Star Wars' newest age gets a breezy, handsomely rendered introduction in Star Wars: The High Republic #1 (opens in new tab). In the wake of something called the Great Disaster, the galaxy has been becalmed. The Republic and its glorious protectors the Jedi are at the peak of their powers, defending and peacekeeping throughout the galaxy, bolstering their ranks with new Padawans, and operating from a gleaming space station called the Starlight Beacon. But a new threat lurks on the edges of the Outer Rim. A threat that conceals itself within the very ranks of the Jedi themselves.
Written by Cavan Scott
Art by Ario Anindito, Mark Morales, and Annalisa Leoni
Lettering by Ariana Maher
Published by Marvel Comics
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
But while that sounds very exposition-heavy, writer Cavan Scott offers up a genuinely stirring and engaging first issue, introducing us to our main cast and their operations through the lens of an ongoing Jedi trial. The end result is something a little rushed, breezing through the introductions for the extended cast, but the artwork and novelty of seeing a brand new Star Wars 'age' is compelling enough to keep the issue from going completely off the rails. We were often told in the films that Jedi were the defenders of peace and order within the galaxy and now Star Wars: The High Republic #1 finally tells their stories.(opens in new tab)
We open on a longer time ago, but in the same galaxy far, far away. Set before the prequel films and the fall of the Jedi, The High Republic shows us a time in which the Republic and the Jedi are at their peak, both in terms of an organization and numbers in their ranks. Jedi Padawan Keeve Trennis and her master Sskeer are about to complete Keeve's 'Trials', meaning the final steps of her training into Knighthood. Meanwhile, above the planet, the Starlight Beacon is about to launch, poised to serve as a light to those lost on the Outer Rim in the wake of the Great Disaster, the mysterious destruction of a space luxury liner that kicks off the series' prose efforts.
Cavan Scott starts us out with a LOT of information, but the focus on Keeve and her master provides the issue a neat focal point character-wise as Scott starts to dole out bits and pieces of the worldbuilding around them. Unfortunately, this keeps some of the characters, mainly Jedi Masters Sskeer, Maru, and Kriss (all stationed on the new Beacon) somewhat at arm's length, but the charm and energy radiating from Keeve is more than enough to supplement the lack of development around the Masters.
Scott also finds a lot of drive simply in following Jedi on mission. As Keeve and Sskeer continue their trial, they are both swept into protecting a nearby alien village, one thought unbothered by the planet's apparently docile animal life. But the Beacon's scans were wrong, and what starts out as a simple test of the Padawan's mettle, ends up being a fight for survival as Keeve tries to defend the village from a marauding horde of insects. Not only does this add a wonderful level of fallibility to these "peak" Jedi, but provides the first issue a rousingly grounded first mission for our new Jedi. Would I have liked a little more texture in and around our cast of Jedi Masters? Absolutely. But the story and character moments found therein are fun and exciting enough to keep me on the hook for later issues and further development of these new and powerfully designed new Jedi.
And speaking of powerful designs, artists Ario Anindito, Mark Morales, and Annalisa Leoni bring high fashion and gleaming colors to The High Republic. Matching Scott's breeziness, the art team really moves breathlessly, containing most of the action to spread out, unlined pages allowing readers to drink in the sumptuous details not only of the Jedi costuming and lightsaber prop work but the wonderful set design of the lush planet Keeve and Sskeer are operating on. Unfortunately, that same level of detail is not extended into the interiors of the Starlight Beacon as we are shown only a few scant interior chambers, but again the costume and character design of the Jedi (including one fan-favorite seen at an age we have only heard about until now) still carry it all-handedly.
It is a brand new age with brand new Jedi in Star Wars: The High Republic #1, but the potential for classic Star Wars action and fun is still very much alive here. Graced with a whole new age to explore, new casts, and new threats, Star Wars: The High Republic #1 feels like a more vibrant and exciting version of the "galaxy far, far away" than we are used to seeing.
Make sure you've read the best Star Wars comics of all time.