Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Scanned Thoughts: Star Wars #7

How do you make something that’s already awesome even more awesome? It may sound daunting, but it’s the good kind of daunting. Bacon itself is already pretty awesome, but I imagine it only took a few joints or a dull Saturday afternoon for someone to figure out that dipping it in chocolate made it even better. And if that can be done with bacon, why not with Star Wars? Since Disney decided to splurge like Donald Trump at a hair salon, they’ve put Star Wars into the chocolate fountain that is Marvel Comics and attempted to make it awesome in a way that used to only be possible with cocaine and Quaaludes. So far, their effort has been a booming success.

The new Star Wars series under Jason Aaron and John Cassaday has captured everything we love about these movies, minus the incest overtones. It helps fill that virgin gap between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back like a gold-encrusted dildo. We get to see these characters evolve into the icons they’re destined to become and Wookies shoot Stormtroopers along the way. Anyone who can’t enjoy that on some levels needs to check the dosage on their meds. This ongoing orgy of classic sci-fi awesome continues in Star Wars #7, but with a character that some probably feel was explored a bit too much in recent times. Yes, I’m talking about Obi Wan Kanobi, the third most annoying part of the prequels after Jar Jar and Hayden Christiansen. But I’m willing to smoke an extra joint, forget how disappointing those movies were, and give this comic a chance to make him awesome again.

Obi Wan is certainly in just the right place to have an opportunity to be awesome. Tatooine is a lot like the Somalia of the Star Wars universe. It’s a lawless butthole of a planet with few resources except for an abundance of blood-thirsty warlords and criminals. On top of that, this story takes place at a time when he’s still trying to get used to the idea of being one of the last Jedi left. I imagine it takes a long fucking time to get over the kind of butthurt caused by having Emperor Palpatine slaughter the entire Jedi Order. In this context, having a good day usually means not wanting to do the swan dive into a tank of Jack Daniels.

It’s established early on that Obi Wan is living in one of the shittier parts of this armpit of a planet. Jabba the Hutt, most likely low on bikini-clad slave women, decides to impose a water tax on the Tatooine’s residents. And when some poor farmer doesn’t want to pay because he’s not a big fan of dying of thirst, Jabba’s thugs kick his ass and all Obi Wan can do is watch. He’s not a Jedi or a keeper of the peace anymore. He’s supposed to be dead with the rest of the Jedi. It pisses him off and this is beautifully conveyed with John Cassaday’s art. It almost makes me want to do the swan dive into a tank of Jack Daniels.

That’s the main theme of the overall story, Obi Wan struggling to live life as a recluse. Keep in mind, he was once a badass general who fought on the front lines of the Clone Wars. He used to spend his days slicing through droids with a light saber and telling Count Dookoo to kiss his ass. Now he’s just a hermit on a shitty planet full of shittier criminals. He actually makes fighting droid armies sound more appealing.

It’s a more human side of Obi Wan. Too many Star Wars fans know him only as the uptight asshat who failed to train Anakin Skywalker and the wannabe sage who tried to help Luke, only to get himself killed in the process. We never get to see him process just how shitty a turn his life took after the Clone Wars. It’s something that we needed to see, if only to stop telling him he’s a lousy teacher.

We get a glimpse of how he spends his days on Tatooine. He doesn’t fight thugs or aid rebels. He just keeps to himself, occasionally gets supplies at a market, and spends most of his time in some run down hut trying to forget the last three Star Wars movies. It’s a pretty shitty way to live, even by Tatooine standards. Nobody would blame him in the slightest if he started mixing cocaine and Scotch. However, he does have activities other than brooding.

While Obi Wan still has to cope with being the second biggest loser of the Clone Wars after Jar Jar, she still has a mission of sorts to keep him from developing a drinking problem. He’s supposed to watch and protect a young Luke Skywalker who has no idea what a douche-bag his father turned out to be. There’s some nice internal monologue here where Obi Wan’s sorrow becomes more apparent. He wants to train Luke. He wants to make it so he’s not the last Jedi in the galaxy. And who can blame him? It would be a slight middle finger to the Emperor.

However, he still remembers what happened the last time he trained a Skywalker. Creating one Darth Vader is enough. James Earl Jones can only push that legendary voice of his so much. It’s a powerful moment and one that actually makes Obi Wan more likable, something there wasn’t nearly enough of over the course of three big budget prequels.

He can’t train Luke, but he can still protect him indirectly as only a skilled Jedi can. When the same thugs from earlier arrive to try and collect Jabba’s bullshit water tax from the Skywalkers, he just pulls a quick Jedi mind trick and sends them on their way. It’s not a spectacle. It’s not exciting. But it works. It averts a conflict before it turns into another galactic shit storm. If only that sort of thing worked in real life. There would be a Victoria’s Secret and a McDonald’s in Tehran tomorrow.

There’s more inner monologue that documents Obi Wan’s lament. He talks about dealing with Jabba’s thugs. He also mentions how they’re collecting this tax in the middle of a drought. And on a desert planet, that’s like akin to a giant “fuck you and your poor ass” tax. Even Jeb Bush wouldn’t support that shit. He has to protect Luke in this environment. It might have been easier if he had been asked to clean up every strip club in New Orleans after Mardi Gras. It’s a tough gig, but his options are limited so long as Emperor Palpatine’s “Kill Every Jedi On Sight” policy remains in place.

