In the fourth standalone Star Wars title from Disney owned Marvel we see the studio for the first time stepping away from the original Star Wars characters and looking instead at the back story of one of their newly created heroes from the animated television series Star Wars Rebelswhich has recently completed its first season.
Set fifteen years before the events of Rebels (and so twenty years before A New Hope), Kanan – The Last Padawan is based around Kanan Jarrus during his training as a Jedi Padawan at the beginning of the Clone Wars. The debut issue opens with a full page of the crew of the Ghost discussing an upcoming mission to a planet called Kaller, the mention of which then transports Jarrus in flashback to his youth.
We see Kanan as young a Padawan fighting, lightsaber in hand, alongside his Jedi Master against legions of droids. Clone Troopers currently aligned to the Republic give support in a series of panels which are heavy on action but perhaps more geared towards a younger audience, as might be expected for the Rebels audience. While there are some nice panels later such as Master and Padawan practicing lightsaber form at sunset, the artwork by Pepe Larraz (Avengers: Rage of Ultron) overall feels generic and at contrast to the impressive cover art of Mark Brooks.
Once the battle is over the Jedi meet with the newly freed people of Kaller to a less friendly welcome than they were expecting. Here the story touches on some interesting concepts, such as the occupants of the saved planet not seeing much difference between its old oppressive separatist leader and the Jedi who have come to take it back for the Republic. Well written dialogue makes the point and brings the comic up from just being an action romp to broaching some wider issues of the role of the Republic in the Star Wars universe.
Where Rebels has succeeded with a broad section of fandom was that it felt like the traditional (read “non-prequel”) Star Wars universe; the settings, ships and characters all felt part of that, and while certainly not erasing them, it stood well away from superfluous references to the divisive prequels. By putting itself firmly in the timeline of the prequels this story risks that balance, however by approaching the task from the perspective of a familiar and already popular character whose backstory has been hinted at in the main show lends it strength to overcome that concern. It remains to be seen how well they will succeed in the coming issues, but the series is off to a fair start.
Focusing on an isolated world in a corner of the galaxy with a small group of characters Greg Weisman (one of the creators of the animated series Gargoyles) has given himself room to tell an intimate story that avoids any massive arcs or events of the prequels. The small cast of Kanan, his Jedi master, and the two Clone Troopers accompanying them on this mission all have individual characters and unique voices making the dialogue a pleasure to read.
Issue one leaves us with Kanan and his Master around a camp fire enjoying banter with the Clone Troopers when the Order 66 is received; it is time for the Clones to turn on the Jedi…
Star Wars: Kanan – The Last Padawan issue 2 is scheduled for release on 6th May 2015