A void exists in the life of Obi-Wan Kenobi. From The Phantom Menace to Revenge of the Sith, we follow Kenobi from Jedi Knight to Jedi Master, as he sought to train Anakin Skywalker and fight as a general in the Republic’s clone armies. At the end of Revenge of the Sith, we see Kenobi bringing baby Luke to the Lars and then jump nearly twenty years into the future, into the story of A New Hope. He’s a hermit living amongst the sandy vistas of Tatooine, known almost affectionately as ‘Old Ben’ Kenobi by Skywalker. While some of the story of those two decades was told under the old Expanded Universe, in the new, it’s once again an empty space, that is, until the first of a number of stand alone comics under Marvel’s Star Wars title.
The first such book, issue seven, finds Kenobi less than a decade into his self-imposed guardianship and exile from the galaxy he once knew. It’s a meditation of a warrior for justice, who has been forced, or so he believes, to set aside everything that he identified within himself as a Jedi. Dwelling in his hermit abode, the story is set in the midst of a vicious drought which threatens the survival of the area’s moisture farmers. Also threatening their survival are goons belonging to Jabba the Hutt, sent in from his palace to collect ‘water taxes’ from the surrounding realm. Kenobi is a silent witness to the levying of the tax and the suffering that follows, believing himself unable to do anything that might jeopardize his anonymity and his ability to safeguard young Luke Skywalker.
Eventually, Kenobi cannot hold back while in town, and uses the Force to sabotage the weapons of the gangsters. Rather than feel a validated reassertion of his duty to the people of the galaxy, Obi-Wan’s reflection, beautifully penned by Jason Aaron, is simply the admission that he will avoid going into town in the future to avoid future temptation. For a man who lead armies into the field and faced down his own closest friend, it’s a striking sign of surrender. It’s not an easy one, as the writing makes clear, Obi-Wan struggles with this path in life. It’s not until someone else in his life acts out that the Jedi is finally forced to decide what his identity will become or remain. It begins with Luke.
The future hero of the rebellion had snuck away from the Lars farmstead in an attempt to steal back water taken from his fellow moisture farmers. Lacking size, experience, and everything but gusto, Luke is overwhelmed by Jabba’s henchmen who discuss taking the boy back to their crime boss to serve as a slave. Kenobi’s resistance to be who he is, to be a Jedi, falls away through the process of his rescue of his unknowing ward. The goons are defeated, one by one in the depths of the desert night, and both Luke and the stolen water are returned to their proper homes with none the wiser. Obi-Wan Kenobi has also found something returned, his dignity as a Jedi.
The Dark Times, the era that followed the fall of the Republic and the hunting of the Jedi to near extinction, was a time period that drove the surviving Jedi into exile. Obi-Wan to Tatooine, Yoda to Dagobah, forced to turn their backs on the very essence of the Jedi Order, to serve the galaxy and bring it peace and justice. The heartache of such a decision is a subject well worth investigating and in issue seven of Star Wars, Jason Aaron, assisted by beautiful artwork by Simone Bianchi, provides us with the perfect telling of Kenobi’s own painful introspection over this decision. He is a reluctant Robin Hood, conflicted with fears of sacrificing his ability to protect Luke over protecting the people of Tatooine from Jabba’s King John. At the same time, though fleeting, we also receive hints of the character traits belonging to Luke Skywalker which will drive him to make his own choices to engage the greater fight between good and evil. For all mentioned above, this issue stands out as one of the best of the earlier issues of the Star Wars title.