Today, Michael and Taylor are discussing Star Wars 19 and Obi-Wan & Anakin 5, originally released May 25th, 2016.
Star Wars 19
Michael: In past write-ups, I’ve argued that nothing truly significant can happen to our band of Rebels in the pages of Star Wars, since they are bound to the canon of both the preceding and following films. What the Star Wars comics can do, however, is serve as a study of any given character from the original Star Wars film. Leia isn’t necessarily a damsel in distress in the original trilogy, but she does often play second fiddle to the likes of Luke or Han. Star Wars 19 is the finale of the “Rebel Jail” arc, which has highlighted Leia’s strength and resolve as both a hero and leader.
The masked man who has been causing all sorts of trouble for Leia at the Sunspot Prison is revealed to be Eneb Ray — the spy Leia sent to infiltrate the Empire in Star Wars Annual 1. Since I only skimmed through the annual, that particular reveal didn’t have much of an effect on me. Nevertheless, Jason Aaron uses Ray to challenge Leia’s beliefs in winning the war against the Empire. Ray wants to toughen up Leia by making her prepared to kill her enemies if necessary. There’s a whole Zoom/Flash, Jason Todd/Batman etc dynamic to this, and I love that Leia doesn’t buckle. Her solution to Eneb’s “kill Doctor Aphra or I’ll kill Luke and Han” proposal seems like it was ripped out of Batman’s playbook: she has R2-D2 disable all electronics by sending out an ion pulse. How she planned ahead for that I have no idea.
Star Wars 19 functions not only as a good character piece for Leia, but as an opportunity for all of the women of the book. The above panel by artist Lenil Francis Yu illustrates this point best. Within the narrative, Leia is talking about the Rebels being fed up with the Empire pushing them around. But that statement displayed on top of the image of three women toppling over a man sends a whole different kind of message. For once they’re not the damsels or the romantic interests — they’re the rescuers.
Taylor, what did you think of Star Wars 19? Did you find Eneb Ray and his plan to be compelling? Did you enjoy that Stormtrooper lightsaber tease at the end of the issue or do you think it robbed Leia and co.’s victory of its significance?
Taylor: I don’t think the stormtrooper lightsaber tease lessens the significance of Leia’s victory at all, which isn’t all that surprising since I was totally unfazed by the reveal. So many characters have wielded lightsabers in the Star Wars universe over the years that the effect of seeing a non-Jedi pick one up, much less a stormtrooper, feels like a gimmick.
That disappointing footnote aside, I enjoyed this issue, just as I have this entire prison arc. In this issue, just as in the previous prison issues, I appreciate the dark and gritty tone that the creators have used to create something wholly unique to the Star Wars experience. More often than not, Star Wars stories tend to be pretty glitzy and glamorous, despite the heralded “lived-in” ascetic of the original trilogy. Few Star Wars stories are as shadowy and dark as this one presented here and that makes for a unique, fun Star Wars read. While Aaron can be given some credit for this, I think the tone is mostly set by Yu’s artwork.
Throughout the issue, Yu utilizes a sketchy style that adds a certain amount of grit to his panels. The stray pencil marks he leaves on the page make me think of dirt and grime and perhaps more importantly, of Batman or other darker comics set in urban landscapes. Yu also makes extensive use of shadow throughout this issue which often makes characters’ eyes difficult to see. They say the eyes are the window to the soul, and not being able to see Leia, Aphra, Sana, and Eneb’s eyes makes it hard to guess what is going on in their heads. In an issue where intrigue and motivation takes center stage, this is a perfect way of emphasizing those themes.
I also liked the way Yu uses panel layouts to accentuate the action. After Leia uses an EMP blast to knock out Eneb’s detonator, the prison loses gravity as well. When this happens, Yu shifts his panels from being primarily horizontal, to vertical.
This new orientation of the panels reinforces the idea that the characters are floating as opposed to grounded. By using vertical panels Yu highlights the new dimension that Leia et all are suddenly having to deal with. This effectively makes the action feel new and more dangerous. This type of work and the shadowing make this issue a great read even if the way the action plays out is predictable and well-tread.
