This volume collects the final six issues of the “Kanan” series, the first one of Marvel’s “Star Wars” line to be cancelled. Getting the axe after twelve issues may make it seem like this series was a creative misfire, but that’s not entirely the case here. If anything, “Kanan” was hamstrung by the decision to extend a solid five-issue series about the origins of the title character into an ongoing series. Putting out a comic to tie into the “Star Wars: Rebels” TV series was obviously an easy call. Except that doing a series called “Kanan” does kind of limit its focus, as does the flashback structure of these volumes. I don’t know if this was an editorial decision, writer Greg Weisman’s choice, or the result of someone at Disney/Lucasfilm saying that doing anything explicitly concurrent with “Rebels” was off-limits, but it just feels odd to have an ongoing series where every major story is the main character flashing back to a defining time his youth.
Issues with structure aside, “First Blood” still winds up being an engaging war story that helps to flesh out the title character even more. While vol. 1 took us back to when the rebel formerly known as Caleb Dume was on the streets and struggling to survive after Order 66 was implemented, this one shows us how he became Master Billaba’s padawan and came to fight in the Clone Wars. Caleb’s inquisitiveness makes him an engaging presence here, while the clash of his youthful inexperience with the harshness of war provides some real drama. The other characters aren’t developed as well, and General Grievous’ appearance amounts to little more than fan service, but Wiseman still delivers an effective coming-of-age tale for his protagonist. It also helps that Pepe Larraz returns for the main arc to provide some high-energy art that also helps accentuate the more endearing aspects of Caleb’s character. The final story is a one-off that has Kanan and Ezra going off on an adventure together that brings the entire series full-circle in a way and provides additional ties to the first season of “Rebels.” It’s a nice enough snapshot of what this series could have been if it was allowed to be a tie-in comic not shackled down by its structure.