Today, Spencer and Michael are discussing Obi-Wan and Anakin 2, originally released February 3rd, 2016.
Spencer: There’s nothing new under the sun. I don’t believe that’s a concrete truth — every once in a while somebody still trots out an idea that legitimately surprises me — but for the most part, it holds up, and I’m okay with that. A story doesn’t need to be wholly original to succeed. Sometimes they can rely on our previously established affection for the characters, and other times those familiar tropes can be told with new twists or different contexts or in support of deep themes that make them a joy to read regardless of originality. Sadly, I don’t think I can make that argument for Obi-Wan and Anakin 2. There’s nothing in this issue that gets me invested in its very familiar story.
Following a distress call, Obi-Wan and Anakin have found themselves on a desolate planet where the population are divided between the “Open” and the “Closed.” Writer Charles Soule has so far done little to flesh out their conflict; both sides blame the other for destroying the environment, but that’s all we’ve got. What are the differences between Open and Closed society? Where do their opposing names come from? Who knows? So far both sides are nearly identical, from their hatred down to their appearance. Maybe that’s the point, that their hatred is irrational when they’re ultimately so similar? I can see that, but I can’t say it’s a very entertaining take so far.
On top of their already vague allegiances, at one point Soule even seems to confuse which side the characters belong to entirely.
The character Anakin rescues here is Grecker, referred to consistently throughout the rest of the issue as a well-known Closed. Here though, Mother Pran — an Open herself — refers to him as an “Open fool.” Is that a typo? Maybe some kind of slang (like “you dang fool”)? No matter what, it’s confusing. Honestly, the most fun I had with this issue was speculating about this panel, especially in light of a moment that comes a few pages later. After Obi-Wan explains why he and Anakin have come to their world, Grecker and Pran — who were at each others’ throats only moments before — exchange glances before agreeing to work together. As soon as I noticed that I started theorizing that maybe they’re some sort of double agents or have ulterior motives or something similar. A few pages later, though, Obi-Wan makes that implication explicit. This is an extremely minor nit to pick, but I felt legitimately deflated once Obi-Wan called attention to their sudden change in cooperativeness. Bluntly pointing out that subtle moment of subtext earlier in the issue doesn’t invalidate any of my theories, but it does make one of the few moments where this issue truly engaged me suddenly feel unimportant.
The Open/Closed conflict doesn’t yield any interesting observations thematically either, at least not yet. The closest it comes is Anakin’s statement that they’re “like us — the Jedi and the Sith,” but even then I can’t find much to work with besides both pairs of rivals absolutely despising one another. Perhaps this is meant to be a character moment for Anakin, something to point out his misunderstanding of the Jedi and the Sith’s dynamics, but if so, Soule doesn’t dwell on that statement or the meaning behind it long enough for it to work. The only real character moment that works for me in this issue (outside of Anakin’s sweet, if somewhat generic, admiration for Obi-Wan) is Anakin’s failure to calm the corpse-leeches.
Here we see how much easier it is for Anakin to embrace anger than peace, and how easily he’s swayed by the strong emotions of others, both hinting at his eventual dark fate. Sadly, though, throughout the rest of the issue I found both Jedi rather bland. As big of a Star Wars fan as I am, I haven’t seen the prequels in nearly a decade, so while I vaguely remember Ewan McGregor’s Obi-Wan as one of their better elements, I can’t exactly rely on previous affection for the character here. I shouldn’t have to, anyway — in Lando, Retcon-Punch’s favorite mini-series of 2015, Soule transformed one of the original trilogy’s thinnest characters into one of its most captivating, but there’s none of that magic to be found in Obi-Wan and Anakin. I understand Soule has far worse source material to work with here than with Lando, but still, it’s a disappointment.
