Yoda’s Secret War hit a new low for the mainline Star Wars series, but does that signal the end beginning of the end? Or was something else going on the whole time?
Jason Aaron’s flagship Star Wars title was the first title in Marvel’s new Star Wars line of comics. Kicking off a month after A New Hope, the series chronicled the Rebellion’s subsequent victories over the Empire after the destruction of the Death Star. On Cymoon, Luke faced off with Darth Vader. The fight was not broken up by Luke’s skill; instead, Han and Leia in an AT-AT almost stepped on Vader. Go figure.
As the series progressed, Luke became hyperfocused on becoming a Jedi. On a return trip to Tatooine, he faces off with Boba Fett and discovers the lost journals of Obi-Wan (Ben) Kenobi. In these journals, he learns from Ben’s experience on Tatooine. While protecting Luke, Ben faced off with Jabba’s thugs, causing a headache for his criminal enterprise, and with Black Krrsantan. His third entry was a look back to Yoda’s side trip to a planet filled with children and living giants.
After rescuing a Force sensitive youngling from a group of barbarians, Yoda is drawn to a planet on his return trip to Coruscant. On this planet, he discovers an ongoing civil war taking place between two groups of children. These children wield a mysterious Stonepower, which Yoda recognizes as a manifestation of the Force. Their ability to wield Stonepower allows them control living stones, which Yoda struggles to fight against. He is captured, and sent into the heart of a mountain.
In this mountain, he meets a child named Garro. To escape the mountain and uncover the mystery of why everybody in the mountain dies, he becomes the Padawan to Garro to learn Stonepower from him. After days of lessons, Yoda is able to communicate with the mountain, learning that it is alive. He awakens the giant, much to the dismay of the people on the planet.
The warring members, now including Garro who has turned on Yoda, control the giant in order to attack Yoda. Yoda turns the situation around, stabbing the giant in the foot and raising fallen giants back to life. Yoda leaves as it seems that the giants would live in harmony with the people.
On a meta level, the first entries in Ben’s journal only took a single issue in between story arcs. This is the first time that the journal has covered an entire arc, and it is hard to say that this was warranted. The story felt, more often that not, unnecessarily stretched out to fil the arc. The plot was never really enticing enough to warrant a continuation of the story past one or two issues. Part of the difficulty in informing Luke’s path to becoming a Jedi is that we’ve already seen, and have digested for 37 years, the next major milestone in his development on Dagobah. To try and fit anything in between Yavin and Dagobah risks contradicting the movies, or becoming fluff.
The point of this point, then, is my attempt to investigate some of the lessons Luke was supposed to learn from this entry. I won’t highlight every lesson. For one, I’m not Jason Aaron: I’m not sure exactly what he was trying to teach at every point. And two, I think there’s wisdom for Luke to ignore some of Yoda’s teachings here. This is pre-war Yoda, which means this Yoda still is yet to fail in every way that he did during the Clone War. This Yoda authorized the assassination of Dooku and failed to do much about the darkness that clouded the Order. So, I’ve selected the two lessons that I think Luke learned from the most.
The first is that the Jedi must become a student of all in order to become a true Jedi Master. Yoda submits himself to Garro to learn new powers from him. In this submission, Yoda opens himself up to a new way of learning, which opens up his mind to the rest of the world. Even in Garro’s rejection of Yoda, Yoda harbors no ill-will toward the boy. Luke must learn to open himself up to any kind of teaching; Luke expects a warrior, and finds a riddle instead.
Yoda shocks Luke by not being a grand warrior as expected. He expected a warrior, but Yoda reminded him that violence did not solve every problem life would throw at him. Luke first learned under Ben, which was easy. He knew of Ben’s reputation. He knew that Ben had fought alongside his father. But how would he learn to sit under Yoda, who was not what he expected at all? I think the example of his Grand Master sitting beneath Garro taught him quite a bit about learning, and about managing expectations.
Second, Luke must learn to respect all life. The way of the Jedi is compassion, not violence. Yoda, when not forced to choose a side, opts to try and end violence as soon as possible. When he finds out that the mountain is alive, he uses his power to bring it back to life, hoping that it can live in peace with the humans. He then brings all of the other giants back to life, giving them and the humans a second chance at coming together as one.
As Luke becomes a powerful Knight, he doesn’t seek to kill Vader. Instead, he has compassion on him. His compassion, though innate, could have been bolstered by this story. I wonder if Luke didn’t have the story of the living giants in mind when he worked to free the Force tree with Shara Bey after Endor.
While Yoda wasn’t the perfect Master (and the ending of the story is a powerful allegory that might be good to revisit in due time), he still had plenty to teach Luke.