Just read: Both 'Star Wars: Kanan' trade paperbacks

"Just read" is a blog where I blog about something I just read. I'm trying to read more this year and I'd like to keep a record of that; blogging will theoretically help that cause. 

After checking out the Princess Leia, Lando and Chewbacca mini-series in Marvel's ongoing Star Wars universe, I moved onto the Kanan trade paperbacks. These two trades collect a total of 12 issues, which represent the full run for Kanan. It's worth noting that Kanan is a character in the TV series Rebels, which I haven't watched at all yet -- so I went into this needing something of an introduction to the character and not knowing anything about his backstory. 

Luckily enough, the first volume -- Kanan: The Last Padawan -- serves as something of an introduction to the character. Almost the entire book is told in the form of a flashback to win Kanan Jarrus was a Padawan named Caleb Dume fighting in the Clone Wars. The young Dume is picked as a Padawan by his master, Jedi Knight Depa Billaba, and fights alongside her in the waning days of the war. Jarrus survives the execution of Order 66, the act that kills off most of the Jedi in the galaxy -- Billaba included. The sequence of the actual execution of Order 66 in the comic is definitely one of the high points in a book that doesn't make too many references to any of the Star Wars films (even if Order 66 is kinda dumb and lazy at its heart). Dume is on his own from there, and the galaxy is no longer a safe place for Jedi, so he befriends a smuggler (one who is quite a bit darker and meaner than the friendly Han Solo early on) named Janus Kasmir. He accompanies Kasmir through a few adventures in this first volume.

The Last Padawan covers quite a bit of ground for the young Dume / Jarrus. We watch, toward the end, as he splinters off from Kasmir and creates his own group of adventurers -- this group is the one the present-day Jarrus spends his time with, and we don't see too much of them in this comic run. And while The Last Padawan's focus is all on his last mission as a Padawan -- the one where he watches his master die -- the second trade paperback, Kanan: First Blood, shows his first mission, including a telling of how he was selected by Billaba. The storytelling in both cases is pretty tame and predictable, but they're enjoyable enough reads to avoid being considered a slog.

Unfortunately, neither of these trades do much in the form of making themselves memorable. Only a couple of weeks after reading them, I've mostly put their stories in the back of my head and I feel no more inclined to watch Rebels on Netflix than I already did as a general Star Wars fan. They're pretty clearly targeted at an audience that's already familiar with this character, which is fair enough; and they're pretty clearly written and drawn for those fans as well, which are presumably younger readers. The artwork from Pepe Larraz is much more "kid-centric" than the art in the trades that focus on original trilogy characters; the great, moody coloring from the Darth Vader run couldn't be farther away from what we get here. Kanan features more cartoonish art (just look at the cover for The Last Padawan, above), with bright, bold colors and thick lines. The dialogue via Greg Weisman is straightforward and simple, meant to transit Kanan's "secret history" to existing fans of the character than actually establish any stake in the story he's telling. It makes for a story that never actually has anything hanging in the balance, despite all the action sequences.

The lack of a tie-in to any major Star Wars character -- original trilogy or prequel trilogy -- makes these books even less interesting. It's somewhat "daring" of Marvel to let these books stand on their own with only the support of Rebels on TV, but probably to no fault of the creative team, it falls flat for readers just trying to keep up with Marvel's Star Wars output as a whole, like me. I'll perhaps revisit these once I do start watching Rebels, but nothing about them makes me particularly excited to do so. I'll consider these the first misses of Marvel's current run on Star Wars, which has been otherwise extremely enjoyable so far.

Kanan: The Last Padawan and Kanan: First Blood are both available from Amazon in physical format at those respective links, and digitally via Comixology.