May 2022 will go down as the most Obi-Wan-filled month in the 45-year (and counting) history of the Star Wars franchise. The first two episodes of the Obi-Wan Kenobi Disney Plus will arrive on May 27th, and there have been many interviews with the show’s cast and crew, not to mention announcements of tie-in merchandise. Now Marvel has decided to get in on the Kenobi hype-train by producing the limited comic series, Obi-Wan. This first issue, released this week, serves as a nice re-introduction to the character ahead of the live-action series, as well as a solid beginning for this five-issue series.
The premise of this series is simple: Obi-Wan is just a few weeks away from his fateful meeting with Luke Skywalker in A New Hope, and a massive sandstorm is approaching his hut. He hunkers down and, while riding out the storm, begins writing in his journal about his early years. We know from interviews with writer Christopher Cantwell that each issue will follow Kenobi at a different point in his life, which begins with an adventure from his days as a Jedi youngling.
Right off the bat, I want to give praise to Ario Anindito’s artwork. His pencils and Carlos Lopez’s colors capture the desolate landscape of Tatooine’s Dune Sea quite well. I also appreciate how Anindito’s drawings of older Obi-Wan Kenobi clearly resemble Alec Guinness without looking like he relied too much on movie stills as a reference.
After a handful of pages on Tatooine, the issue transports us decades into the past, and we meet youngling Obi-Wan as he wakes up in the Jedi Temple in the middle of the night. He’s looking for his friend and fellow Jedi youngling, Gehren Rand, who is missing from the dormitories. Obi-Wan finds her on the temple’s roof, and she’s clearly upset.
Gehren tells Obi-Wan that she’s been having nightmares about her father, and in all of them she sees him scared and in pain. She wants to journey off-planet and help him, even though Obi-Wan reminds her that leaving the temple is forbidden and that the Gathering is fast approaching (a nice nod to the rite of passage we saw in season five of The Clone Wars). Gehren jumps off the roof, leaving Obi-Wan with a major choice: break the rules and try to find and help his friend, or stay at the temple and leave Gehren to her fate.
As soon as Gehren appeared, I was immediately reminded of the Siri Tachi character from the Legends continuity. Readers of the old Jedi Apprentice and Jedi Quest novels will remember that Siri was a Padawan with whom Obi-Wan eventually developed a friendship and, briefly, a romance. Siri has barely been used in the newer canon timeline, likely because her role as Obi-Wan’s love interest was filled with the introduction of Duchess Satine in The Clone Wars. It’s interesting Cantwell chose to employ a similar character here. Gehren bears more than a passing physical resemblance to Siri, after all.
Obi-Wan quickly decides to pursue Gehren, and he heads to Coruscant’s lower levels to find her. As he searches, we learn a bit more about his motivations. Obi-Wan told Gehren before she left that he saw her as his only friend, and he credits her for protecting and guiding him throughout his training thus far.
I do wish that we’d gotten a chance to get to know Gehren and see Obi-Wan’s friendship with her before now. Obviously, this is a miniseries, and each issue is intended to function as its own short story, so the writing has to keep up a fairly brisk pace. However, we’ve only just met Gehren and our knowledge about her history with Obi-Wan is limited to what we’re told through the dialogue and narration boxes. We know that she matters to Obi-Wan because he’s willing to break the rules to try and help her, but it would’ve been nice to see at least a bit of their earlier history.
Predictably, the youngling Obi-Wan runs into some thugs while searching Coruscant’s lower levels. In an excellent bit of fan service, we see him attempt a Jedi mind trick for the first time in his life, and shockingly, it works (I guess he’s always had a natural talent for it). Obi-Wan is forced to defend himself from the gang, and he’s only barely able to hold them off long enough for Gehren to show up. I appreciate how Cantwell shows us Obi-Wan’s current power level here. He’s had a bit of training, but not much, and we can just barely see glimmers of the great warrior that he’ll become.
Just as Obi-Wan is about to be overwhelmed by his attackers, Gehren shows up to help, and we learn that the thugs work for a Black Sun lieutenant named Nodrus Cay. What’s more, Gehren has gotten Cay to agree to transport her off Coruscant in exchange for a valuable necklace she possesses. Obi-Wan, still unable to say goodbye to his friend, decides to accompany Gehren on her journey.
Their trip together isn’t to be, however, as Cay betrays the children and attempts to kidnap them, believing she can exploit their Force sensitivity for her own criminal ends. We get a nice moment between the young Jedi trainees as Gehren helps Obi-Wan remain calm so they can concentrate, break their handcuffs using the Force, and escape. I really liked this scene because it showed Gehren guiding Obi-Wan during a stressful situation after we heard Obi-Wan mention that she’d done that several times during their training. I still wish we’d gotten more with the two of them together, but this moment was rather welcome.
After they escape, Obi-Wan tries one last time to convince Gehren to return to the temple, but she refuses. Gehren chooses again to help her father, and she tells Obi-Wan that he can survive on his own. Obi-Wan, realizing his friend can’t be discouraged from her mission, bids her farewell and heads back. Yoda awaits him on the temple’s steps. He already knows that Gehren has left, and he warns Obi-Wan that without his friend to protect him, he’ll have to watch out for himself from now on.
The issue ends with Obi-Wan mentioning that he never saw Gehren again nor did he ever learn what happened to her. Unfortunately, I found this ending a bit disappointing. I had suspected up until this last page that Gehren might become a recurring character throughout this miniseries, but now we know Obi-Wan won’t see or hear from her again, so there’s no hope of any resolution for her character. Perhaps the point was to emphasize that this is the first time Obi-Wan has ever had to truly say goodbye to someone he cared about, and we’re meant to feel sad because we won’t see Gehren again either, but I was still slightly underwhelmed.
While we’re on the topic of negatives, I should mention that I felt the artwork for the Coruscant scenes wasn’t as strong as the artwork for the opening scene on Tatooine. I get that it’s probably difficult to reproduce the Blade Runner-esque look of Coruscant’s lower levels which we saw in some episodes of The Clone Wars and the Zam Wesell chase sequence in Attack of the Clones, but I still feel that the art relied a bit too heavily on monochromatic backgrounds here.
Overall, the positives outweigh the negatives in this issue, and this introductory adventure of preadolescent Obi-Wan has left me intrigued to see where the next four issues go. I only hope the other stories set in different periods of Obi-Wan’s life are similarly important to his life story and his development as a Jedi rather than random one-off adventures. This series is essentially a collection of short stories that could end up making for an interesting character study of Obi-Wan.
It makes sense that Obi-Wan would decide to record this childhood adventure since it’s the first time he’s had to say goodbye to a friend (though, sadly, we know it won’t be the last). Next month, we’ll follow Obi-Wan on a mission from his Padawan days as he and Qui-Gon answer a distress call from the far reaches of space…