Today saw the release of issue #5 in Marvel Comics’ adaptation of Lucasfilm’s Disney+ live-action series Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi, and below are my brief recap and thoughts on this installment.
These Disney+ Marvel Comics adaptations must be selling well, because Lucasfilm Publishing just announced another one– the first season of Star Wars: Ahsoka will be getting the comics treatment beginning this summer, and while I will always (always always) prefer an original story, I will keep an open mind going into that one. Because I do think there’s a way to make comic adaptations interesting and valuable to a reader in their own right, but in my opinion the Obi-Wan Kenobi title has not achieved that accomplishment. This month’s issue, #5, is of course a retelling of the fifth episode of the series, and once again writer Jody Houser and (especially) artist Salvador Larroca have replicated this chapter scene-by-scene, beat-by-beat, shot-for-shot, and nearly line-for-line. It makes for a tedious– I might almost say boring– exercise, and reading these issues brings me next to nothing I can’t get by simply firing up my Disney+ account and pressing play.
But I’ve said all that before, so let’s talk about what’s actually good in this issue– here’s a hint: it all comes directly from the penultimate episode of Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi. This is the one in which the title character and his temporary ward Princess Leia Organa have sought shelter in a bunker run by “The Path”– an Underground Railroad of sorts for Jedi and other Force-users after the events of Order 66 and the rise of the Empire. We get some fun flashbacks to a training session between Obi-Wan and his then-Padawan learner during the Clone Wars era, which are partnered with a plot by Darth Vader in the “present” to infiltrate the Path holdout on the planet Jabiim and capture his old Master. In the meantime, the Inquisitor called Reva is cooking up her own plans involving Obi-Wan and Vader, and here we learn more about her past as a Youngling in the Jedi Temple during the Purge. There are some dumb moments– the whole thing with young Leia in the vents doesn’t play any less groan-worthy on the comics page than it did on TV– but by and large the story works.
So why am I still so bothered by the approach of bringing this narrative to sequential-art form? Just once I want to see Larroca inject something fresh into what he has to work with here, and time and time again he avoids that, relying instead on illustrations that look like they could have been traced right off the screen. There’s nothing new, there’s nothing original, and there’s nothing worthwhile on display. In fact, the only reason I’d recommend buying this comic once again is the terrific cover art by Phil Noto– and there are a couple variants out there as well. Maybe Larocca could look at what those artists are doing and follow suit: what makes comic adaptations interesting is when the source material is treated as a starting point and then the creators make it their own, not just duplicate it down to the frame. There’s one more issue left to go in this miniseries, so you can look forward to me saying all this again next month, unless I’m completely caught off guard and my mind is changed by this team’s take on the final episode. I doubt that will happen, but there’s always hope.
Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi #5 is available now wherever comic books are sold.