We’ve seen a lot of Jedi over the years. Luke and Obi-Wan and Yoda in the original trilogy; Anakin and Mace and all the rest in the prequels; Rey in the sequels. If you expand your reach, then we’ve seen even more, in quite literally hundreds of episodes of television, novels, and comic books.
But we’ve always seen the Jedi in decline. Sure, sometimes it was at different stages of decline. The Jedi in Original Trilogy, down to just a handful, is certainly a far cry from the heroic paragons of the Tales of the Jedi series, for instance. But the stories of the Jedi have always been about them failing, about internal rot leading to moral degradation, decline, and fall. Sometimes that fall is because of Darth Vader, and sometimes it’s because of Exar Kun or Darth Revan or A’Sharad Hett. And the details are different, of course. But that overall arc of fictional history is constant.
Until now. Cavan Scott and Ario Anindito’s Star Wars: The High Republic #1 is part of a broader publishing initiative to tell the story of the High Republic era – an era 200 years before the events of The Phantom Menace when the Jedi were the finest heroes in the galaxy, where the Republic was a shining beacon of light and justice, and generally things ended happily ever after. It’s more Flash Gordon than Warhammer 40k.
Our first issue follows the adventure of a Jedi Padawan and her master, as the former attempts to pass her trial and become a full-fledged Jedi Knight. And that might be the most indicative of how this story is different from the Star Wars that has come before. Our Padawan – Kreeve – doesn’t get knighted because she killed a Sith Lord, overthrew a Hutt, or defeated someone in combat. She gets knighted for saving lives. A group of what are basically space locusts have been thrown into disarray by the new space station built by the Republic, and are on a path to slam into a city of innocent people. Kreeve saves all of them – the bugs, the people, herself. She even collaborates with the other Jedi in restoring the natural environment for the space bugs.
The High Republic era is supposed to be the Jedi as they should be. It’s supposed to show us why, exactly, restoring these paragons of truth and justice was so important. And it does that very well.
But this is not a good introduction to the High Republic initiative. As the first issue of a new era, this should be House of X #1 for Star Wars, and it isn’t. The book expects us to know what everything here is, what these places and ships are and who these people are. I don’t want everything spelled out, of course; mysteries are a perfectly fine part of storytelling. But I do want at least a grounding of the setting, of the cast. At the very least, put a dramatis personae in it.
What this really is is a follow-up to Charles Soule’s novel Light of the Jedi, which is the actual introduction to the High Republic era. And as much as I like this comic, I can’t help but think that it would have been stronger if they waited a month and let more people read the real introduction to this setting.
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