Obi-Wan and Anakin 5
Taylor: In Obi-Wan & Anikan 5, the final issue in this miniseries, the reasons Anakin wanted to be a Jedi are made clear. The events that lead up to this revelation relate to the civil war on Carnelion IV. Captured by children of the Open, (one of the sides in the civil war) Anakin negotiates his way to freedom by volunteering to help the Open fix their war machines. Obi-Wan, meanwhile, is with Sera, a collector of all things valuable before civil war broke out on her planet. When the war finally makes it way to Sera’s doorstep, it is only Obi-Wan and Anakin who can prevent the Open and Closed from annihilating each other.
A lot of the stories that surround Anakin relate to his fall to the Dark Side. There are plenty of examples that show why Anakin would choose the Dark Side as opposed to the light, but we rarely see the opposite. Issue 5 of Obi-Wan & Anakin gives one convincing reason why Anakin, despite his troubles, would chose the path of the Jedi.
When things seem their bleakest for the Obi-Wan, Anakin, and all of those involved in the Carnelion IV war, the two Jedi are able to call in Republic reinforcements at the last second to save the day. The reason they came is because Obi-Wan told them that Carnelion IV would be good for gas mining. Obi-Wan doesn’t know whether or not that is truly the case, but the Republic came all the same because of his status as a Jedi. Obi-Wan explains why this is important to Anakin.
What makes a Jedi powerful, according to Obi-Wan, is not his martial prowess, but his connection to something bigger. This connection obviously appeals to Anakin as we know he chooses to continue his studies to be a Jedi. This appeal, to be a part of something bigger than yourself, is something that motivates a lot of people to undertake a task. It’s often why teachers teach, doctors help the sick, and why politicians take office (in theory). This is a realistic and powerful motivation, and writer Charles Soule astutely uses it as a motivation for why Anakin would chose the Light Side over the Dark.
However, to say that Anakin makes this choice solely for altruistic reasons would be to underplay the complexity of motivations at play here. The one constant motivation for Anakin throughout Episodes I-VI, the Darth Vader comic series, and here has been his quest for power. In this case, it makes sense that Anakin would chose the Jedi Order over striking it out on his own. The Jedi offer a direct line to power, both politically and militarily as is evidenced here by Obi-Wan being able to call in warships at a whim. Anakin is no fool and recognizes this. His choice to join the Jedi order is perhaps just as motivated by selfishness as it is altruism.
Michael, what did you think of this issue? I see it as a continuation of the excellent character development we’ve seen in this and other Star Wars series of late. Do you agree? Also I thought Marco Checchetto’s artwork was marvelous in this issue. Any thoughts on that?
Michael: Checchetto is marvelous most of the time, from what I have seen. I love his character work above all, especially here. The war that Charles Soule has fashioned on Carnelion IV has several different sides: Open, Closed and Sera the Scavenger — all of whom believe they are completely justified. One of my favorite character moments Checchetto gives us is when Sera is fondly looking over the image of a “Jedi” and fantasizing about how Obi-Wan will kill all of her enemies so there can be hope for the future. From her perspective, that is what the Jedi do — come in and help people in need by killing their enemies — but we and Obi-Wan know better. Sera’s complete joy at the notion is what makes the whole thing so unsettling.
The technology of Carnelion IV has been decidedly steampunk, with the various airships, bullets and balloons. I’m thinking that Checchetto used Metal Gear Solid as an inspiration for the design of The Open’s “mechs.”
One thing that Retcon Punch has regularly praised the Star Wars comic for is its willingness to embrace of all things prequel into their continuity and Obi-Wan and Anakin demonstrates that willingness perfectly. Soule has managed to successfully transform the political premise of the Star Wars prequels into a compelling narrative. As Taylor mentioned, Obi-Wan & Anakin 5 is an early example of Anakin’s thirst for power. What I like about this whole Carnelion IV experience is that Obi-Wan inadvertently teaches Anakin the wrong lesson; he teaches him that titles and authority are more important than actual messages or intention.
The public suspects that (on some level) all politicians are corrupt — the phrase “playing politics” means so much in a given situation — but we’ve never seen that in the Star Wars universe. To have Anakin disillusioned by the government of the Old Republic is a brilliant idea and lends so much more credence to the idea that he would one day be instrumental to the rise of something different. Just like Star Wars 19, Obi-Wan & Anakin 5 does what a successful Star Wars comic should do: exploring the hearts and minds of these characters further than the movies could.
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