He still tries his best to deal with being a nobody. It’s something no Jedi trains for. It’s not like he can go ask Vanilla Ice for advice or anything. It’s not terribly exciting, but it does offer some important insight into Obi Wan. We see him trying to cope and trying to carve out a living on this galactic shithole of a planet. But there are still times when that Jedi itch needs scratching.

At one point Jabba’s thugs show up again and by now, everybody reading this wants these guys to get a light saber up the ass. They still demand that everyone pay their water tax, even in a drought. This is the IRS from Ron Paul’s worst nightmare basically. Again, Obi Wan has to stop them in a very subtle, very unspectacular way. He uses the Force to break their weapons, which doesn’t really stop them. But it keeps him out of sight and he can go back to his hut feeling less shitty about himself. It’s not a total win, but it’s better than nothing.

It’s still pretty unsatisfying for Obi Wan. Just harassing thugs instead of impaling them where they stand doesn’t sit well with him. It’s not the kind of noble restraint that the Jedi Order preached. However, like Bristol Palin doing abstinence lectures, he can only restrain himself for so long.

One night, Luke wanders off because he’s a kid. Kids tend to wander off and not think much of it. They do it for the same reason they pick their butts, eat their boogers, and ask why a drunk can’t keep his pants on. It’s annoying, but it’s normal. It worries his Aunt and Uncle, but guess who finds him first? Nobody in the galaxy should be surprised when it’s Jabba’s thugs who just happen to be passing by. They probably see little kids as target practice.

Like most kids who like to put on pajamas and pretend their ninjas, Luke says he’s not afraid of these guys. Obviously, his Aunt and Uncle haven’t told him about taxes yet. If so, he would’ve shit himself already. He might as well be a wounded kitten in Jeffrey Dahlmer’s kitchen. Once again, Obi Wan has to step in, but he has to do it indirectly. It’s still not as fun as cutting up an army of droids with a light sabre, but it still gets the job done.

With help from the Force and basic physics, Obi Wan finally has an excuse to ditch the noble restraint bullshit and give these thugs the ass-kicking they’ve done way too much to deserve. It’s not very well-organized and it’s a bit chaotic. All anyone needs to know is Obi Wan channels his inner Jean Grey, minus the part where he destroys a planet, and takes these assholes out. Luke falls on his ass at some point. Again, he’s a fucking kid. Falling on his ass might as well be a required subject in kindergarten.

When all is said and done, the thugs are womprat food and Luke is safe. It may seem like a glorified street fight, but it’s still pretty damn satisfying. After these thugs went through the trouble of making themselves the least likable criminals since the Neo Nazis in Breaking Bad, watching them get their asses kicked was fun even if it had to happen in an indirect way.

In some ways, it works because it shows that Obi Wan can resist the urge to solve problems with his light sabre. That’s something Anakin never quite mastered and it cost him more than Hayden Christiansen’s good looks. It helps him protect Luke without him even knowing he’s being protected. It’s a far more effective method for protecting children than teaching them that Stranger Danger bullshit. It may work for Ralph Wiggum, but not for Luke Skywalker.

It leads to a nice moment where Luke’s Aunt and Uncle find him, not knowing at all that Luke just got a lesson in how big an asshole a tax collector could be. They don’t even meet up with Obi Wan. As far as they’re concerned, Luke just wandered off, got bored, and fell asleep as kids are one to do. It’s a nice moment and one that culminates with Obi Wan putting away his light sabre. It’s another powerful moment that shows he’s serious about staying out of sight and not being the Jedi that got lucky enough to avoid being wiped out. It also effectively sets the tone for the kind of guy he becomes in A New Hope. Except this time, he’s more likable than some snarky old man with the emotional range George Takei.

This story offers a nice insight into a time in the life of Obi Wan Kanobi that isn’t well known. It ends up being an important time because it shows that’s he’s way more likable than a few lackluster movies would have us believe. But it actually offers even more than that. This story wasn’t just part of some random flashback. It came from Luke finding Obi Wan’s old journal back on Tatooine a few issues ago. So this story was basically read through Luke’s eyes. It adds even more weight to the moment, making it even more satisfying. I still would’ve liked to see Jabba’s thugs get a light sabre up the ass, but this is a nice consolation prize.

Now I know there’s a certain segment of Star Wars fans who will never get over the prequels failing to live up to the originals. These same fans will let that hatred prevent them from ever caring about Obi Wan Kanobi’s story because the last time they cared, they got Jar Jar Binks and Hayden Christensen. I can understand that perspective to some extent, but that doesn’t make it any less petty. to use those movies as an excuse to thumb your nose at a story like this one isn’t a mark of sophistication. It’s a mark of being a douche-bag and there are enough of those in the galaxy.

This issue follows the same themes that this series has so skillfully established. It explores some of the unexplored territory in the vast Star Wars universe and does so in an nerdgasmically awesome way. For those fans who aren’t douche-bags, this will make you love Obi Wan Kanobi again. It’s a story that shows him as a broken, lonely, exile from a war where he and every other Jedi in the galaxy got pwned. But despite these struggles, he’s still a Jedi and he’s still capable of being awesome. It may be light on action and details at times, but it’s still more intrigue than Obi Wan ever got from the prequels. I give Star Wars #7 an 8 out of 10. This comic won’t make the prequels any better. It won’t make anyone forget about Jar Jar either. But it puts Obi Wan in a position to do more than whine about Anakin Skywalker and that should appeal to any Star Wars fan in this day and age. Nuff said!


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