One of the more recent Age of Republic comics was about Obi-Wan Kenobi, the legendary fan-favorite Jedi Master. This comic series, which has been very enjoyable so far (and is written by Jody Houser), focuses on a different character from the prequel era each time. First it was Qui-Gon Jinn, then Darth Maul, and now Obi-Wan.
In this issue, we see Obi-Wan embark on his first true mission with his padawan, Anakin Skywalker, which is of course a pretty significant moment in Star Wars!
And in true Obi-Wan Kenobi fashion, we also get a, “Hello there!”
On Coruscant, Anakin Skywalker continues his training with his master, Obi-Wan Kenobi. As they meditate, Anakin focuses on lifting a small pile of rocks in front of him. Soon, another Jedi interrupts and informs Obi-Wan that the Council has another mission for him. Anakin is disapointed to learn that his master is leaving again, but Obi-Wan tells him to stay and continue his training – though Anakin knows that means just staying with the little kids (since he is far older than normal padawans). As Obi-Wan studies in the Jedi Temple Library for records about Dallenor (where he is being sent to retrieve a supposedly recovered Jedi holocron), Yoda approaches. Yoda convinces Obi-Wan to take Anakin with him, saying that while Anakin does have much more to learn, he also needs his master to believe in him. Obi-Wan is puzzled that Yoda – one of the Jedi who opposed Anakin becoming Kenobi’s padawan – would say this, and Yoda responds that since Obi-Wan already made the decision to train the boy, then he must train him well.
Obi-Wan takes Anakin with him, and as they’re traveling they discuss Kenobi’s background. Obi-Wan reveals that he doesn’t have many memories from before he was a Jedi, as he was brought to the Temple at a very young age. Anakin realizes that Obi-Wan was always meant to be a Jedi, which leads him to believe that his being a slave beforehand was part of the reason why the Council didn’t want him trained. Obi-Wan insists while the Council is often right, they are not perfect, and that Qui-Gon chose to have Anakin as his apprentice. But Anakin interprets this as Obi-Wan admitting that he is just stuck with this boy now, as Skywalker storms away out of the cockpit.
On Dallenor, the archaeologist who discovered the holocron leads the Jedi inside, explaining that pirates may return since something valuable was found. Obi-Wan tells Anakin to look out for the pirates, and he confirms that the artifact is indeed a holocron. Anakin then alerts his master that the pirates have returned. “Hello there,” Obi-Wan greets them, and he introduces himself. He says that they have peaceful intentions but that they will defend themselves, as he ignites his lightsaber. This causes the pirates’ attention to shift from getting the holocron to getting the lightsaber, but Kenobi makes easy work of the pirates, disarming all of them (but not killing any of them). One of the pirates, however, sneaks up on Anakin and threatens to kill him unless Kenobi hands over the lightsaber. Before the Jedi can make a choice, however, Anakin uses the Force to throw rocks at the pirate, killing him. Kenobi gives the rest of the pirates a choice: either Anakin can continue his training, or they can leave. They choose the latter.
On the ride home, Obi-Wan commends Anakin for his actions and apologizes, saying that Anakin was ready far before this mission but it was Obi-Wan who wasn’t. He admits that he always felt like it was Anakin who was stuck with him, not he who was stuck with Anakin. Obi-Wan knows that Qui-Gon was a great Jedi and still died… so how could he save this padawan if he couldn’t save his master? Anakin tells Obi-Wan that they’ll save each other, and Obi-Wan realizes that Anakin is teaching him just as much as he is teaching Anakin. As the issue ends, Kenobi lets Anakin fly the ship, and he resolves that he won’t fail Anakin again.
From a story perspective, the most interesting part of this comic issue is that it is Anakin’s first mission with Obi-Wan. Anakin has certainly had other adventures (as seen in The Phantom Menace, for example), but while Obi-Wan keeps going on other missions, he leaves Anakin behind to continue his training. On this occasion, thanks to some prompting from Yoda, Obi-Wan takes Anakin with him. It was cool to see this, and to see their relationship early on, but it was also cool to see how Anakin used his training to kill the pirate and free himself. I do find it interesting that Obi-Wan didn’t kill the pirates and Anakin did, but that shouldn’t be surprising to those who follow Star Wars. That fits both characters.
While the story was fun and significant (being Anakin’s first true mission with Obi-Wan), I found the exploration into Obi-Wan’s thoughts and actions and motives and fears to be the most interesting part of the comic. Much of the story is told while inter-woven with Kenobi’s thoughts, and he’s clearly wrestling with the loss of Qui-Gon and with becoming a master far earlier than he thought. Early in the issue, Obi-Wan thinks about how he never expected to take a padawan so early, and that he always expected that whenever he took an apprentice he would have Qui-Gon to turn to for guidance (during these panels, we see an image of Obi-Wan training with Qui-Gon followed by Qui-Gon’s death at the hands of Maul). Later, we get another panel showing Qui-Gon teaching Obi-Wan, and Kenobi thinks about how he’s not the same kind of teacher as Qui-Gon (said while we see a flashback of Qui-Gon disagreeing with the Council). A little after that, in assuring Anakin, Obi-Wan tells him that Qui-Gon chose to have him as his apprentice. And then at the end of the comic, Obi-Wan realizes that Qui-Gon was a great Jedi yet still fell at the hands of a Sith, so how then could he protect his padawan from the Sith if he couldn’t protect his master? Obi-Wan knows that he’s not Qui-Gon, but he is Anakin’s master – and he resolves not to fail him again.
I mention all of that because I find it really interesting to see how Obi-Wan Kenobi is still dealing with the loss of his master. This has to be something quite traumatic, and we can tell that Kenobi is still clearly dealing with the difficulty of it. He longs to have Qui-Gon’s wisdom and guidance in training his own apprentice; he uses Qui-Gon’s judgment in taking Anakin rather than his own; he admires Qui-Gon’s personality and teaching at the expense of his own. In many ways, Kenobi’s insecurities and fears drive this comic. He fears he isn’t as good of a master as Qui-Gon, and he knows that if he couldn’t save a great, powerful like Qui-Gon Jinn, how could he save a young, untrained apprentice like Anakin? It is this fear that seems to be at the heart of why Obi-Wan has had Anakin stay behind at the Temple – Kenobi himself later admits that it was he who wasn’t ready, not Anakin. Obi-Wan clearly feels that he is not a good enough teacher for Anakin, and so he feels bad that he isn’t as great as Qui-Gon was.
I think in all of this it serves to make Obi-Wan a much more relatable and sympathetic character, because we see that he has the same insecurities that are familiar to many of us. He doesn’t think he’s good enough, he fears not being able to protect or save Anakin, and he still wrestles with the loss of a dear friend and mentor. So while Anakin is learning, so is Obi-Wan. He’s learning to embrace the present, and embrace the reality that he is Anakin’s master. So whether or not Qui-Gon Jinn would have been a ‘better’ master is irrelevant, because Obi-Wan is Anakin’s master now. And Obi-Wan realizes that he cannot fail Anakin, meaning that he needs to allow his apprentice room to grow and learn and develop. He also learns, thanks to Yoda, that Anakin needs Obi-Wan’s belief in him. Obi-Wan thinks that Anakin deserves better, but Anakin interprets it as Obi-Wan doesn’t want to train him.
I am sure that this internal struggle within Obi-Wan is not over, but this comic was an important step in helping Obi-Wan learn the right lessons. It’s ironic: in this comic, Obi-Wan is the master, but he’s also the one who learns the most.