When it was announced that Dark Horse was no longer going to be publishing Star Wars comics and that Marvel (the Disney-owned corporation) would begin again after years of DH, I will admit that I was skeptical. While I have not been skeptical at all of Disney handling the films or new television shows (like Star Wars: Rebels), I have enjoyed Dark Horse’s offerings of Star Wars comics so much that I was anxious about the move back to Marvel. This new comic, though makes me optimistic.
Kanan: The Last Padawan seeks to bridge the gap between the end of the Clone War and the ongoing Rebels animated television class in the same way that the novel A New Dawn did (and I certainly enjoyed that). The story starts off with a single page where the crew of the Ghost gets a mission from the Fulcrum (whose identity was revealed in the last episode of Season 1) to go to the planet Kaller. The entire rest of the issue is a flashback of when Kanan (in his true identity as Caleb Dume) fought in a battle their against the Separatist Droid armies as a padawan alongside his master Depa Billaba.
Although in the middle of a battle, Caleb is finally glad to be able to participate actively in the works of the Jedi and the Republic outside of his usual academic setting in the Jedi Temple. His master is able to easily defeat the armies of Separatist General Kleeve and the general flees the planet telling the rulers of that world to wait and see if they actually prefer separatist military rule to the tyranny of the Republic.
After the battle is over, we get more intimate moments between Caleb and Master Billaba. Caleb is incensed when Gamut Key, the leader of Kaller, insinuates that all military generals who occupy his planet are essentially the same to him. Caleb demands that everyone gives his Master the respect she deserves but is surprised when she silently takes the insults.
After this situation ends, the Master and padawan retire for some private training and teaching. Billaba encourages Caleb to avoid getting to wrapped up in the moment and realize that the Jedi Order must continually evolve to meet the needs of the galaxy as more than just military leaders. The conversation continues back at the clone camp as Billaba kids Caleb about his incessant questions, but also tells him that his questioning nature was so close to hers that it was the reason she selected him as her padawan. While talking with some of the clones soldiers, Billaba even mentions how she dislikes the military role that the Jedi have taken on to the protestation of the clones who insist that they need the Jedi to secure their victories. Even Caleb is surprised that his Master would openly speak out against a decision made by the Jedi Council. To console him, Billaba gives him a holocron she said details the history of peaceful protest among the Order.
However, the conversation is cut short when the clone commanders in Billaba’s army get the dreaded command to “Execute Order 66” ironically just after having defended the need for Jedi as leaders in the Clone Army.
The issue ends with the clones preparing to kill the Jedi as Caleb excitedly looks at the holocron he has been gifted. And the preview image for the next issue seems to show Caleb/Kanan on the run after this encounter but without giving us any clues as to how he escapes.
All-in-all, I loved this issue. It gives us such a deeper appreciation for the character of Kanan and also fills in some huge blank spaces in his backstory, especially how his Jedi training was cut short and how the events of his life as a young man on the run lead up to the character he is in A New Dawn and Rebels. While I would have liked to see more of his training and his interaction with Master Billaba, I like the way we get a very quick story here because it emphasizes how short his training was and how abruptly it ended. I expect and hope in future issues to see how Kanan struggles not only with being on the run but also with finding himself since we see him getting close to making a real connection to what he enjoys in life and then have that life dashed in front of him.
So, as the first issue of this series and the first of the new Marvel Star Wars comics that I’ve read, this issue makes me excited for the new things coming from Kanan, Marvel and Star Wars in General. I give it a 5 out of 5.