Ahead of the Disney+ premiere of Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi, Ceridwen Millington looks at five essential Obi-Wan stories from beyond the movies…
Obi-Wan Kenobi is definitely one of the most intriguing figures in the Star Wars universe. He is obviously one of the most important, being the first Jedi that viewers met and a mentor to both Luke and Anakin Skywalker. However, the years since the 1977 original have allowed the character to gain even more depth, most notably in the Prequels. He appeared in the Original Trilogy simply as wise and world weary old man, but was later given a richer journey of someone who transformed from a hothead to a compassionate, loyal, and tragedy-destined hero. His appeal is such that the TV show has seen enormous hype, but these books and comics deserve to be enjoyed alongside as reads that flesh out the character’s many facets.
Jedi Apprentice: The Dark Rival (1999)
This book is the second in a lengthy tween-suited series about Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon’s relationship, and nails the dynamic in a way that sets up their future appearances. It is written by Jude Watson, who has also explored the Obi-Wan and Anakin relationship; the author having a clear skill for delving into the complex master-student dynamic. This might be a breezy read in terms of length, but it provides some insights that have managed to remain in canon even where the book hasn’t.
It is an immensely fun read in terms of its concept, Qui-Gon being challenged by the return of his evil pupil Xanatos. The story sets up Qui-Gon being a wise master who is haunted by his past, and Obi-Wan an adventurous youth who doesn’t quite know how to connect with his teacher. A benefit of this being a book aimed at kids is that the characterisation always feels clearly drawn, and so it warrants being read by any fan hoping to better understand one of the series’ central relationships.
Master & Apprentice (2019)
This is the most recent novel starring Obi-Wan and, as the title suggests, is focused around his relationship with his old master. The territory might seem like it has been well plumbed across books and comics, but it’s a guarantee of fresh ideas to have Claudia Gray as the author. Within this novel are insights into the characters that feel essential for understanding them, and which provide answers to some significant questions.
Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon are a little at odds in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, and this novel wades into their motivations and sheds fresh light on the saga at large. The former is a stickler for rules compared to his rebellious, questioning, and somewhat mystic master. A particularly significant source of tension is Qui-Gon’s belief in prophecies, one that readers know leads to Anakin being brought into the Jedi order. The way the reconcile their differences foreshadows the Anakin and Obi-Wan dynamic, and the enormous growth Obi-Wan sees throughout his life.
A book having a title like Kenobi suggests it might be a definitive summing up of who the character fundamentally is, though it’s more interesting and original than that. The book leans into the Western elements of the Star Wars series in its look at Obi-Wan’s arrival on Tatooine, putting the character as a Shane-style stranger in town. It’s a novel fitting for such a crucial, beloved character because it’s of such a high quality, and feels a surprisingly plausible set-up for the “Ben Kenobi” of Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope.
The story puts Obi-Wan in a situation that is drastically different than the high-octane one the upcoming show seems to be setting up. There aren’t Inquisitors or Darth Vader in this story, but instead a community at war with Tusken Raiders and a central character trying not to reveal himself as a Jedi. It’s a novel that is more surprising than most Star Wars books no matter how great they are. It’s also character driven, and makes the journey from Jedi Master Obi-Wan to a “crazy old man” feel more earned and more tragic.
There’s only been one issue of this comic series so far, but it feels already like it’s going to be a particularly worthwhile mini-series. Obi-Wan has already received plenty of attention in the releases put out by Marvel, though arguably seeing the character fight the likes of Black Krrsantan undermines the extent of his solitude. Characterisation seems to be more a priority here than interesting cameos, with an old, settled Ben reflecting on his storied life in a way that gives a sense of its breadth.
Uncharted parts of his past are explored straight away by taking readers to his childhood. It shows Obi-Wan trying to look after a fellow padawan who decides to escape the Jedi because of visions of their father. It’s an obvious parallel to the struggles that Anakin faces, and gives an idea of how Obi-Wan develops some level of empathy – and intentional ignorance – to Anakin’s struggles with the Jedi’s rules. Beyond what is says about the characters, too, it’s poignant to see a character reflecting on the start of its journey as it nears a hard-won end.
Obi-Wan and Anakin (2016)
Seeing this get released at the start of Marvel’s stewardship of the comics was a reassurance the prequels weren’t being forgotten, and this story proves to be much more than a bit of fan service. It’s a classic Star Wars adventure of the characters being caught up in a conflict driven by misunderstandings, but is also an interesting glance into the forces driving its protagonists. Obi-Wan and Anakin have such a compelling relationship because of their tensions, and this story explores that without losing enormous thrills.
Some Star Wars comics feel like they could easily be made into novels too, and this is definitely one of them. The adventure itself is memorable in its dramatic conflict between two sides stuck fighting without reason across decades and decades. However, what really gives it an edge is that there are real stakes: Chancellor Palpatine begins to hook himself into Anakin while Obi-Wan grapples with his padawan’s desire to leave the Jedi. Obi-Wan here shows wholeheartedly a loyalty the films hint at in his willingness to train Anakin no matter what, and it makes their cataclysmic separation all the more devastating.
What are your favourite Obi-Wan Kenobi stories? Let us know on our social channels @FlickeringMyth…
Ceridwen Millington is a culture journalist with an interest in all things pop culture. She has a particular passion for science fiction and the Star Wars franchise, and you can see some of her musings over on Twitter @callmeceri
Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi begins 10 years after the dramatic events of “Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith” where Obi-Wan Kenobi faced his greatest defeat—the downfall and corruption of his best friend and Jedi apprentice, Anakin Skywalker, who turned to the dark side as evil Sith Lord Darth Vader.
Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi stars Ewan McGregor (Ben Kenobi), Hayden Christensen (Darth Vader), Joel Edgerton (Owen Lars) and Bonnie Piesse (Beru Lars), as well as Star Wars newcomers Moses Ingram, Kumail Nanjiani, Indira Varma, Rupert Friend, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Sung Kang, Simone Kessell, Maya Erskine, Benny Safdie and Grant Feely.