There’s a lot of focus on Obi-Wan Kenobi this summer, and that means several different stories about the iconic Jedi are being released. One of those is the five-issue comic mini-series written by Christopher Cantwell, Obi-Wan, which focuses on Kenobi writing in his journals while a sandstorm rages on Tatooine, sometime shortly prior to A New Hope.
Each issue centers around Kenobi remembering a different event from his life, and issue #3 takes us back to the Clone Wars, as Kenobi remembers wrestling with the Jedi’s place in the war – and still wrestles with it all these years later.
The story that we’re told happens early in the war. Kenobi remembers the early victories (albeit costly) that turned for the worse as General Grievous burst onto the scene, prompting the possibility of losing the war for the first time. A pivotal point came when Kenobi and Cody (whom Obi-Wan still remembers fondly, not holding it against Cody that he tried to kill him) learned that the Separatists were working on a massive ion weapon on Abrion Major. Kenobi volunteered the 212th to lead the assault, which was viewed to be a death trap. Aided by extra support, the Republic landed amidst heavy fire, and after taking many losses they managed to retrieve the plans to the weapon. But what Kenobi thought was a victory proved to be a trap, as the Banking Clan’s forces then converged on their location. Obi-Wan opened a way for his remaining forces to get clear, but as the Republic bombed the bridge, many soldiers were left behind. The Republic succeeded in their objective, but the massive casualties made it a somber setting.
Throughout the re-telling of this battle, as Obi-Wan “narrates” it for us by writing in his journal, we see the Jedi Master seriously wrestling with the Jedi’s role in this whole war to begin with. It doesn’t seem right to him, and he now knows that it was because Palpatine was sinisterly manipulating both sides to cause bloodshed and chaos. But despite having been trained to fight from an early age, Kenobi didn’t like fighting. “What is a Jedi’s purpose in war?” he asks himself. In the middle of the battle, he comes to realize that he doesn’t actually want to be there.
But then his men are endangered, and it all rushes back to him, allowing him to see how his purpose as a Jedi could still be kept in wartime, albeit not without much loss:
“My vows reverberated in my mind then. Protect. Preserve life. That is the Jedi way. Suddenly, the way forward became miuch clearer. But in preserving life, there was still the act of taking it. And losing even more of it. An endless tide of it. I could feel thick pockets of it snuff out — small tremors in the Force, each like a clench squeezing the air from my lungs.”
In this, Obi-Wan gives insight into how the Jedi rationalized getting involved in the war. Sure, there were some who relished the fighting more than others (and Kenobi was certainly not one of them), but the Jedi realized that in the midst of the war, in the midst of the fighting, there was the need to protect life and preserve it. The trap, of course, was that in order to do so it often meant taking more life. And it highlights all the more how Palpatine’s plan was brilliant, because the Jedi couldn’t help but get involved in the war (because they couldn’t help but seek to protect the life that was endangered by the fighting), but that in getting involved they lost (because they became the warriors they never should have).
I really like the look into Kenobi struggling with these things, and I appreciate how Cantwell manages to tell a thrilling action sequence all the while focusing on the inner turmoil in Kenobi. This battle also feels a lot more gritty and dark, as even a Republic “victory” doesn’t feel like one – and that’s exactly the place where Kenobi arrives at internally too. He has a reason for fighting, but he still doesn’t like it. And that’s why, grieving in the wake of the battle, he sits watching the sun come up, needing a reminder that light can still triumph.