Note: Spoilers for Heart of the Drengir and mild spoilers for Into the Dark and Race to Crashpoint Tower.
In the second arc of Marvel’s The High Republic, the Jedi continue to work with the Hutt’s, led by Myarga the Hutt in attacking the Drengir. The charge is led by Jedi Master Avar Kriss, whose commitment to defeating the Drengir is starting to wear on the Jedi Order and spread the Jedi thin.
The events here take place before the events of the Wave two novels as Avar Kriss’s absence in fighting the Drengir is reference in Rising Storm. There is also frustration within the Jedi Order of her pact with the Hutts, highlighted here by a brief appearance by Stellan Gios. But even with Master Kriss leading the charge, the story revolves around Jedi Keeve Trennis.
Keeve is sticking by her former Master Sskeer’s side on Starlight Beacon. Sskeer is still fighting a Drengir infestation that threatens to completely take over his mind. And, while Keeve feels guilty for not joining the physical fight against the Drengir, she is reluctant to leave Sskeer alone to fight them mentally. Keeve has already shown a gift for messing with the Drengir through the force, convincing Drengir on Sedri Minor that the “meat” they sought was infected and she attempts to get inside their collective head again.
And it works…sort of. She connects with the Great Progenitor (GP), which seems to be the hive mind of the Drengir. Keeve tries to learn the GP’s motivations using her natural abilities in telepathy, similar to her connecting with the migrating creatures in The High Republic # 1: Trial By Ordeal. The GP is alarmed by Keeve’s invasion and kicks her out of its head, freeing Keeve and Sskeer and causing the Drengir that Avar and Myarga to scream. Meanwhile, Keeve gets a name: Mulita. Master Maru finds out that it is the name of a system in Wild Space and likely the location of the GP.
Throughout The High Republic, there have been hints at effective ways to beat the Drengir (or at least reason with them). The two Jedi who had success are Padawan Ram Jomaram and Keeve. Ram, who appears in Race to Crashpoint Tower, has a gift for understanding how machines work as a part of the whole, which translated well to the Drengir. Keeve is skilled at telepathy with creatures and reading their minds.
While Avar, Sskeer, Ceret, Terec, and the Hutts follow that lead, Keeve gets back in the field with a mission to the Rseik sector. Unfortunately, Keeve starts to realize that the Drengir and their dark side influence might still be in her head. Seeing visions but not knowing what is real and what could be the future, Keeve has to make some tough decisions when she sees Avar Kriss as a victim of the Drengir.
Orla Jareni, from Into the Dark, makes her comic appearance as a Wayseeker that was led to Keeve through the force. Orla saves Keeve from a Nihil attack and the two head to Mulita to assist the rest of the team. On Mulita, we also see Reath and his Master Cormac, which is fitting because this whole thing is their fault. Surprisingly, no consequences were dealt from the Jedi Council to Cormac, Orla, or Reath for unleashing the Drengir into the galaxy. Even if they unknowingly did so, the amount of destruction and lost lives seems to warrant some type of reprimand.
The Drengir have proven to adapt to most surroundings and even strategize by recognizing Avar’s connection to every Jedi and trying to exploit that to defeat them. The Jedi band together to remove the GP’s connection to the other Drengir, but also choose not to kill the creature.
But there is a great quote from Keeve when challenged by the GP for acting like Sith by closing its connection from the root mind. Keeve responds that the Sith were only protecting themselves, while the Jedi are protecting everyone. Still, the GP has a point and I am sure there will be plenty more justifications of Jedi actions and how they are “different” from the evil they fight.
The choice not to kill what is essentially the Queen in the hive mind is true to the character of this Jedi Order, but I wonder if that is another decision the Jedi will come to regret.
Speaking of the GP, its power and how the connection with the other Drengir was severed is not explained. In fact, the Drengir’s abilities are one big mystery box and every encounter brings a new ability to light with little explanation. But this is not solely a failing of the comics, it is a failing of the novels as well. There might be a future story that dumps exposition on the Drengir and answers many open questions; however, the Jedi appear to have dealt a significant blow to the Drengir threat for now. I doubt this is the end of the sentient murder plants but, if it is, it should have been presented in a novel where more time could be devoted. I am still reading Out of the Shadows, so perhaps this event will be referenced, given it involves many of the characters that appear in this arc like Cormac and Reath.
I hope to see Keeve appear more in future novels as Lula and Zeen have with Race to Crashpoint Tower. It is hinted that she is one of the “Lost Twenty” Jedi Masters that left the Order as referenced in a deleted Attack of the Clones scene and Dooku: Jedi Lost. Master Yoda recalls the circumstances of Trennis leaving a sad event. It is not confirmed that this Trennis referenced and Keeve Trennis are the same, but names mean something in Star Wars, and there are very few coincidences.
Overall, this was a strange arc with a conclusion that seemed rushed, considering it involved one of the two main antagonists in The High Republic. The Drengir might return in a new form, hinted at in the Star Wars Insider short story Hidden Danger. Although, it might be a good thing to take a break from the Drengir, which can veer into the ridiculous and focus on the Nihil. Though they also might still have a connection to Keeve and Sskeer.
If it is the same Trennis…well, that’s a story worthy of a novel. The next arc will involve the aftermath of the Nihil attack on The Republic Fair, so we will find out how Keeve and Avar fit into that storyline. Also, we need the backstory of Sskeer and Orla as they seem VERY familiar with each other. It is another reminder of how different this Jedi Order is from the Prequel era.