We know Kanan Jarrus. The adventurous, heroic, and brave Rebel that we see in the Disney TV series Star Wars Rebels. We know him as the charismatic leader of the Spectres, a group of Rebels who help those in need. We know him as a father figure to the Force-sensitive orphan Ezra Bridger and the Mandalorian Sabine Wren. We know him as the wise-cracking and slick-talking partner to his beloved Hera Syndulla. We know him as a brother-at-arms with the Lasat warrior Zeb Orellios and the cantankerous droid Chopper.
However, his past is a mystery. When a fan starts Rebels, all we know about Kanan Jarrus is that he was once a Jedi and a veteran of the Clone Wars. That’s where it stops. In honor of Star Wars Rebels' 10th anniversary this year, we will revisit Kanan's comic book origins to explore his history.
Star Wars: Kanan- The Last Padawan, written by Greg Weisman and illustrated by Pepe Larraz and David Curiel, answers the question as to who Kanan once was before the Jedi Order was wiped out and the Galactic Republic died. From its ashes rose the Galactic Empire.
Before he was Kanan Jarrus, he was Caleb Dume, a Jedi youngling who, like his fellow Jedi, grew up in the Jedi Temple. The comic tells of a boy who thirsted for adventure, bonded with a mentor, and made friends along the way, only for all of that to be gone in one fateful day, which is covered extensively in Issue #1.
In the first issue of the comic series, which also takes place during the events of the first season of Rebels, Kanan and the Spectres are informed by Fulcrum (revealed to be Ahsoka Tano by the end of Season 1) of a mission. When Hera brings up the planet Kaller, there is a rather uneasy expression on the Rebel’s face. Readers are taken back 15 years into Kanan’s past as young Caleb Dume.
Weisman’s writing and the art done by Larara and Curiel brilliantly create a juxtaposition between Kanan Jarrus and his past as Caleb Dume. As Kanan narrates about his youth as a Jedi Padawan under Depa Billaba, it is almost as if he has become Caleb for a brief moment. Lazara’s art and Curiel’s coloring show us images of the young, spunky, and proud Caleb Dume fighting alongside Billaba and their clone troopers on the planet Kaller. Clearly, these were the last days of Caleb’s happy times before Order 66.
Juxtapositions of the characters in the Star Wars universe is nothing new. We have seen this with Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker after he became Darth Vader. We have also seen this with Anakin’s Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Disney+ series Obi-Wan Kenobi when he was a hermit who was a shell of the Jedi General he once was and plagued with guilt until he had to rise to save the daughter of his apprentice who had turned evil. As readers delve into this issue, the juxtaposition between Kanan Jarrus and Caleb Dume could almost be cut with a knife.
Weisman’s Kanan and Caleb Dume are almost two different characters. One is a man scarred by traumatic events he saw unfold during Order 66; the other is a naive young man craving to have a purpose in the Clone Wars while learning to be a Jedi under his Jedi Master Depa Billaba. It is Larraz’s art that amplifies the differences between the two, with Kanan being a somewhat abrasive man with facial hair and rugged clothing due to his experiences in war and Caleb being an innocent babyface youngling in Jedi robes who has very little knowledge beyond the walls of the Jedi Temple of Coruscant.
While Lazara and Cuiriel’s art shows how life was for Kanan when he was still the Jedi, their art in the comic also reminds us of how horrific and traumatic the events surrounding Order 66 were. The panels show the life the Kanan describes as “sweet” in the form of him witnessing the Republic's victory over the Separatists alongside Master Bilabaa during the Battle of Kaller. He is training and conversing with Bilaba. He's chatting with their clone trooper friends, Commander Grey and Captain Styles, while sitting at a campfire. One of the most beautiful panels was where Caleb was gifted with a Jedi Holocron by Depa, who said that it would help him study “the role of questions and peaceful dissent in the Jedi Order” since the padawan is often inquisitive. It is a touching and warm moment between the Master and the apprentice. But Weisman’s writing darkens the moment when the panels show Commander Grey receiving the order from Palpatine to execute Order 66.
The first issue of Kanan leaves off the moments before Order 66 is executed, and Kanan loses Depa. It foreshadows the life that Kanan once had will forever be changed. It is also where the story of Caleb Dume the Jedi ends and the story of Kanan Jarrus, the Jedi survivor and the man, begins.
Star Wars: Kanan - The Last Padawan issue #1 is the calm before the storm created by Palapatine executing Order 66 to wipe out nearly the entire Jedi Order and transform the Galactic Republic into the Galactic Empire. It is a must-read for Star Wars and Rebels fans to see a side of a character who is mysterious even to those closest to him.