Obi-Wan Kenobi #1 is a Fun, if Light, Adventure with the Jedi

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Obi-Wan Kenobi #1 is an enjoyable, if not especially deep dive into the famous Jedi Master’s past ahead of Ewan McGregor’s return to the screen in his upcoming Disney Plus show of the same name. A deliberately paced introductory sequence seemingly set around the time of the show in the years prior to Episode IV: A New Hope transitions into a flashback story from Kenobi’s time as a youngling in the Jedi Temple which takes up the remainder of the issue.

This frame story and flashback format employed in Obi-Wan Kenobi #1 by Christopher Cantwell and Ario Anindito is a very familiar one, though this is not a criticism. The creators are clearly aware that much of their audience will be coming into the series ahead of the Disney Plus show without a background in Star Wars beyond the movies, and aim to make the transition as smooth as possible. Anindito is especially successful at this in the introduction, imbuing his depiction of both Alec Guinness and the Tatooine landscape with a ruggedness that consciously evokes the well-worn, ‘lived-in’ sensibilities of the 1977 film. 

Obi-Wan Kenobi #1
Ario Anindito, Carlos Lopez / Marvel Comics

Colorist Carlos Lopez also excels himself with this opening, lending the desert sequences a beautiful parched haze that contrasts vividly with the blue tones of Coruscant’s urban sprawl later in the issue. Indeed, as an accessible introduction for new and casual readers, Obi-Wan Kenobi #1 is largely effective, requiring no prior knowledge at all outside of the films. Yet Cantwell balances this with a handful of enjoyable details for more experienced readers, including a prominent callback to the ‘Journal of Obi-Wan Kenobi’ issues which were a highlight of Jason Aaron’s 2015 run on Marvel’s flagship Star Wars title.

The plot of Obi-Wan Kenobi #1 is as familiar as its structure, with an adventure of the younger Obi-Wan outside of the Jedi Temple playing out in a well-worn fashion and with few surprises. As might be expected for a solo series, the characters outside of the titular Jedi Knight are relatively one-note and fit recognizable archetypes, with the focus wholly on Kenobi himself. Here, the series once again achieves a level of solid if unspectacular success, with a running narration in Kenobi’s voice which acts as a pleasant complement to the action on the page even as it rarely elevates it. 

Christopher Cantwell
Ario Anindito, Carlos Lopez / Marvel Comics

This narration speaks to the limitations of Obi-Wan Kenobi #1 as a whole, which is always engaging but never at risk of being enthralling. While a miniseries aimed at a broad audience and clearly timed to tie in with a TV show can hardly be expected to break new ground, it is difficult not to wish that the writing could have been a little more adventurous, or at least given the artist more with which to work. This is especially true because the issue represents the current Star Wars canon’s first venture into Kenobi’s time as a youngling prior to his apprenticeship to Qui-Gon Jinn, and it is a shame to see it used on quite so formulaic a story. 

The decision to set the bulk of Obi-Wan Kenobi #1 in the claustrophobic confines of Coruscant’s lower levels also feels like a waste of Anindito’s considerable talent for alien environments as demonstrated to far greater effect in Marvel’s High Republic series, although he makes the most of what he is given, particularly with a multispecies gang of alien thugs in the latter part of the issue. Anindito’s art is still where the issue excels, but it never quite lives up to the impact made in those opening pages under the Tatooine suns.

Ario Anindito
Ario Anindito, Carlos Lopez / Marvel Comics

Finally, while it shines as an introduction, Obi-Wan Kenobi #1 is less successful in providing readers with a compelling reason to come back for more. The main plot wraps up a little too neatly and without a clear hook on which to hang the following issues. The one narrative thread which does seem to promise a hint of things to come is rather abruptly cut off by a closing narrative caption suggesting that this plot point will remain unresolved. Solicitations suggest that future issues will retain this “done in one” format with no meaningful connective tissue, which might make for an enjoyable series of one-shots but cannot help but render the comic somewhat inessential, a perpetual problem for tie-in comics.

Taken on its own merits then, Obi-Wan Kenobi #1 is a perfectly solid introductory issue in which both casual and returning readers will find many elements to enjoy, even if after a promising introduction neither the writing nor the art is ever quite permitted to take off.

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