Ben Kenobi Returns in ‘Star Wars #15’

Jason Aaron provides another glimpse of Obi-Wan's years on Tatooine. But who has he become?

With all of the excitement surrounding the now-global blockbuster, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the first return to the Star Wars canon since Revenge of the Sith in 2005, the Disney Company and Marvel have naturally sought other means for fans to return to one of the most beloved fictional universes of all time. And with the decanonization of the Star Wars Extended Universe since the Walt Disney Company’s acquisition of LucasFilm in 2014, Marvel’s new series of comics seem to be the only comic publications within the grander Star Wars story. So far, the comics have been an engaging exercise in canonical expansion and world-building, even within the arguable be-all and end-all of world-building franchises.

Perhaps the most successful, and most popular, of these books has been Jason Aaron’s flagship book, simply titled Star Wars. With issue #7, and again with issue #15, Aaron has taken a stab a story many fans have been curious about since A New Hope and especially since the end of Revenge of the Sith: what happened during Obi-Wan Kenobi’s time on Tatooine between these two films? Providing a glimpse of Obi-Wan’s connection to Luke before they even met, Aaron’s latest issue tells a heartfelt story of lost and renewed hope.

As with issue #7, the story in issue #15 is told via a journal Luke has discovered, written by Obi-Wan. The setting takes place one year after the Great Drought depicted in issue #7, during which water scarcity on the planet was so severe that moisture farmers, such as Luke’s Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru, were harassed by Jabba the Hut’s enforcers for a “water tax”. Now a year later, Obi-Wan is still being sought by Jabba’s enforcers for rescuing Luke from Jabba’s henchman.

The issue opens with Obi-Wan observing Luke do what he does best: fly. Piloting his T-16 Skyhopper through Beggar’s Canyon while his friends look on, Luke shows the same confidence and abandon as his infamous father; something Obi-Wan finds equally encouraging and troubling.

Luke Skywalker was his father’s son in so very many ways. Which was precisely what worried me. Anakin was the most daring pilot I’d ever seen. Even as a boy. Could his son possible be as strong in the force?

The scene is a illustrative reminder of the first film’s famous subtitle: A new hope. Just within a page, Aaron shows just how much weight Luke carries on his shoulders without even knowing it: the potential to become the savior of the galaxy, or, like his father, to become another pawn in its enslavement. The struggle is one famously depicted throughout the original trilogy, even down to Luke’s final confrontation with Vader, where even after his mastery of the Force, the Dark Side always threatens to seize him.

Watching Luke is both a kind of hope and heartbreak to Obi-Wan: who has already watched a boy with such promise for good transform into the greatest of evil. The scene is a great depiction of how Luke has always been a tenuous hope to the Jedi, making his ultimate triumph, in fulfilling both his and his father’s destinies, all the greater.

Luke, even as a boy, shows a passionate desire for the stars, and to escape the confines of Tatooine.

“I can do this!” he yells to his friends over the radio, as he traverses the canyon. “This is my key to getting off this stupid rock someday!” Not soon after, however, he’s back at home with the sky hopper’s crashed remains, getting a earful from an enraged Uncle Owen. Luke offers to pay to fix the remains if Owen will let him race to win the money, again showing his father’s heritage. Owen, however, won’t hear it.

“Better get used to walking,” he tells Luke. “Because as long as I live, you’ll never fly again.”

Hearing of Luke’s grounding, Obi-Wan decides to take matters into his own hands, deciding that Luke will one day have to fend for himself when he’s gone, and that he’ll need to be able to fly to do so. He makes an exception from his vow to stay hidden to help protect some local Jawas from Tusken Raiders that have been raiding their convoy. Fighting off the Tusken Raiders over the course of a night, using only one of their own staffs, he gains the loyalty of the Jawas. The next day, when Owen and Luke visit the market, the Jawas bring Luke a box of sky hopper parts, much to Owen’s surprise.

That evening, Obi-Wan receives a knock at his door. Surprised, he grabs his lightsaber, only to find the visitor is a bitter Owen returning the Skyhopper parts. Owen promptly tells Obi-Wan to stay away from his family. 

“I told you I’m not gonna let you warp the boy like you did his father. You brought him to me to protect, and that’s what I’m doing. Protecting him from you. Haven’t you murdered enough Skywalkers already?”

The scene expands on a note hinted at in the original films: the discord between Obi-Wan and Owen (As Obi-Wan says in A New Hope “he feared you might follow old Obi-Wan on some damn-fool idealistic crusade like your father did”). But with given context, Aaron provides a proper reasoning for Owen would be so opposed to Obi-Wan’s influence. If Obi-Wan has his own fears about Luke’s potential as a jedi, Owen’s are trifold, especially after being bequeathed the child of a man who died on that exact path. The questions raised regarding Luke again reflect the Jedi’s hesitancy at training Anakin: the potential for greatness raised against an equal potential for evil.

As with any hero’s journey, the balance is drawn between an individual’s capacity for good in said journey, and the always-present capacity for danger and death. Especially with a child, there is then the moral consideration of whether taking them on the journey is justified in the first place. Obi-Wan repeats his promise to Owen that he won’t train the boy. Once Owen has left, however, Obi-Wan reminds himself of his other vow: that as long as he lives, nothing will harm Luke Skywalker.

Star Wars #15 is much what any Stars Wars fan could ask for from an Obi-Wan tale such as this: a tale of a brokenhearted man finding the strength to continue hoping. The story is a heartfelt precursor to the Obi-Wan who will end up mentoring two generations of Skywalkers: both the father he watched succumb to darkness, and the son who brought him back.

Aaron’s knowledge of the franchise shows in little nods to the original films (e.g., Obi-Wan thinking of simpler ways to scare off Tusken Raiders), and his treatment of the characters is loyal and thoughtful, including a complexity to side characters like Uncle Owen we haven’t seen before. The artwork by Mike Mayhew, artist of The Star Wars, is especially beautiful, and some of the best work the series has presented so far with its nigh-haunting realism.

Perhaps the only downside to the issue is the ending, which depicts Jabba the Hutt hiring a new bounty hunter to track Obi-Wan. When it’s revealed what the bounty hunter is, the result comes across as more silly than anything else.

Overall, however, Star Wars #15 is a great addition to the Star Wars canon, and hopefully we’ll see more of this era throughout Aaron’s series.

RATING 8 / 10