Today, Patrick and Andy are discussing Kanan – The Last Padawan 6 originally released September 23rd, 2015
Patrick: I don’t think there’s a franchise out there that is as saddled with its own historical baggage as Star Wars. There are certainly series and characters that have been around longer and have more content in the histories (I mean, we do write about DC and Marvel here), but none of those have histories that are as visible as Star Wars. Everyone knows that little Anakin grows up to be Darth Vader, everyone knows that Luke is Vader’s son, etc. As such, part of the “Star Wars experience” is dealing with expectations, both negative and positive. On his first trip back to Planet Kaller as an adult, Kanan confronts similar expectations head-on, and even as he’s haunted by the ghosts of the past, nothing plays out exactly how he expects it would.
Kanan and his team of Rebels are back on Kaller for a fairly mundane reason – they’re picking up some supplies to help out refugees on planet Lothal. That’s an emotionally benign mission; as far as I can tell none of our rebel friends have a particular connection to Lothal, and they even refer to their errand as “a milk run.” They’re literally doing chores for the rebellion. In fact, if this quest had been successful, we probably wouldn’t even be reading about it – it would just fall under the category of “stories that happen off-screen” (like that bounty hunter on Ord Mandel). The difference, of course, is that this is the place where Kanan (then Caleb) was betrayed and his master was slaughtered by Republic soldiers. The voiceover states all of this explicitly, but artist Jacopo Camagni doubles down on these memories, literally inserting ghostly visages of events and people from Kanan’s past into scenes that otherwise have nothing to do with them. There’s no escaping it for Kanan: he’s back in a place where his history matters.
But… y’know, maybe not in the way he would expect. For starters, Kanan keeps expecting that he’s going to run into his old friend, and fellow smuggler, Kasmir and that reunion would blow his cover. Thing is – he never does encounter Kasmir. And the handful of Kallerians he recognizes from his youth don’t recognize him. It’s like when you go back to your hometown after being away for years at a time, and dreading the fact that people will recognize you at the bar, only to discover that no one has the mental or emotional energy to keep your face in their minds for so long. This is what Kanan’s going through, to the point where it’s not clear which are the ghosts – the memories or Kanan himself? I mean, hell, Kanan’s call-sign has been “Spectre One” for the whole issue. He’s a phantom, unable to even acknowledge his true identity long enough to pull a lightsaber to defend himself.
But it’s not all crippling ego-death stuff. Writer Greg Weisman’s script is playful, especially when members of Kanan’s team are around to rib him for being a little more panicky than usual. Campagni’s cartoony character designs and exaggerated camera angles also help to keep the mood light and crisp. Except for a few panels with brooding Kallerians, the action is spry, agile and more often than not, kinda cute. Check out how adorable this informant is!
I have still never actually seen an episode of Star Wars Rebels TV series — and I’m starting to see where that can’t be an excuse I use forever — so I can’t speak to whether Campagni’s style is a better match for that series than it is for Star Wars in general, but the Saturday Morning aesthetic feels more or less at home in this story. Andy, I understand that this might be your first issue of Kanan, so you might be coming at this one from a totally different perspective. Does the art style jive with the type of story we’re reading or do the themes seem a little more complex than the designs would suggest? Also, Kanan’s jedi-sense is super weak – he should have been able to hear Tapusk sneaking up on him with that knife. Let’s start speculating on why he was so caught off guard!
Andy: The art style of Rebels has always felt a bit jarring to me. Something about the orange, purple, and green hues. Something about the smooth yet pointy chins. Something about Kanan’s goatee and ponytail combo feeling less ‘Qui-Gon Jinn,’ and more ‘Garth Brooks.’ Although, much like Garth Brooks 1991 album ‘Ropin’ the Wind,’ the story of a Jedi Apprentice who contorts his identity to survive a genocide is pretty compelling.
While the last run hinged on Kanan reinventing himself following the fall of the Jedi Order, this issue follows up on the ramifications of such a drastic shift and turns the onus of that identity back on Kanan. This issue brings the story back into the ‘present’, and showing the past and the present existing in the same space (as Patrick mentioned), infuses this story with the anxiety of those unresolved feelings. Kanan can’t be proud of how he acted toward Kasmir as a terrified child during that transitional time, and this issue is fraught with Kanan’s uneasiness of having to confront him. His internal monologue during this seemingly dull errand is fraught with questions of how he will handle an unexpected but none the less anticipated reunion.
He doesn’t know whether he’s supposed to apologize to him, to confront him, to convince him to join the Rebellion. This turmoil inside Kanan only increases my anticipation to see them together. Reunion scenes are rife with drama, and besides creating tension by withholding that closure from us, writer Greg Weisman is setting up the reveal of Kasmir to be particularly notable.
While Kanan stews, this issue builds that mounting emotional pressure with every door or lead being a potential place to get the gang back together. Kasmir is the only person who watched him go from what he was to what he is. In Kanan’s time of desperation, Kasmir gave him a new philosophy when Kanan abandoned his old one. This led to Kanan suppressing his training and identity as a Jedi so that he could simply survive undetected. For that time, he was actively cutting himself off from the force to be an entirely different person after being a Jedi is no longer an option.
It’s no wonder that when returning to that physical space where the past and the present are just as present visually as they are emotionally, that Kanan’s sensitivity to the force is out of whack. With these neon blue memories superimposed on the scene, Jacopo Camagni builds this overwhelming atmosphere of living two vastly different lives at once. Such dissociative problems and emotional turmoil come along with taking full account of one’s scattered life. When you’re working through issues of identity and conscience, it makes sense to not have full connection to the force or full awareness of things around you (read: getting stabbed in the back with a knife).
Returning to Kaller forces him to own up to the fact that when times got tough, he gave up being a Jedi. All the parts that were important anyway. Sure he kept the lightsaber, and a rudimentary control of the force, but to a Jedi Knight those are cosmetic. Once the support and structure of the Jedi Order fell away, he forgot his teachings. He didn’t trust in the force. He got scared, hungry, changed his name, and forsook the teachings of his fallen master in exchange for those of a selfish smuggler.
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