Note: This review contains minor spoilers for Kanan: The Last Padawan #1 and Star Wars Rebels: “Fire Across The Galaxy.”
Darth Vader. Princess Leia. These are the A-list characters you’d expect to get their own series in Marvel’s new line of Star Wars comics. But Kanan? The pony-tailed, goateed Jedi outcast from Star Wars Rebels? It’s an unexpected move, but it proves to Star Wars fans that Marvel isn’t afraid to zero in on the lesser-known characters. Besides, to quote Kanan’s voice actor Freddie Prinze, Jr.’s ever-enthusiastic Twitter feed, he is… the coolest Jedi in the galaxy. But is this the coolest Star Wars comic on the stands? In a lot of ways, it just might be.
I’ve been a fan of Greg Weisman’s writing from Gargoyles to his Rain of the Ghost novels to his work on Rebels. He tends to focus heavily on character development and growing character relationships, making him perfect for a comic that sheds light on Kanan’s backstory, starting from the execution of Order 66, when the Jedi fell. Weisman relies on rich, stripped-down dialogue, telling us everything we need to know through brief conversation. While not exactly the most realistic or natural representation of the way people talk to each other, it’s consistent with Weisman’s style of storytelling; after all, most of his body of work has taken place in 22-minute cartoons.
I’m not too familiar with Bilaba’s characterization in Legends stories, but here she is characterized as confident, serious, and, like all interesting Jedi, pretty rebellious. She shocks Kanan during a late-night conversation when she reveals her dissatisfaction with the Order, and already we see the seeds of rebellion being planted in Kanan’s character.
Pepe Larraz’s art is probably the best of the new Star Wars comics; it’s certainly the most stylistic, and full of David Curiel’s bright colors that make each page an experience, even when it’s sparse on dialogue. The Rebels crew is illustrated in a way that matches their animated counterparts, but also gives us an idea of what they might look like in the flesh. From the sprawling battle sequences to the lightsaber training sequences to the bizarre design of the Kallerians, “Kanan: The Last Padawan” is a stylistic and sequential continuation of The Clone Wars; it feels like it truly belongs in the Prequel era, a place many fans feared they wouldn’t get to see again.
If you’ve seen the finale of Rebels, you’re probably expecting to hear those for boding final words from Kanan’s Master Depa Bilaba before she’s taken down with the rest of the Jedi Order. Not yet. Weisman is playing the long game with this one. I think I recall hearing him say in an interview once that a comic issue is roughly equivalent to the first act of a 22-minute episode of a television series, so we are essentially reading less than ten minutes of a story. We see a little bit of action, but mostly conversation. They’re good conversations, but not yet enough to justify why Kanan’s backstory is so important. As we know from reading John Jackson Miller’s “A New Dawn,” Kanan was a bit of a loose cannon (no pun intended) until he met Hera, but that doesn’t happen for many years after this series, which will cover six to eight months of Kanan’s post-Order 66 life. My concern is that we will simply watch Kanan’s downward spiral out of the Order and into trouble without a clear arc. Still, it could be a bit too early to tell.
All in all, seeing Kanan interact with some good-natured clones while discussing the role of the Jedi in the war made this feel like the first part of a later-season Clone Wars episode, the kind that goes to the kind of dark and intriguing places we first saw in The Empire Strikes Back. While not as meaty as it could be, and while the narrative doesn’t have the clearest path, we’re finally going to see what happened directly after Order 66, and it’s looking like Greg Weisman and Pepe Larraz are the best guys for the job.
4.5 out of 5 starsPowered by Sidelines