Likewise, artist Marco Checcetto fails to capture that Star Wars magic with Carnelion IV. His art is far from bad — in fact, Carnelion’s snowy atmosphere is absolutely beautiful, and the action sequences are fun and easy to follow — but there’s very little originality to the designs of the Open and Closed or the corpse-leeches. They’re painfully generic. This applies to the flashbacks on Coruscant as well — the streets are full of familiar Star Wars species, but in light of the rest of this issue, that feels like Checcetto relying on previous installments as a crutch instead of doing something new and original.
Also, what’s up with that female Hutt?
Maybe she’s just meant as a joke, as something so ridiculous we can’t help to laugh, but I’m honestly just skeeved out. Surely female Hutts’ sex characteristics don’t normally involve breasts, lingerie, or make-up, right? So this means that they’re included either as a cheap joke, or to imply that men of other species get off on that sort of thing. Either way, I didn’t need to see it.
Michael, I hate being this negative, but while I don’t necessarily hate this issue, I just found very little here to get excited about. Was there anything that stood out to you? Also, do you understand why the Jedi keep letting Palpatine take Anakin on adventures? Even if they don’t know he’s a Sith, he just screams Pedophile.
Michael: Oh man this is an unexpected turn of events. Typically, I find Spencer to be the plucky optimist of the group, so to find him so displeased with a comic makes me feel like he’s coming to the dark side. First off, I’m so very pleased that you called out Palpatine for being such a creepy pedo — I’m glad it wasn’t just me. In the last issue, Charles Soule continued the needless tradition of the Star Wars prequels by explaining the politics of the Old Republic. In this case that lesson boiled down to “The Jedi answers to the Senate and the Senate answers to Chancellor Palpatine.” It’s an admirable simplification on Soule’s part, but reads like it’s really reaching in its attempts to justify Palpatine’s influence on Anakin. Revenge of the Sith was silly, but I was more ok with a fucking stupid adult Anakin being seduced by the evil Palpatine than an unsuspecting young boy. I also just watched Spotlight, so Palpatine-as-pedophile priest was something that was hard to ignore.
Not to just echo what Spencer said, but I definitely felt like Marco Checcetto was getting a little gratuitous with his recognizable Star Wars alien inserts. I hate convoluted internet theories, but I couldn’t help but think that Soule and Checcetto were trying to evoke the “Jar Jar Master Sith” theory with the in-your-face inclusion of a Gungan near the end of the book. Maybe it’s because I haven’t yet found myself enthralled with Obi-Wan and Anakin, but these visual Easter eggs just felt like a distraction to me. As for the Hutt in question that Spencer refers to? Who knows? I believe that the Star Wars: The Clone Wars movie featured Jabba the Hutt’s drag queen uncle. So, there’s that.
I’ve probably watched the Star Wars prequels more recently than Spencer and I’ve seen a handful of Clone Wars episodes — but I don’t exactly consider myself an expert. That said, the adventures of Obi-Wan and Anakin on Carnelion IV seem pretty paint by numbers Star Wars prequels (without the clone troops.) The gist of which is: Jedi are on a diplomatic mission to a planet where two different — but thematically relatable — tribes of people are fighting each other.
Obi-Wan and Anakin 2 is one of the rare books that I’ve covered where I simultaneously criticize it for a lack of both subtlety and description. In the span of the same script, Soule decides to whack us over the head with the similarities between any two warring groups and also gives those groups no definitions. The tattoos that adorn the faces of The Open and The Closed are the basic opposites of Jedi/Sith lightsabers: blue and red. I am equally frustrated that we know nothing of the Open/Closed conflict or what they stand for. However, more than anything I hate the names of both groups. I’m assuming that Soule will dive into the philosophies of these groups at some point, therefore making sense of the opposing names. Either way, it makes for a slightly confusing read when you have words like “open” and “closed” being thrown about in lines of dialogue; so much that I had to do a double take a couple of times.
I believe that Charles Soule can tell a good story about the young Darth Vader and his master Obi-Wan Kenobi; I really do. So far I don’t think that Obi-Wan and Anakin is that story however. At this point I can’t tell if it’s due to him working within the crappy structure of the prequels or just an unsuccessful story.
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