NYCC: Soule Tests the Bonds Between Master and Padawan in "Obi-Wan & Anakin"

When Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi and the villainous Sith Lord Darth Vader were introduced in the original 1977 "Star Wars" film their relationship was already well established: they were enemies, Vader having previously betrayed Kenobi and sided with the evil Galactic Empire. Decades later the prequel trilogy of "Star Wars" films starting with "The Phantom Menace" revealed just how great Vader's betrayal was as they chronicled how powerful young Jedi Anakin Skywalker came to be trained by and befriended Obi-Wan and how Skywalker was corrupted and transformed into Darth Vader. Many of the pivotal moments in the relationship between Obi-Wan and Anakin were depicted in the prequel films and the later animated series "Star Wars: The Clone Wars," which chronicled the duo's exploits during the titular conflict, but there is still a lot left to explore.

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This January, Marvel Comics will release the five-issue "Obi-Wan & Anakin" by writer Charles Soule and artist Marco Checchetto, both coming off different "Star Wars" miniseries for the publisher. The new series transports readers back to the early days of the titular duo when the relationship between Jedi Master and Padawan was still a tense and turbulent one. The series was announced by Marvel at yesterday's "Cup O' Joe" panel at New York Comic Con and CBR News spoke with Soule about his fascination with both of his lead characters, the mission he plans to send them on and working with "Star Wars: Shattered Empire" artist Checchetto.

CBR News: Charles, you've already ventured into the world of "Star Wars" with your "Lando" miniseries set during the original film trilogy, but "Obi-Wan & Anakin" allows you to explore the world of the Star Wars prequels. What made you want to tell a story set in this time period and with these characters?

Charles Soule: I've always loved Obi-Wan Kenobi. He's one of my all-time favorite characters in the entire "Star Wars" Saga. And Anakin too -- you take a step back, and look at this person's life -- so much potential for good, twisted into something monstrous by someone who understands that Anakin's yearning for rightness and order can be his greatest weakness. That's one hell of a story, and there are still many unexplored corners -- we haven't seen the whole tale, not by a long shot.

I'm also a huge fan of the Jedi Order, and we only really see it at its height in the Prequels -- if you really want to split hairs, it's only in "The Phantom Menace" that we see what the Jedi are capable of when they aren't being directly undermined by the subtle, malign influence of the Sith.

You look at Obi-Wan, a skilled, dedicated man who made a promise to his own dying master to train this incredibly powerful child -- I don't think he really understood what he was taking on at that point. I just think the whole master/student dynamic is fascinating, and we haven't really seen it that much. By the time "Attack of the Clones" hits, Anakin is pretty much trained up.

So I'm giving you a long answer to a short question, but the primary reason is that I thought I had a story to tell about characters I find fascinating, in a world I love to play in -- and hey, it's more "Star Wars." Twist my arm.

Approximately when is this series set in the Prequel chronology? Have the Clone Wars broken out yet? What's the dynamic between your title characters and what kind of mission are they on when "Obi-Wan & Anakin" begins?

It's set about three years after "Episode I." Anakin is around twelve or thirteen years-old, and he's already a formidable proto-Jedi -- no one doubts his abilities with the Force. So, no Clone Wars -- not even a shadow of what's to come, really. The Jedi are still acting as diplomat-wizard-warrior-space cops, and that's the context in which we see Obi-Wan and Anakin in this series.

My main vision for the tone of the story is a samurai movie mixed with a police procedural, as seen through a "Star Wars" lens. Obi-Wan and Anakin aren't buddies yet, as we see in "Episode II." It's absolutely a teacher-student relationship. Anakin is in awe of his master, although he's definitely asking questions about the Jedi Order and why it works the way it does, as any young teenager would. Obi-Wan is definitely fond of Anakin, but he's also aware of the enormous responsibility he's taken on.

In the story, their relationship is at something of a crisis point, which I will let the book describe. While dealing with that, they are flying through space on their way to a rendezvous with a diplomatic fleet when they get a distress call from a planet that's supposed to be dead and gone (and no, I'm not copping "Wrath of Khan" here...) They investigate, and -- things happen!

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Can you hint or tease some of the familiar and new faces that Master and Padawan will rub shoulders and butt heads with in this series?

The story is structured with a combination of the adventure on the abandoned planet (which has something of a steampunk/post-apocalyptic aesthetic, and looks amazing) and flashbacks that will flesh out Anakin's early years in the Jedi Temple. While the people on the planet will be new, and hopefully will seem very cool and fun to readers, the Jedi Temple scenes will give me a chance to include some neat cameos, especially some that readers probably won't be expecting. The "Star Wars" universe is rich and vast, but the more you use familiar faces the smaller it can seem, I think. I think it's important to provide a mix of new and old characters.

You're working with artist Marco Checchetto on this project, who also recently dipped his toe into the Star Wars world with the Greg Rucka-written miniseries "Shattered Empire." That book and his work on series like "Avengers World" and "The Punisher" have showcased how great Marco is at tackling a diverse array of material. Which aspects of his style most appeal to you for this story?

I love his line work -- it reminds me of fantasy artists like Alan Lee (the great Tolkien illustrator). Since "Star Wars" is in some ways a fantasy universe with sci-fi trappings, I think he's a perfect choice. Jordan D. White, the editor of the "Star Wars" line, let me know that Marco would be drawing the series, and it was a huge factor in the way I thought about designing the planet where most of the action takes place, the look for Anakin and Obi-Wan, etc. As I mentioned above, I'm going for a samurai movie feel, and Marco is nailing it.

We're trying to do something a little different with the Obi-Wan and Anakin mythos here. This isn't the relationship we saw in "The Clone Wars" and the later prequels. They aren't those guys yet. Obi-Wan's stoic and tough, and Anakin's a whirling dervish with a lightsaber, barely under control. It's a nice combination of people who aren't really all that similar trying to find a way forward as master and student, not realizing that the destiny of the galaxy is hovering just over the horizon for both of them. It's been a really fun project.

"Obi-Wan & Anakin" expands the "Star Wars" universe this January at Marvel Comics.

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