The clock is ticking as Caleb wonders if they have the fortitude to hold off the swarm of droids until their transport arrives. This is where Larraz shines. He alternates between sprawling scenes to close-ups of characters in desperate attempts to survive. The end result is an incredible display of how Star Wars works in comic format.
Star Wars comics do not exist in a vacuum, nor do they interact with each other solely. Kanan #10 reminds us of how everything fits together in this new canon. On Episode 17 of Rebels (Protector of Concord Dawn), we learn of a group of Mandalorians led by Fenn Rau. During that episode, Kanan briefly mentions that he met a Mandalorian of the same name during the Clone Wars. Well, here he is!
It is so satisfying to have this issue tie into an episode where both are released on the same day.
The issue doesn’t end with Rau’s rescue. An enemy of the Jedi turns up, and Caleb loses a new friend.
Overall, a great month for Star Wars comics. Which issues stood out to you? What are your favorite moments from the month?