I appreciate big swings in Star Wars. Especially in a Disney-owned Star Wars. But, given that the company is adjusting with the Marvel franchise as that expands, Lucasfilm is finding its footing within the Mouse House as well.
Even though Eye of the Storm is a two-issue comic run, it is a big swing. It presents Marchion’s story, at least in the way he wants it told. He is shrouded in mystery throughout The High Republic and that extends to his species. Charles Soule’s Eye of the Storm is a trip back further in the Star Wars timeline, through the High Republic and finally to the last frame of Phase One.
In what might be the only truthful thing about Marchion Ro, the story begins at the end, with Ro seemingly speaking to the reader after the fall of Starlight Beacon. Then, in classic Star Wars fashion, we go back “a long time ago” to the planet Everon and meet the Evereni. After a once-in-a-millennium vortex storm decimated the planet, this once trusting species because selfish and unyielding. The Evereni turned on each other, even when groups were trying to leave the planet for other worlds. One of the survivors, Shalla, is the leader of the Nihil and Ro’s grandmother. We flash forward to 20 years before The Great Disaster. The hardened, coldness of his family is immediately apparent when Ro’s father, Asgar, throws his mother over a balcony to her death. Asgar then leverages having Mari San Tekka (which remains the saddest existence yet in Star Wars) to gain more power within the Nihil. Years later, Ro repeats the familial pattern, committing patricide and taking steps to take complete control of the Nihil.
In issue #2 (Act II), we learn that Marchion Ro is speaking to the reader indirectly, but he is directly speaking to a captured Master Obratuk. And the question of who Marchion Ro is expands to the Republic between Chancellor Lina Soh, Senators, and the Jedi. This act also toggles between past and present as we follow Ro and some of his loyal followers to an unknown planet. The planet has some sort of protective shield and looks similar to Mortis. A combination of horror and fantasy meets the Nihil as other elements of the planet attack, but Ro got what he came for…the Shrii-ka-rai/Nameless.
Back on Coruscant, Chancellor Soh wonders why they are just now hearing Marchion Ro’s name in the broadcast after the fall of Starlight. Soh correctly believes that Ro is the Nihil leader he claims, mainly because of the underlining arrogance of his speech. So, while the Jedi fall back to Coruscant, the Republic Defense Fleet pushes forward to the Outer Rim and gets annihilated. The technology from the Gravity Heart project that Chancey Yarrow was working on has been made into a deadly force field similar to the one surrounding the mysterious planet. Marchion Ro has planted these “stormseeds” throughout the Outer Rim, creating a barrier around parts of the galaxy.
Chancellor Soh is speechless, but Marchion Ro is not. He gloats to Master Obratuk and then releases a Nameless on him, watching the Jedi Master turn to a husk. End of Phase One.
Charles Soule has written a story that is the most unique structure out of The High Republic (and Star Wars canon comics) yet. Each issue serves as an act, with seven scenes total. And in issue #1, we are set up with an unreliable narrator. When you have a scene titled “The Lie,” it’s hard to trust this source material. Of course, this could refer to the lie Asgar told Pan and Kasav regarding the power to move in and out of hyperspace at random points.
The structure does make it easier to follow the story because you have a sentence summary of the scene. It is also the type of theatrics that Marchion Ro parades in front of the Nihil. This is his story after all. But there are some questions that are not explained (and might not ever be explained) like how Marchion Ro captured Master Obratuk or how he retrieved and used Chancey Yarrow’s tech to make weaponized force shields.
And since it is Marchion Ro’s story, I will focus on what the Eye of the Storm reveals about him. His grandmother, Shalla, observes that Ro is the sharp edge of a knife sharpened over generations of survival. But there is an inherent weakness to the Evereni’s belief: If the self is all that matters, then your species is doomed. Marchion Ro is on a path to his own demise because of his arrogance that he is the smartest person in the room. But there are some things he is not aware of (Elder Tromak and Yoda’s mission or Mari San Tekka giving Vernestra a secret path).
So we are left with the sharp edge of the knife. Marchion Ro is a weird mash-up of a dictator, anarchist, and libertarian. If that does not make sense, neither does his motivation.
But maybe that is the point, he just simply is an egomaniac that doesn’t want to be told what to do but wants to dictate over others. It’s fine I guess, but there is something sort of boring about it near the “just because” motivations of Palpatine. And, obviously, he does not ultimately succeed. But it is still frightening for the Republic, the Outer Rim, and the Jedi.
We finally get the name of Marchion Ro’s home planet and his species, Everon and Evereni respectively. They are shown to be a brutal, bloodthirsty species that acts completely with individual self-interest. Marchion Ro tells his loyal group at the end that the Jedi tried to exterminate his species, but that might just be a part of his theatrics. It is more likely the Evereni destroyed themselves.
The planet that is the origin of the Nameless is not Mortis but perhaps some other nexus of power like Mortis or the Wellspring of Life (where the Force Priestess from The Clone Wars reside). However, just like its nefarious citizens, the planet remains nameless for now.
Charles Soule kicked off Phase One of The High Republic with Light of the Jedi, which set the tone for what would come. How fitting that he gets to end Phase One with the villain he introduced. It will be satisfying to see Marchion Ro eventually destroyed (I have some thoughts on that I will discuss in Phase One wrap-ups). It will be one tough time for the Jedi and Republic to get to that point. And I cannot wait to read the journey.