The first Phase in The High Republic initiative is complete. Like in Wave One and Two, Wave Three presented unique challenges to our heroes. And Wave Three focused mainly on the Jedi and less from the perspective of the Nihil. We did get POVs from some Nihil (mainly Marchion Ro and Nan), but the majority of growth came from members of the Jedi Order. Even the Republic, represented by Lina Soh, took a backseat in most of the content. Institutions (and their failures) still played a part in the themes of this Wave. But, with the unleashed Nameless, the stakes were so much higher for the Jedi.
So let us focus on the themes that presented the highest stakes for our High Republic characters:
Accepting your Fears
The common saying is “facing your fears,” but “facing” and “accepting” mean two different things. You can face something you fear, but that does not mean you understand why you fear something. And whether that fear is rational or irrational.
When it relates to the Jedi, specifically, many face their fears when they encounter the Nameless. And many do not survive that encounter, because they do not understand what drives the Nameless. Emerick Caphtor, the Jedi Investigator in Marvel’s Trail of Shadows, withstands the power of the Nameless by understanding the truth of what it is: A living thing that can be hurt. And, if the Nameless can be hurt, they can be destroyed. Emerick and Sian cut off the foot of a Nameless and obtain samples of its blood, which will factor in ultimately defeating it.
Bell Zettifor, a promising Padawan who has had a list of tragic things happen to him since Light of the Jedi, stops fearing potential loss from the Nihil. But he also refuses to accept “so-called” certainties. Learning lessons from his former Master Loden being presumed dead, Bell resolves to find his friend Burryaga, dead or alive.
Stellan, the tragic figure from The Fallen Star, goes on a journey of self-discovery that ends in his death. His fear of lack of conviction drives his jealousy of Elzar and Avar, but he dies knowing who he is, something that was allusive his whole life within the Jedi Order.
Other Jedi are fortunate enough to survive the fall of Starlight and explore their moments of truth in Phase Three. In Midnight Horizon, Reath, Kantam, Cohmac, Ram, and Zeen all face their fears and come to different conclusions from their respective truths. Reath understands that he can no longer avoid a path through the Nihil. Kantam reflects on finding their way back to the Jedi Order after falling in love, while Cohmac finds the strength to walk away. Ram, who spends most of the novel worrying about his lack of feelings, finds a balance between apathy and hatred. And Zeen, faced with the possibility of losing Lula, welcomes her attachment to the Jedi.
This theme also applies to non-Force users. Avon Starros, who gets more to do in Mission to Disaster, accepts that science cannot guarantee a perfect outcome (and that you cannot duplicate the properties of kyber crystals). Avon tries to sabotage Dr. Mkampa’s destructive matrix but inadvertently contributes to making Dalna uninhabitable. It is her worst fear, her scientific mind has created a harmful weapon. But seeing how Dr. Mkampa approaches scientific advancement, Avon discovers what type of scientist she does not want to be and builds confidence in herself that she will not fall down that path.
The Destructive Path of Self-Righteousness
In The High Republic Wave Three, this applies to people and institutions. The Republic, Jedi Order, Planetary Governments, and the Nihil all feel they are in the right and know what’s best for people. And so, people within those institutions and outside pay the price.
Even though the Republic and Jedi Order increased their presence in the Outer Rim, their institutions are still in the heart of the Core Worlds.
Coruscant is removed from the violence of the Outer Rim, and the institutions headquartered there have lost touch with the reality of the rest of the galaxy. By never truly respecting the Nihil’s ideology as appealing to galactic citizens, the Republic and Jedi do not consider that members of the Senate, Government officials, or every day Core citizens could be swayed by their message.
This comes to a head in Midnight Horizon when a small group of Jedi and Corellian citizens are the only ones standing in the way of a large group of Nihil and Corellian ships. That the Nihil infiltrated Corellian politics says a lot about the Corellian Government, reliant on corrupt City Fathers. The Father of Finances, Nomar Tralmat, was a secret Nihil operative and put his world in considerable harm because he believed he knew what was best for Corellia. But his replacement, Ovus Buckell, is corrupt in another way. In the end, Corellian citizens like Alys “Crash” Ongwa decide that they will no longer accept business as usual.
Similarly, the Dalnan Government, driven for so long by isolationism, is also infiltrated by the Nihil, who use the planet as a haven to run a child kidnapping ring. The Dalnan peoples’ distrust of the Jedi has a history (an incident many years ago called the Night of Sorrow). However, because the Dalnan people distrust the Jedi, they allow Nihil operatives to take control of their government, leading to its destruction through Dr. Mkampa’s machine.
A lot of the stories in The High Republic Phase Three occur around the same time, and unfortunately, the Republic and Jedi learn the consequences of their ignorance too late. In The Eye of the Storm #2 (the official last piece of content in Phase One), members of the Jedi Council have no answers for Lina Soh why they didn’t know Marchion Ro was the leader of the Nihil. One member simply says “We are in the dark.”
On the Nihil side, Marchion Ro consistently manipulates the Nihil for his personal pursuits. One member finally calls him out on the endgame in Eye of the Storm #2, even though they still are loyal to him. The Nihil pitched themselves as a solution to the lack of opportunity in the Outer Rim. And now, Marchion Ro has siphoned off parts of the Outer Rim so the Republic cannot interfere. Ro has used the Republic and Jedi as the reason for the disparity that attracted many to the cause. Now, with those problems temporarily removed, all eyes are on The Eye. Marchion Ro probably knows that he cannot keep up appearances of caring about the rest of the Nihil too long, which is why he replaced the crew on his ship with droids.
There are clear distinctions between the Jedi and the Nihil, evident in the individuals who make up these institutions. Throughout The High Republic, but more evident in Wave Three, Jedi Masters listen to Padawans and respect their opinions. Avar Kriss trusts Imri Cantaros in Mission to Disaster when he comes up with a plan to bring Starlight to Dalna on a rescue mission. Stellan observes that Bell Zettifor will be a great Jedi when the Padawan figures out a way to save the medical wing of Starlight. In contrast, Marchion Ro doesn’t have faith in anyone but himself, which is why he will ultimately fail.
I’ve mentioned this previously, but it is disheartening to see some of the mistakes that have been repeated in the Clone Wars era when there are Jedi from the High Republic still around (Yoda, Yarael Poof). Did they forget these lessons? Some of this is because the Prequel era stories came before the High Republic era, and this is what happens when you do prequels to prequels. Lucasfilm Press can answer these practical questions later in Phase Three. Until then, a whole new set of themes await us in Phase Two.