Star Wars: The High Republic #1 kicks off a new (old) era in a galaxy far, far away with style and plenty of promise – and lots of big monsters.
A long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, there was the High Republic. This is the first we’re hearing of it, though, or at least the first we’re seeing of it, thanks to a new, canon cross-media line of novels and comics taking place a couple of hundred years before even the earliest stories in the current continuity. This is, at least for Star Wars fans, kind of a big deal, at least the biggest since The Force Awakens gave us a glimpse of what happened after The Return of the Jedi. So, Star Wars: The High Republic #1 had a lot to live up to. I’m happy to report it makes a good first impression.
Seriously, there’s a lot riding on a story like this. It has to offer enough meat for old fans but be accessible enough for new ones. It has to look and feel like it’s set in a completely different era than everything that came before. It has to build dramatic and emotional stakes despite the fact that, at least in the long term, we know where things are going. Luckily, Cavan Scott, who has done a lot of younger-skewing Star Wars content, including the really rather good Adventures in Wild Space series of junior novels, is a solid storyteller who seems to intimately understand Star Wars – and that’s Star Wars in general, not simply the Skywalker Saga, which is just as well since this era is 200 years before anyone had even heard the name.
That era is defined, at least at this point, by two things: One, the Great Hyperspace Disaster, which has left the galaxy reeling, and two, the Starlight Beacon, a space station maintained by the Jedi of the Republic in the hopes of bringing the planets of the Outer Rim under the Republic’s auspices. That feeling of discovery, and all the hiccups of running into new species and planets, is essential to Star Wars: The High Republic #1, even as it also weaves in a familiar master and student story, which by the end it has complicated somewhat.
The student is Keeve Trennis, a foul-mouthed padawan under Trandoshan Jedi Master Sskeer. We meet her undergoing the trials that’ll determine whether or not she’s knighted into the Jedi Order, and get an immediate sense of her personality: She’s eager and patient, capable and selfless, that latter point proved when the local insect population, one and then two of which start to buzz chattily around her ear, are threatened by a wayward interstellar monstrosity lured dangerously off-course by the Starlight Beacon’s… well, beacon.
I like this plot detail since it makes a mockery of the Republic’s seemingly altruistic imperialism. Good intentions or not, they’ve built a giant station out in the middle of largely unexplored space and begun meddling with an obviously delicate ecosystem, doing more harm than good right from the jump. When we cut to the Beacon itself, full of rather highly-strung Jedi, including the obviously-important Jedi Master Avar Kriss and a cameoing, rather youthful-looking Master Yoda, we get a sense of people used to flourishing. A back-patting dedication ceremony after Keeve is knighted smacks of a dangerous, almost blasé attitude. Further calamities are no doubt coming.
And I’m here for them. Star Wars: The High Republic #1 fulfills basically all of the objectives it had in front of it, introducing a new era of Star Wars storytelling – with smart use of art and lettering to draw attention to the right places – and a compelling cast of new characters, with Yoda’s very brief appearance the only real comforting nod in the direction of what’s come before. The old is new, at least for now, and I for one am very pleased that The High Republic seems to have been worth the hype.