By Jason Aaron and Mike Mayhew
Though ongoing series’ often group every few issues (the hot trend right now seems to be 5 or 6) into an arc, many times the end of one bleeds into another in a manner reflective of the serialized nature of popular television shows such as Game of Thrones. Since the launch, Marvel’s (not so) new (anymore) Star Wars title elected to make a clear distinction between arcs by slotting an Old Ben Kenobi focused one-shot between the end of one and beginning of another. These have been a lovely treat in the run. Any chance to spend more time with the older, Alec Guinness version of Obi-Wan is a joy.
To say Jason Aaron has a perfect grasp of Kenobi’s voice is redundant at this point. From Page 1 of Issue #1, he has had a fantastic grasp on all their voices, enabling this series to transcend feeling like glorified fan-fiction and into something holding weight as a vital piece of canon. What’s especially great about his use of Kenobi here is how Aaron manages to simultaneously make him feel a little Ewan McGregor and a little Alec Guinness. By juggling the two silver screen depictions of the character and funneling them through the comic, Aaron feels like he’s giving us the tale of Obi-Wan becoming Old Ben, which is EXACTLY what these one-shots should be. Generally speaking, it’s in character and character dynamics that Aaron excels (most evident in his creator owned series Southern Bastards, which you SHOULD be reading.) The bare minimum use of Uncle Owen in the prequels was a terrible shame given both the promise of the actor and the promise of Owen’s intriguing dislike of Old Ben in A New Hope. Aaron delivers fantastically on the latter of those, continuing to fuel the growing resentment the farmer has for the exiled Jedi, developing a riveting rapport between the pair. There is no tension more joyously frustrating to witness between characters than tension drawn from two people who have the same agenda, but different methods. Both men want the best for Luke, but they have wildly different ideas of what that means. Thanks to this, their relationship has more complexity in twenty pages than the prequels managed for all its characters combined across three films.
However, the story itself is a little low stakes. Unfortunately, it’s a victim of its place in the timeline of the grander mythology. Events can’t get too grand scale in order for Kenobi to grow into the action-rusty Old Ben and, as a result, they suffer. Not every story every told needs to feel gargantuan in scope, but after two prior tales of Old Ben’s desert meanderings, it would have been nice for the third entry to up the game, to create a sense of escalation. Instead it feels a little too “more-of-the-same.”
Mike Mayhew is renowned for his photo-realistic approach which sees him generate incredible characters showcasing incredible emotion, though it means his action can struggle by feeling a little static at points. That’s very much the case here, leaving the book feeling less like a comic and more like a series of tableaus; granted, they are incredibly stunning tableaus. His take on Black Krrsantan’s hair is a dazzling display of swirling blacks and greys creating the most beautifully furry bounty hunter in the galaxy and his close on Luke’s face when he saves the day is a perfect encapsulation of childhood joy upon impressing your elders.
Though a little stagnant on the story-front, and a little lacking in motion in the art- Star Wars #20 is the third beautifully painted fun diversion from the main story in the time of Old Ben’s exile that celebrates the lost art of a great one-shot.