– Spoiler Review –
Curious to learn how Caleb Dume, apprentice to Depa Billaba, survived Order 66 to become Kanan Jarrus, the cowboy Jedi we all know and love in Star Wars Rebels? That tale begins here in the excellent, and dare I say best of the Marvel stock so far, Kanan – The Last Padawan #1.
There are just so many things this issue does right, striking a balance between action and meditative moments, all the while covering some of the stickier aspects of the Clone Wars. Whereas the other Marvel series have mostly stuck to one tone/mood–Star Wars to rollicking adventure, Darth Vader to methodical fury, and Princess Leia to fulfilling one’s duty–Kanan ranges through several different tones expertly. It’s a rollicking adventure in the young life of Caleb at one moment, a contemplative study on the war and it’s effects on the Jedi at the next, and whole bunch of humor at the end…that is until they pull the rug out from underneath you. More on that shocker in a bit.
One of the many things I appreciated about The Clone Wars series at it grew throughout the years was it’s unflinching look at how the war affected everyone, on both sides, and how it slowly started to blur the lines between who was good and who was evil; One general taking advantage of a planet’s nice hotels for another, just one of them didn’t nickle and dime you up front if they joined your side, it was done more subtly as they were the ruling government. The Kallerans have a very good point about how the title of General doesn’t really distinguish the Separatists from the Republic, especially so late in the war, and it’s a situation I’m happy to see handled by a Jedi not named Kenobi or Skywalker.
Depa Billaba fans have a small case to rejoice, not only for the way she was portrayed in Kanan, but also what it means for her past. When it was revealed in A New Dawn she had taken the young Kanan as an apprentice, it basically seemed to discount and conflict with the riveting Legends novel Shatterpoint. In that novel, the war takes it toll on her and she goes feral on Mace Windu’s jungle homeworld of Haruun Kal. Mace, her former master (which is still canon) goes there to bring her in, but she ends the story in a coma and was largely presumed dead (which my summary doesn’t do the book any justice). There are BIG hints that those events could actually still apply to her backstory, given that Caleb mentions she picked him after she, “…emerged from–well, whatever it is she emerged from,” and the Separatists’ General had intel she was, “…unstable.” There’s already been some Legends content being shadow-canoned in by authors, especially by James Luceno in Tarkin, so this was another really cool and very appreciated continuation of that trend. So once you’re done reading #1, rush out and pick up Shatterpoint if you haven’t because it’s one of the best Clone Wars era novels around. However, let me reiterate, this is what I have (and many others) felt those moments meant, but there’s no official confirmation they are meant to relate to Shatterpoint at all (even if it’s all a pretty big *wink wink nod nod*).
Anyways, her teachings help set Caleb down the path Kanan eventually goes on, as a lot of his training to Ezra in Rebels echoes some of the few sentiments she shares with him while they practice forms under the stars of Kaller. She’s sounds a little like Qui-Gon, a type of Jedi the Order needed more during the war, seeing as they had the right idea regarding what the Jedi were really losing in the war and they were ready to question the decisions of the High Council to make that point.
But this is still about Kanan, or rather young Caleb, who’s inquisitive nature shines true and is a perfect fit for Depa’s mindset and teachings. He interestingly feels at peace in the war, which is ultimately a very tragic sentiment considering we know he’ll wander without purpose, without a place in the universe, and without peace for 10 or so years until he finds himself aboard the Ghost at the end of AND. Caleb’s interactions with those around him, as he’s actually asking questions instead of following things blindly, recall Ahsoka’s Padawan days and the ways of Kanan’s own Padawan Ezra. The effective work done in #1 to help build up his camaraderie with the clones, Commander Grey and Captain Styles, also helps out the big gut punch on the final page.
While we all knew going into Kanan it would deal with Order 66, I don’t think anyone was prepared for it to already happen at the end of the first issue. Just as Kanan is truly happy and is among those he considers friends in both the clones and his Master, Commander Grey gets the collect call from Emperor Palpatine to execute the Sith’s grand plan to wiping out the Jedi. Talk about one heck of a cliffhanger!
Greg Weisman writes some really great dialogue here, as he gets across Caleb’s curious question-filled nature, Depa’s abstract teachings, the clones’ feelings on the war, and the Kallerans’ reluctance to celebrate either side winning the war in such a short time in a very effective manner. He was the executive producer on the first season of Rebels, which is easy to tell in the single scene aboard the Ghost where each characters’ dialogue is easily read in their actor’s voice, and he has an excellent handle on Star Wars material no matter the time era. Pepe Larraz’s art has a bit of TCW‘s visual flair, but he meshes it with his own style to build a hybrid look of sorts that is hard to tear your eyes away from, with help from David Curiel’s colors. Besides the big two page spread early in the issue, Caleb and Depa’s training under the night sky of Kaller have to be some of my favorite panels.
Here are a few other things:
- The design for General Kleeve, a Devaronian, and the Kallerans were eye catching and unique.
- Well, we know where Kanan got his holocron from now.
- As to where the opening bit takes place in regards to Rebels, I’d imagine it is somewhere during the first season, though it’s not really important.
- The Last Padawan subtitle is for the first 5 issue arc, which is written by Weisman.
He’ll be leaving the series afterwards, so let’s hope whoever replaces him can step up to the plate. Scratch that, Weisman is set to return for the second arc, rejoice!
- Bria over at Tosche Station does everything I try to do in my review above, but in 7 simple gifs!
- Mike Cooper over at Eleven-ThirtyEight.com points out why the Shatterpoint reference is quite a big deal in regards to continuity and familiarity.
- Greg Weisman made an appearance on the FullofSith podcast, discussing his work on Rebels and of course this comic.
In the end, all the above is just me trying my best to convey to you that Kanan: The Last Padawan #1 is well worth a read thanks to the topics it covers, the dialogue, the pacing, and some wonderful art to back it all up. Caleb’s tale is just heating up, and if we can expect this level of work going forward, Kanan will be remembered as the best of the early Marvel comics, even over the Darth Vader series.
+ Various topics amiss the backdrop of war
+ Depa’s teachings
+ That cliffhanger!
– #2 is a month away!
A New Dawn (novel)
OTHER CANON COMIC REVIEWS:
Vader (#1-6) | Shadows and Secrets (#7-12) | The Shu-Torun War (#16-19) | End of Games (#20-25) | Annual: #1
Vader Down (crossover of Star Wars and Darth Vader on-goings)
Skywalker Strikes (#1-6) | Old Ben’s Journals | Showdown on the Smuggler’s Moon (#8-12) | Rebel Jail (#16-19) | The Last Flight of the Harbinger (#21-25) | Annual: #1
Poe Dameron (on-going)
Han Solo (mini-series)
Obi-Wan & Anakin (mini-series)
Shattered Empire (mini-series)
Princess Leia (mini-series)
Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir (mini-series)