The Marvel Star Wars’ corner of The High Republic Phase Two kicked off in October with the first issue of The High Republic #1. The new series is written by High Republic veteran Cavan Scott and follows two new Jedi characters stationed on Jedha. Even though Scott wrote Phase One comics, this story setup reads more like Daniel Jose Older’s Trail of Shadows series that follow a Jedi Investigator during the crux of The High Republic, trying to find the mysterious force killing Jedi.
I was unsure what to make of the first issue that I decided to wait until the second issue came out to see if I had a better handle on this story. I am glad I did as and I do not think the first issue is the best start to Phase Two on the comics side.
The Balance of the Force, Chapter 1: The Pilgrim Moon
If you are a canon junkie, this issue starts with a curve ball. We are on Kiffex, an only briefly mentioned planet in “You Owe Me A Ride” from the collection of short stories, A Certain Point of View. And our main character, Vildar Mac, is a Kiffar. It is the first time we have had a Kiffar character since Quinlan Vos, who has come a long way in popularity since a background appearance in The Phantom Menace.
Vildar is cursed with memories of his life before the Jedi Order when he was four and how a mysterious evil came to his home. He has these nightmares while in hyperspace, similar to Vernestra Rwoh’s visions in hyperspace in Phase One. Vildar is going to Jedha City to take up a new post there.
There he meets Padawan Matthea Cathley, a chatty and overly cheerful Twi’lek who tells him that there has been a recent theft of a holy relic from the Shrine of Sarrav. Vildar is alarmed by the disrespect people have for the Jedi in the city, considering that they used to “rule” the place. It is fascinating to hear a Jedi use that word and possible insight into why some people of Jedha (and the galaxy) do not care for the Jedi.
The two run into a pickpocket and try to navigate through the crowds (and religious strife) to track him down but lose him when they meet Adept Tarna Miak. Miak is the representative of the Sorcerers of Tund in the Convocation of the Force. The Convocation is a collection of different followers of the Force. Vildar briefly sees the face of the mysterious evil figure from his childhood in Tarna but tries to brush it off as they make their way to the Shrine to talk to the witness who discovered the missing artifact, the Screen of the Second Sight. Matthea says that artifacts have been disappearing across the city, and no place is safe, not even the Temple of the Kyber, guarded by the Guardians of the Whills. When they arrive, they find the witness, Sister V’Kara, dead, with the pickpocket standing over her body. Vildar tries to apprehend the pickpocket, but he does something that appears to stop the Jedi’s heart, killing him. That is one way to end an issue.
It is also at the end when we realize that the Narratory Blocks discussing Vildar Mac are not from someone like Padawan Cathley but from the pickpocket. I wouldn’t have put it passed this corner of Star Wars to kill a main character in the first issue, but there is more going on than meets the eye.
In another parallel to Phase One, Jedha City, also called the Holy City, is a beacon of faith for the galaxy. The Starlight Beacon was that city on a hill for the citizens joining the High Republic in the Outer Rim, which is why it was an inevitable target of the Nihil. Jedha is around at least until Rogue One; however, this period seems to represent a peak moment for the location.
The Balance of the Force, Chapter 2: Tey Sirrek
Issue #2 picks up where we left off with the pickpocket telling the reader that, despite previous appearances, Vildar’s life was only just starting. Vildar jolts awake and gets up to look for the thief (now believed to be the murderer) with an incredulous Matthea behind him. He uses the surroundings to spur visions of where the culprit is going, seeing a red door with a sunburst inside a diamond on the front. Matthea says it sounds like Enlightenment (the bar from Star Wars Insider short stories). The Two finally track down the thief, Tey Sirrek, at the bar with no help from the owner Kraden who says fighting has no place in his establishment. Tey tells Vildar and Matthea that he did not kill Sister V’Kara but was trying to help her. She came to him to help find who has been taking artifacts from various temples. Tey briefly stopped Vidar’s heart with a pheromone his species developed to protect them against predators, which is pretty cool, but his species is not named yet.
Matthea tells Vidar that they need to work with Tey to find out what happened to the Screen and V’Kara and track him down with the help of Kradon. Tey is trying to barter for something by giving the buyer Vildar’s lightsaber he lifted from the Jedi in Enlightenment. Vildar is not amused, leaping down to interfere. He almost gets a blaster to the chest from the buyer for his troubles. Luckily, Tey jumps in front of him and saves his life, having body armor underneath his robes. Tey is trying to find out who is buying stolen artifacts and mentions that someone stole an artifact from the Temple of the Kyber and the Guardians of the Whills. Tey hopes the Jedi are on good terms as they suddenly find themselves surrounded by the Guardians with weapons drawn.
Tey’s profession is not directly named as a private investigator, and he may not be. Still, it would be another Jedi investigation story in the High Republic after Trail of Shadows. We are also getting one in live-action at the tale end of the High Republic era with The Acolyte, so it seems this era is ripe with mystery where this type of storytelling can thrive.
There is a brief interaction with members of The Path of the Hand to check the box for comic readers who are not reading the novels. The Path is the main antagonist of the Phase and might have something to do with the stolen artifacts.
The encounter also established the rules of Jedha and the universe, that there are other beliefs in Star Wars and that the Jedi must respect them. Of course, the problem with many faiths in one place is that certain groups think their denomination is the most righteous. This goes to both the Jedi Order and the Path (and hints that other groups feel this way).
Enlightenment playing a part in this series makes sense, and it is rewarding to see a location from Star Wars Insider and a character in Kraden, introduced early in Phase Two. And it might be the information center for stories in Jedha City.
The story is set up as a journey of understanding for Vildar, who is mentioned to be 51 years old. I said in my Whatever Happened to…Quinlan Vos? post that Lucasfilm has not confirmed or clarified the lifespan of the Kiffar and if it is closer to humans or if they live longer. I only mention this because he is not a Jedi Master; he is still a Jedi Knight. He also has memories of his previous life, which could be tied to his psychometry abilities (like Quinlan and Cal Kestis from Fallen Order).
The one flaw in this story is I do not feel as much of a connection to Vildar or Matthea as I did with Keeve and Skeer from Phase One. But this is a story where the star might be the location and the mystery. But it is still a problem for comic readers who might not want to spend $5 an issue. The Phase One Marvel comics remained reasonably separate from the novels (the IDW High Republic Adventures were more intertwined with the Middle-Grade and YA novels). So if one wants to experience The High Republic just through this comic series, it looks like Marvel is continuing that accessibility.