With the first runs of The High Republic coming to an end, Marvel Comics and Daniel José Older (writer on The High Republic Adventures) get to start a new story and introduce new characters following up on a dangerous weapon. I won’t be covering every issue of Trail of Shadows (I’ll review the complete comic run), but I wanted to give my first impressions.
**SPOILERS for Rising Storm by Cavan Scott
Trail by Shadows #1 takes place at some point after the events of Rising Storm, when Stellan Gios and Indeera Stokes find Master Greatstorm petrified and his Padawan, Bell Zettifor, in a state of shock. Gios enlists the Order’s Jedi Investigator, Emerick Caphtor, to try and find answers. Emerick and Gios are also friends who share memories of a creepy song a Jedi Master sang to them when they were younglings. Emerick insists that the song was to terrorize them into submission. But there was nothing in his analysis of the dust from the petrified Master Loden that could identify it as former Master Loden. No midi-chlorians (yes, it is in the copy!), just bio-matter and debris. But Stellan knows what he saw and asks his old friend for a favor, so Emerick and his droid, Cuetoo, are off on their own High Republic adventure.
What a way to start a comic! The first panel we see is the image of beloved and short-lived Jedi Master Loden Greatstorm’s petrified body. It was already horrifically heartbreaking to read at the end of Rising Storm, but to see it as the first thing in Trail of Shadows #1 was shocking. If you are only reading the comics, it works as intrigue. Emerick and Cuetoo follow Stellan’s lead to a Nihil base on Vrant Tarnum. Vrant Tarnum has become an increasingly important planet as the home to the Elders of the Path and tied to Marchion Ro’s backstory.
The other storyline developing is less interesting, involving another investigator, Sian Holt, who is tailing an old acquaintance, Keefar Branto, on the lower levels of Coruscant. We get names like Urk Panga, which mean nothing now but will play into Holt’s journey to partner with Emerick.
There is also a lingering eeriness with the song that Stellan Gios references from his and Emerick’s days as a youngling that will factor in somehow.
Specific professions based on talents within the Jedi Order have always interested me. Jocasta Nu in Attack of the Clones and discovering a librarian Jedi Master was the only relatable thing in the movie for me at the time. I would find other things, but I have always loved reading, so seeing a Jedi librarian was strangely touching. She was a stereotype of a librarian (authoritative yet unhelpful), but it was something. Then seeing Jedi Temple Guards in The Clone Wars and a Jedi Doctor (Rig Nema) added to the intrigue of the Jedi Order overall and its structure. It makes sense that we would see specialties within the Order when the Jedi are at their height of power and influence.
Emerick is a Jedi Investigator that is one of the best (do they have a whole unit?), and he has a Watson-type droid. His relationship with his droid, Cuetoo, is closer to a Master/Padawan relationship as Emerick is helping the droid better understand human behavior to become a better investigative droid.
Cuetoo’s design is similar to BD-1 from Jedi: Fallen Order but with a claw-like base that allows him to perch on Emerick’s shoulder. He has a slight sarcasm but overall curious humor, which works as a stand-in for a Padawan. Sian needs more time to make an impression, and I am sure José Older will provide it in upcoming issues.
Trail of Shadows #1 hints at the level of planning needed other mediums of the Star Wars franchise. The Jedi would try to find answers for a mysterious weapon that can petrify a Jedi, and that mystery should get some space to develop. Emerick (not sure if he is a Jedi Master) and his droid, Cuetoo, are a great addition to Star Wars canon, whether we see more of them in the novels or if their story ends in this run. But Trail of Shadows #1 is the best first issue yet in The High Republic comic offerings.