Regarding stories within Jedha, some things have worked well in Phase Two, while others have exposed a weakness. The Star Wars Insider shorts, Tales of Enlightenment, work as bite-size nested Star Wars stories in a setting that would see various people pass through. Those same short stories made The Battle of Jedha audio drama work.
The comics, however, are struggling with characters and pacing. And delving deeper into the different religious sects of the Force might be too large of an ask for a limited-run comic series.
The High Republic: Balance of the Force has many issues left to prove me wrong; however, issues #3, Tey Sirrek, and #4, The Herald of the Open Hand, are not enough to make the impression needed to continue with this story. When I have to continually look up the main character, Vildar Mac’s name, it’s not a good sign.
The investigation into who is stealing Jedi artifacts in Jedha takes a detour with Tey’s backstory. And The Herald of the Open Path introduces himself to the Convocation of the Force.
The Balance of the Force, Chapter 3: Tey Sirrek
After the Guardian of the Whills surrounds Jedi Knight Vildar, Padawan Matthea (Matty), and Tey, we learn they have a history with Tey. Or, instead, Tey has a history with the Guardian of the Whills as a former member. Tey’s disillusionment with the Guardians mirrors the complex real-life relationship between religious institutions and believers. For Tey, that moment came five years ago when the Guardians failed to help save a group of children from being exploited by local gangster Anst Wozo. Wozo being a gangster is an assumption as it is not clear what Wozo’s profession is, but he has some relationship with crime syndicates.
Even though Tey has no real connection to any of the children (specifically an elephant child named Flim), he reaches his limit with the Guardians and takes matters into his own hands. He finds Wozo, beats him up, and breaks his helmet, causing him to suffocate. But the moment, meant to be shocking, means nothing because we barely know Tey and know Flim even less.
Tey tries to break into the Temple of Kyber to continue his investigation while Vildar and Matty discover that a Kyber statue has been stolen. He runs into Vildar and Matty just as he spots a detonator planted. Vildar jumps to conclusions and thinks Tey brought in the explosive, which goes off right as Vidar Force pushes it away.
If this story had to break from the POV of Vildar for an issue, it should have been Matty, the Padawan, who has to deal with Vildar’s constant disregard for her advice. Overall, Matty needs more to do because right now, she seems to be purely exposition for Jedha, and if you are someone who has read multiple stories in Phase Two, her character veers dangerously close to pointless.
I am sure Scott and Lucasfilm Publishing have plans for Tey Sirrek to insert him into this story as a critic of the Guardian of the Whills, portrayed much more favorably in The Battle of Jedha.
Side note: I always appreciate the animal humanoids that Star Wars brings to the table, whether intentionally or in desperation. What started as Lucasfilm needing to fill the cantina in A New Hope, Wolfman, Lak Sivrek, has evolved into a little elephant child who hustles on the streets of Jedha City.
The Balance of the Force, Chapter 4: The Herald of the Open Hand
While issue #4 is more entertaining, partly because it is noticeably close to the events of The Battle of Jedha, I also wonder if it is because there is a stronger connection to Phase One.
Tey is in the custody of the Guardians (the detonator killed an archivist) so we shift back to Vildar and Matty. But this time we have more representation from the Convocation of the Force, including the Star Wars version of Poison Ivy, Lonto representative Susalee. We do not know her species, but Susalee describes the Lonto as using the Force for the good of the natural world. And this was also a missed opportunity to focus on one of these other Convocation members than the Jedi. Yes, I understand that the Jedi are the connective tissue between Tey and the Guardians of the Whills. But they are not the only ones affected by the Leveler.
When Werth Plouth (aka The Herald) crashes the Convocation’s meeting about the planted explosives and lists why The Path of the Open Hand are the only righteous followers of the Force, he stokes a mob outside of the building.
Is this all a part of the plan to distract the Convocation from finding the truth? That members of The Path are stealing artifacts. We also see an Everni, who has to be Yana Ro because she later uses the Rod of Seasons, presumably to summon the Leveler. Yana has been absent from Phase Two since The Path of Deceit, the first novel in Phase Two, where she allied with The Herald to destroy The Mother. And in The Battle of Jedha, The Mother is making her own plans to get rid of The Herald (though it is unclear if that also includes getting rid of Yana).
But the Leveler appears in the crowd and has a chilling effect on Sorcerer of Tund member Tarna Miak, who starts to see the mob as monsters. Miak attacks the crowd, including Vildar, and we are left with the best ending yet. Given the lackluster story so far, a strong finish is all I can ask for, and maybe this issue is the turning point for the whole series. And, while The Path is already overexposed as the antagonist in Phase Two, focusing on The Herald and Yana might work better than bringing in The Mother again.
The Sorcerers of Tund are a group that might warrant a comic series as a dark side group of Force users who are also members of the Convocation. Vildar has a history with them, hinted at in issue #1. They are another Legends transplant and are relatively new to canon lore (the first reference was in the 2019 audio drama Dooku: Jedi Lost). The Sorcerers’ Force manipulation is similar to the Nightsisters of Dathomir (another Legends carryover). Hopefully, we will learn more about their use of the Force in future issues.
However, this series has been a struggle to read, and if we stay in Jedha City for this whole series, I hope it eventually separates itself from similar plot beats to The Battle of Jedha. So far, it is walking right alongside it.