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Way back in Star Wars #7, writer Jason Aaron took an issue away from the central direction of the series to offer a flashback story centered around the time when Ben Kenobi first arrived on Tatooine. It was an excellent self-contained issue and now, with Star Wars #20, Aaron has given readers a second “hermit Kenobi” story. While the second may not be quite as strong as the first Kenobi story, it still offers an interesting look at a lesser-known period in the character’s life.
In Star Wars #7, Ben Kenobi intervened in a dispute with Jabba the Hut on Tatooine because it involved young Luke Skywalker, who Kenobi had come to watch over incognito. Kenobi dispatched with Jabba’s forces, and now Jabba has sent one of the most fearsome bounty hunters in the galaxy – Wookie Black Krrsantan – to Tatooine to find the man responsible, by any means necessary. This ends up with Black Krrsantan kidnapping Luke’s uncle Owen. Kenobi tries to rescue Owen, but his skills are rusty and Krrsantan is a formidable foe, so Owen nearly falls to his death, before Luke piloting an old ship catches him. Relieved, Kenobi can concentrate of beating Krrsantan and threatening him so that he never returns to Tatooine.
Star Wars #7 is told as a part of a lost journal kept by Ben Kenobi that was found in story by Luke Skywalker. So although these Kenobi tales are outside the general arcs of Star Wars comic – which are set between Episode IV and V – they also function as related flashback side stories. It is a fun strategy in the series, having these mostly-but-not-entirely standalone stories. I greatly enjoyed the first Kenobi journal story and wanted to see another. While I thought Star Wars #20 is another good entry, I think having a lot of these Kenobi stories would start to dilute their effectiveness.
There is a Western movie vibe to the two Kenobi journal stories that I think works well. He is a mysterious lone man in the desert determined to keep townspeople safe from outside forces. Likewise, seeing Kenobi fight Krrsantan, who does come across as a very difficult opponent, is a good set-up. While Star Wars #20, like the previous Kenobi story, does not have an especially complex plot, it is understandable in a self-contained story. This one, like its predecessor, excels in the picture of a lonely but determined Kenobi, experience self-doubt, perhaps for the first time in his life.
On the other hand, Star Wars #20 does not delight quite as much as the first Kenobi story. The unexpected enjoyment of getting an Obi-Wan Kenobi on Tatooine story was exciting. It probably makes sense to have this issue be a semi-sequel of the previous story, but I think it may have been useful to see another moment of conflict for Kenobi not connected to Jabba. Also, Luke has a more active role in this issue, but it’s as a daring child pilot, which brings forth unfortunate similarities to precocious Anakin in Episode I.
The art on Star Wars #20 is handled by Mike Mayhew (who worked on Dark Horse’s The Star Wars), and it’s quite good. Perhaps Mayhew’s best quality as an artist is depicting realistic facial expressions, and it proves very effective in this issue, especially during Kenobi’s moments of doubt and the tense climax of the story. At the same time, Mayhew’s action sequences have a zip to them that makes Aaron’s story work quite well. My only quibble is that his rendering of Black Krrsantan makes him occasionally (for instance, on the cover) look like a gorilla, such as Gorilla Grodd. The irony is that the most famous Mayhew might be Peter Mayhew, known for playing Wookie Chewbacca.
The first instance of stories from Ben Kenobi’s Tatooine journal was a surprising and excellent comic. While the newness of that angle is less present with Star Wars #20, it’s still a good issue. It’s also true that the overall quality of the series has risen since Star Wars #7, so while that issue was much better than preceding issues, Star Wars #20 has tougher comparison with strong recent issues of Star Wars. It’s still on par with those, but it might be good for Aaron to give the solo Kenobi stories a rest or tell a longer and more complex story in the next outing from the journal.