Since moving over to Marvel, the “Star Wars” franchise has focused squarely on the time surrounding the ‘original’ trilogy. “Obi-Wan and Anakin” is the first real attempt at bringing the prequel era to comics under the eye of Disney. Does this fall into the same traps that the prequels did, or does it bring something more fun and substantial than trade negotiations and whining teenagers? Read on to find out.
Written by Charles Soule
Illustrated by Marco Checchetto
Master and Padawan find themselves stranded on an unfamiliar world…a world of strange, primitive technology and dangerous natives. But even if they can save themselves…why were they called to this world?
One of the hardest things about making a licensed comic is nailing the tone of the original property, while not just aping what was done there. That becomes extra difficult when dealing with the Star Wars prequels, as no one really likes them, but loves the overall universe. So, you have to focus on what people like, and remove the stuff they’d rather not have in there, and still make it recognizable, but not make it seem reductive either.
All of that is to say that Soule and Checchetto had a tall task ahead of them. Sadly, for everyone, they weren’t able to complete that task.
The story itself – Obi-Wan and Anakin are called to a Jedi distress signal on a previously thought dead planet – is straight forward enough, but is muddled with inclusion of flashbacks to events that serve no real purpose. Seeing Anakin and Chancellor Palpatine getting cozy doesn’t reveal anything we didn’t already know, nor does seeing Anakin being good with a light saber but bad with his temper/patience in a training sequence. These are the types of flashbacks the first two issues have trafficked in, and with all of the unexplored bits of Star Wars myth, these seem like uninspired periods to look back on.
Soule fares slightly better at the ‘present day’ story, as he fleshes out the relationship between Master and Padawan a little bit, and shows just how highly Anakin thinks of Obi-Wan, something that is instantly undercut in the prequels by his incessant whining. This also shows the first time in the prequel-era where people don’t know who the Jedi are, or what they do. This is an interesting setting for that reason, but in other ways, the setting is what most takes the readers out of the Star Wars feel.
Checchetto designs/draws the various aliens like they are early 90s “New Mutants” team members, with the monsters at the end looking like something from a Dark Horse horror book. All the art looks good, but none of it really feels like a Star Wars book. I’m not knocking his presence on this book – he did some great work on “Shattered Empire” – but it seems like this particular setting and cast of characters just doesn’t work as well as the post-Return of the Jedi did for his talents.
I recognize that this is an incredibly subjective topic, both because Star Wars means so much to me, and also because I think that, due to the sheer volume of material out there, many people have their own, very specific, idea of what is and isn’t proper Star Wars. Perhaps folks that were more engaged in the prequels and their related materials won’t have the same problems with the book that I had.
The shoehorning of the Sith into the story – and presenting them as simply the misunderstood neighbor of the Jedi – is the worst part of the book. Anakin seeing them and the Jedi as the Hatfields and McCoys of a galaxy far, far away is incredibly problematic. Sure, it makes his switching sides make more sense, but it also relegates the idea of good and evil to a preference, and not something that is intrinsic. That is why the Emperor was terrifying – he was unencumbered evil, shooting lightning at some young adult trying to help his pops. Making them just one side of a long dispute is about the worst thing Soule could have done in this issue.Continued below
I understand why there is a desire for stories set in the prequel age to both rehabilitate the pre-A New Hope era and to fill in some blanks, but the whole idea of ‘filling in blanks’ is why we got midichlorians in the first place. If the purpose is just to tell a good story involving these two Jedis, that’s totally fine. But the series is 2 issues in, and there’s been precious little action, and certainly none that I’d call gripping or exciting.
The sad reality is that this series is going to be judged far more harshly than if it was a new creator owned series, because we have so much more skin in the game. But that’s not a surprise to Marvel, Soule, and Checchetto – they know the stakes, and yet they failed to live up to them.
Final Verdict: 4.4 – An inconsequential trip to a much-maligned time