Obi-Wan & Anakin is the first real dud of Marvel's series of new Star Wars comics. Most of Marvel's new Star Wars stories have focused on the time period between Episode IV and V of the film's sci-fi universe. Last month saw the debut of Obi-Wan & Anakin, a miniseries that shows the two men on an adventure before their relationship burned to ash on Mustafar. The first two issues — by writer Charles Soule, Marco Checchetto, Andres Mossa and Joe Caramagna — have failed to light the same kind of spark as other titles in Marvel's Star Wars line.
The story starts as the master and padawan crash-land on a planet called Carnelion IV, after being sent there to answer a distress call that specifically asked for Jedi help.
Carnelion IV has been embroiled in a mutual-assured-destruction conflict for generations and the remaining humans claim to not know anything about the mystic order of interstellar knights. In last week's issue #2, the two Jedi find themselves caught in between fighters from the Open and the Closed, the rival factions trying to wipe each other off the ruined remains of their planet.
It doesn't quite work as a buddy adventure story, because the two main characters aren't equals. They're noble teacher and discomfited student, a set-up that doesn't lend itself to cheeky banter. The flashbacks interspersed through the story so far show Anakin training at the Jedi temple at Coruscant and generally being a little snot. Witnessing some of the young man's barely suppressed rage, Chancellor Palpatine basically demands to serve as an additional mentor to Anakin. Despite some misgivings, Mace Windu lets it happen. Big mistake, Master Windu.
The best parts of the new Star Wars canon being built in Marvel's comics have shown us new facets and introduced fresh faces into a cinematic franchise that's been painstakingly picked over for decades. Moments in the Darth Vader series have shown readers Vader as a poorly treated subordinate and a man suddenly motivated to rule the galaxy once he learns he has a son. Similar beats in the Star Wars book spotlight Luke Skywalker's awkward quest for Jedi knowledge. Whether it's the action-comedy in Chewbacca or the high-stakes heist structure of the Lando miniseries, all the books have had a hook that made it feel like more than old character beats being warmed over. Obi-Wan & Anakin doesn't generate the same energy.
The new planet and civilisation isn't compelling unto itself and the latter seems to have been conceived as a parallel to the Light and Dark Sides of the Force. There's a vague steampunk/sci-fantasy vibe to what we're shown on Carnelion IV but that alone hasn't freshened Obi-Wan wearying at his role as a servant of the Republic, Anakin calling out the hypocrisy of the Jedi, Palpatine smirking and scheming in secret... the character interactions that play out in this series' pages all feel like what we've seen before.
It wasn't great the first time we saw it in the prequel trilogy and those ideas probably found their best form in the late Clone Wars cartoon show. Obi-Wan & Anakin has three issues left to turn things around. Let's see if it happens.