“For light and life!” cheer the Jedi of the High Republic. I found myself excited by the phrase after finishing the first issue of the new comic series from Marvel. After many months of waiting, the newest era of Star Wars has begun in the highly anticipated High Republic multimedia series. Set 200 years before the events of The Phantom Menace, the series seeks to highlight the Jedi Order during the height of the Galactic Republic. With a new cast of characters and creatures (and one little green familiar face), this first issue from Marvel introduces readers to a stunning new age of Star Wars. Strap in everybody, this is most certainly the way.
New Era, New Style
The first thing I noticed while reading High Republic #1 was the aesthetic differences between this era of Star Wars and the eras of Star Wars we have become familiar with in the films. In the prequel films, the Jedi wear very plain robes. Usually, they are a simple shade of brown, with their undergarments being just as bland. When the comic introduces Keeve Trennis, a Jedi Padawan, her robes are lined with gold fabric, and her undergarments are more detailed with designs. The other Jedi introduced throughout the issue also don elegant robes. Some are pure white, others have designed printed on them, and certain Jedi wear bits of armor over their robes. It reminded me of the type of clothing wizards might wear in fantasy novels or other related media. Furthermore, the entire issue seemed to borrow from the tropes of high fantasy, drawing upon themes of the mythical and magical. At one point a small imp-like alien asks Keeve if she is “doing magic” while she travels through the wilderness of a planet. The whole scene felt like something you might see in Lord of the Rings. This is a stylistic theme I think will continue to show up in the High Republic series, and I like it!
Something that made me quite happy while reading High Republic #1 was the diversity in species among the Jedi Order. Of course, the Clone Wars series gave us a closer look at some of the alien Jedi we see briefly in the films, but since Lucasfilm has released details about the series, they have been highlighting the alien characters that will be making appearances, and this issue emphasized their presence greatly. In this issue, we are introduced to Sskeer, a Trandoshan Jedi Master. Thanks to Bossk, Trandoshans have a reputation for being generally evil and unfriendly within the Star Wars fandom. Cavan Scott, the writer of this issue, plays with this classic Star Wars theme and makes the audience believe this Trandoshan is initially a foe. However, it is quickly revealed that he is a Jedi Master, testing Keeve Trennis’ combat abilities. Later on in the issue, we also see a plethora of other aliens represented as Jedi: a Wookiee, a Rodian, a Mon Calamari, an Ithorian, an Abednedo (a species introduced in the sequel trilogy), and an Aqualish (another alien with a thug-like reputation in Star Wars) all show up in Jedi robes. It makes the Jedi Order feel truly massive and creates a sense of galactic unity, which not even the prequels could accomplish. There are plenty more to be seen in the beautifully detailed art by Ario Anindito.
Feel the Force
As is a theme among new Star Wars content, the Force was expanded upon in a subtle but impactful way. Most notably, while reaching out to see if they can find Sskeer, one of the new Jedi states that she can no longer “hear his song within the force”. This is a phrase I haven’t heard before in any Star Wars media, and “song” is emphasized in the writing. (Editor’s Note: The song of the Force is also mentioned heavily in the High Republic book Light of the Jedi) While it is not expanded upon further in this issue, I feel it is hinting that beyond sensing the presence of another living being, some Force-sensitive beings can detect a unique melody coming from each person, similar to detecting someone’s aura or energy. This is all speculation of course, but the High Republic series will most likely introduce new aspects of the force to the Star Wars universe. More concretely, we see classic examples of already-introduced force powers like force jumps, and communication with wildlife. Speaking of classic, a beloved Jedi makes an appearance in this issue: Master Yoda, who at this time already holds the title of Grandmaster. While he only has a small role in this issue, it was great to see him speak in his unique voice once again as a thriving Jedi master.
High Republic #1 is definitely a comic for fans of science fiction and high fantasy. With magical themes and characters tasked with facing the unknown wilderness of space, the series (so far) feels like something from the mind of Tolkien with the influence and lore of Star Wars. If you enjoy stories about chivalry, you’ll also enjoy this series, as the Jedi of this era truly feel like knights who are clad in armor and wield masterfully crafted weapons. Fans of Star Wars will also be excited to learn more about the canonical past of the Jedi. As the series continues, more facts about the history of the Order will come to light. My hope? Perhaps we’ll see some brand new canonical connections to Knights of the Old Republic, the beloved series from the early 2000s. With each new issue comes brand new information about the Jedi, and I’ll be sure to cover more with the release of High Republic #2, in stores February 3, 2021. See you next time!
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