Or, the chronicles of Caleb Dume…
Spoiler Alert: This article contains plot details for issue #1 of Kanan: The Last Padawan, A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller, and episodes of Star Wars Rebels. A major spoiler has an additional warning preceding it.
Kanan: The Last Padawan #1
Writer: Greg Weisman / Artist: Pepe Larraz / Colors: David Curiel / Cover: Mark Brooks / Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramanga
Kanan: The Last Padawan is the newest Star Wars title from Marvel, and as that title suggests it features Kanan Jarrus from the Disney XD television series Rebels. The story begins with the crew of the Ghost discussing their next mission, which Hera, the Twi’lek captain of the ship, describes as a “milk run.” The various members of the crew briefly chime in on the low-threat nature of this mission, but when Hera states they are headed to the planet Kaller, Kanan’s reaction is one of shock and surprise, and he flashes back to events set during the Clone Wars.
Among Marvel’s four Star Wars titles, Kanan is unique as it is the first of the Marvel comic series not set between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. In the first issue, the majority of the story is set during the events of Revenge of the Sith. Jedi Master Depa Billaba has emerged from an unspoken event or sequestration and has taken a Padawan—Kanan, when he was known as Caleb Dume. As an aside, it is possible that Depa’s “emergence” is a reference to the now-Legends novel Shatterpoint. In the Legends Star Wars universe, Depa was last seen in a comatose state, and is presumed to have eventually died as a result of the events in Shatterpoint. Kanan rewrites her fate, and this series tells that story and how Kanan survived the aftermath of the Clone Wars.
Kanan introduces a new alien species to the Star Wars universe with the Kallerans. The inhabitants of Kaller appear to be large serpentine humanoids that somewhat resemble king cobras. The Kallerans have apparently chaffed under Separatist control until General Billaba, Caleb, and their clone army liberate the planet. Young Caleb is somewhat shocked that the Kallerans are not more appreciative for the liberation from the Separatists. One of the Kallerans sarcastically explains their sentiments regarding the war to Caleb by pointing out that to them there is no difference between one general and another. This was a recurring theme from Star Wars: The Clone Wars–not all systems cared to be caught up in the war between the Republic and the Separatists, and for much of the galaxy there was little difference between the two.
In the aftermath of the battle between the Republic and the Separatists and the meeting with the Kallerans, Depa takes advantage of the momentary peace to resume Caleb’s training and impart a lesson. Depa’s lesson to Caleb is a similar lesson Kanan later gives to Ezra in Rebels. Depa and Caleb discuss that despite the carnage wrought by the war between the Republic and the Separatists, Caleb is at peace because he has finally found his place in the galaxy. Depa does not admonish Caleb for his sentiments. Instead, she cautions Caleb to not get “too attached, too fond, or too in love with life” (emphasis is mine) as it exists for them then. Depa’s reminder to Caleb adds context to a lesson Kanan teaches Ezra in Rebels. In the episode “Empire Day,” Kanan advises Ezra that he should not be afraid to form an attachment to others. Of course, in that episode, he was referencing Ezra’s poor attempt to connect with a Lothcat. At the time, Kanan’s musings on attachment surprised many longtime fans of Star Wars.
For years, Star Wars fans had been reminded through various media that “attachment” was a forbidden to the Jedi of the Republic. The most famous example was Anakin’s attachment to his mother. As Yoda warned Anakin in The Phantom Menace during their first encounter, he could sense Anakin was afraid of losing his mother. Fear of course leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate leads to suffering. Therefore, attachment was forbidden to Jedi, and prospective Jedi were typically raised by the Jedi Order from infancy in order to prevent such attachments from forming in the first place.
Depa’s advice to Caleb adds a nice frame to both the views of the Jedi of the Republic and the lesson Kanan attempts to impart to Ezra. There is a strength in attachment, and in forming a bond with comrades. Caleb found harmony by establishing a place for himself with the clone army he and Depa were leading. However, there is a limit to the benefits of attachment. Depa tells Caleb not to become too attached because life is not static. The war will not last forever. He will not be an apprentice forever. While Caleb may have found peace in finding a place he fits in the universe, that too will change. He must be prepared to deal with and accept the loss. Anakin was not prepared, and we all saw how that turned out. In Rebels, much of Ezra’s identity and way of life were wrapped up in coping with the loss of his parents to the point that he refused to form any new attachments when he could help it. His fear held him back, and Kanan’s lesson helped set him free and grow in the Force.
WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD.
Caleb is not provided much time to reflect on Depa’s lesson. Shortly after Caleb, Depa, and some commanding clones discussed the appropriateness of the role of Jedi in the galactic war, one of the clones, Commander Grey, receives a notification of an incoming communication on his wrist gauntlet. He steps aside to answer the communique, and is directed to execute Order 66 by Chancellor Palpatine. The book closes with Commander Grey preparing to carry out the order while Kanan ponders a Holocron he received from Depa.
Star Wars fans know where this is going. Revenge of the Sith portrays the downfall of the Jedi with the execution of Order 66. Most of the Jedi perished, but some, such as Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi, survived. Caleb is another survivor. John Jackson Miller’s A New Dawn tells more of Caleb/Kanan’s story closer to the time of Rebels, and in many ways, tells the story of how Kanan comes to deal with the loss of the very thing to which he became attached.
Kanan: The Last Padawan features a talented team of creators. Greg Weisman has taken on the writing duties for this series. This is significant because Weisman was one of the primary writers for the first season of Rebels and had a hand in creating Kanan’s character. Pepe Larraz is responsible for the art in the book, which is the most unique of any of the four Marvel Star Wars titles so far. Larraz’s style is more akin to what one would expect in a traditional Marvel super hero book. While not as realistic as Larroca’s work in Darth Vader, it is nonetheless striking. His panels are clean and the action is easy to follow. As the Jedi in this book engage in combat, the sequence of events flow and the reader is not forced to make large intuitive leaps to fill in the spaces between panels. Larraz has done an excellent job of creating a young Kanan as well. His clones are also impressive. Kanan also features the use of thought blocks, which have largely been absent from the other Star Wars titles.
Kanan is off to an excellent start. It holds its own with the other Star Wars titles by Marvel, and is a must read for Rebels fans.
- April 8, 2015—Darth Vader #4
- April 15, 2015—Princess Leia #3
- April 22, 2015—Star Wars #4
- May 6, 2015—Kanan: The Last Padawan #2
Dennis Keithly is a graduate of the University of Missouri, North Texas attorney, husband, father of two, and co-host of Starships, Sabers, and Scoundrels. In addition to Star Wars, Dennis is a fan of science fiction, fantasy, and super heroes in general. When not engaged in fictional universes, Dennis is reading a good book or watching the NHL, football, or studying the NFL draft.