Contemporary Star Wars is far from unafraid of taking concepts that worked from the Expanded Universe and loosely slotting them into its own narratives. Last week’s penultimate episode of Obi-Wan Kenobi was no exception — but in returning to the planet Jabiim for a fateful clash between the Empire and the would-be rebels of the Path, the series drew fascinating parallels to its source.
The planet Jabiim we see in Obi-Wan Kenobi is pointedly different to the one we see in its origin story in “The Battle of Jabiim,” the four-issue 2003 story arc from Dark Horse Comics’ Star Wars: Republic. The dusty malaise we see Tala, Obi-Wan, and Roken in immediately feels different to the rain-sodden world in W. Haden Blackman, Brian Ching, Viktor Llamas, Joe Wayne, and Sno Cone Studios’s story, but it’s in the scene-setting, too. Obi-Wan Kenobi’s Jabiim is a haven for our heroes, the home of the Path, an organisation dedicated to scurrying Force sensitives away from the long, evil arm of the Empire. The Jabiim of Republic is our heroes’ hell, both literally in terms of the nightmare guerrilla battle the Republic and the Jedi find themselves in, but ethically as well, fighting a losing battle against a former Republic world that has decidedly cut in favour of Separatist support… and a world that the Republic ultimately goes on to abandon by the arc’s end.
Obi-Wan, of course is important to both tales, for very different reasons, but they’re united by one thing — what his presence means for the idea of hope he inspires in the people around him in dark times. In the Disney+ series’ fifth chapter, Obi-Wan is the focal point that keeps the Path’s ragtag fighters together as the Empire, Reva, and eventually Vader carve a bloody path through their base. He buys them time, engaging directly with Reva and then choosing to give himself up to Vader in the episode’s climax; he is the one who, having wrestled with what was left of his Jedi identity throughout the series, stands as a leader and an inspirational figure, calming nerves and stirring hearts. Even as things get worse and worse, and people start dying and all seems lost, it’s Obi-Wan who keeps everything just about together enough so the survivors can escape.
Obi-Wan can’t do that in Republic because he spends most of the arc missing, presumed dead. It’s a bold twist to play with a character we know has to survive the Clone War, but when a Republic AT-AT walker gets blown up by Jabiimi forces and Obi-Wan — along with several other Jedi Masters — gets caught in the blast, his loss is keenly felt over the course of the next four issues. The one voice of reason in an already deteriorating situation in the fight for the world, Obi-Wan’s presumed loss isn’t just told in its tragic impact on Anakin, who believes he’s lost his master, but in all the despair that trickles out from that blast point. The battle for Jabiim is rough in a way that few Star Wars stories are told, whether in the old EU or the current canon — we see fragments of a month of fighting where the Republic’s forces are slowly whittled away at despite the Jedi (at this point nothing but a squad of orphaned Padawans, Anakin now among them) and the Clone’s advanced arsenals, or their skills with the Force and strategy alike. Padawans haunted by the battle around them slowly begin to fall apart, and Anakin, too hurt by Obi-Wan’s absence, draws inward on himself in a such a way that he cannot step up to lead. Hope is in short supply in Star Wars: Republic’s version of this tale, and it’s a hope that is largely supplied by Obi-Wan’s presence.
It’s what makes, ultimately, the two versions of this battle a fascinating contrast, even if they share similarities in dire stakes and the story of overwhelming force coming for our hero figures. Obi-Wan concludes with the Path’s survivors just barely making it off the world alive, although not without sacrifices made along the way. By the time the “Battle of Jabiim” arc draws to an end in Republic, readers have witnessed a military and moral bloodbath for the heroes. The Padawans and their forces are ultimately wiped out in a Pyrrhic battle against the Jabiimi separatists, after Anakin is uplifted from their last stand by special treatment from the Chancellor — only for the tired, broken, still emotionally compromised Jedi to make an awful decision to prioritise evacuating Republic survivors over members of the Jabiimi military that broke to support the Republic in the war, leaving them stranded on a planet now utterly devastated by a conflict the Republic helped start.
No one who leaves Jabiim in Republic leaves it a hero, or even necessarily a good person, Anakin included. And although his presence is still there in Obi-Wan Kenobi as the vengeful shadow of Darth Vader, the likewise presence of his master — this time alive for all to see — means in this latest battle on the world, at least some people get to survive as heroes.
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