Star Wars fans have long been awaiting the launch of the new High Republic materials launching for 2021. The first of the list, Light of the Jedi, hit its release on January 5 and since then has climbed up the New York Times best seller list. Despite its great performance in stores does the title deliver on its content?
Let’s break it down.
I usually like to start reviews by kicking off with the positive. However, I only have one real complaint for this title. Therefore, let’s get these minor whines out of the way so we can dig into what makes this book special and what it means for the future.
This Room Too Crowded: It’s a little tough to keep up with all these characters! Light of the Jedi is trying to set up a new time period, a new economic and political landscape, a ton of new characters, and a new evil force in the galaxy while delivering its plot. The book does try to embark on too much but it delivers for the most part despite its turbulent and, at times, confusing narrative.
I will not be breaking down the entire story as my hopes are all levels of Star Wars fans will pick this up and join the ride of the High Republic. That being said, we are a site that hardly ever filters on spoilers and that won’t be stopping today!
We Don’t Know the Jedi: As we meet these new Jedi from long ago we are introduced to their world and reality; a time when the republic was still expanding and the Jedi were at the height of their existence.
Rather than bashing those facts over our heads over and over through prose the story shows the reader through technology, number of members in the order, and their vast range of new (old?) powers.
Avar Kriss is able to see/hear the Force as music. Her talents allow her to connect all Jedi, nearly regardless of distance, and strengthen their connections. This ability allows her to unify the Jedi in saving Hatzal from doom. Burryaga the Wookie can channel and influence emotions. We have seen Jedi use their mind tricks but this type of empathic power is new. Elzar Mann made a f***** cloud and rain with the Force….!!
The point is, the book made me reflect on something; The Rise of Skywalker showed Kylo and Rey using some pretty gnarley force powers we’ve never seen before; teleporting distant objects, speaking to each other across space, and even healing from the brink of death. At the time many fans were annoyed at this display of power. This book, indirectly, not only made their abilities excusable but logical. Think about it!
There are nine chapters in the Skywalker Saga and six of them take place post jedi exctinction. The prequel trilogy, as much as we got to see a fully functioning jedi order with multiple knights, was clearly the clock to doomsday; a time when the jedi were already weakened in numbers and to their connection to the force (they couldn’t sense anything the Sith was doing).
To see these abilities two-hundred years in the past means that despite all the years of Star Wars we’ve had- we don’t have the slightest clue what the jedi order is truly capable of. This is extremely exciting for the High Republic Era.
Creative Freedom: The timeline of the story not only allows the books to remove themselves as prequels from the Skywalker Saga, but they create enough distance that they can create their own world entirely.
Yes, it would be nice to see allusions to things we know (such as Yoda cameos) but this is the first project that has the ability to explore its story away from the anchor of Skywalker and how it fits into the logic of its many pieces.
I’m not completely sold yet on the Nihil as villains, but I do appreciate the thought process around exploring and expanding towards the dangerous outer rim.
This distance from the original stories as well as the “golden age of the jedi” also grants creative freedoms with some canon materials. For example, Mace Windu is the only jedi we know who has owned a purple lightsaber (yes because Samuel L. wanted it, I know but just play along). Canon states that purple sabers were rare because they were used by jedi who danced the line between the light and the dark. They were more brutal with their fighting and didn’t always abide by moral rules.
This is an interesting concept applied because it actually fits really well to Mace Windu being the only wielder at a time when the jedi were already on the decline; if the High Republic is truly when the jedi are at their peak then it would be a time where more force wielders capable of dancing that line with purple light sabers would exist!
Real Potential: I am bummed that the live-action Disney+ series, The Acolye, will take place towards the end of the High Republic era. This means none of the characters that we are meeting in the comic and books will be there for the show. Unless any of them also have extended life like Yoda…?
That being said, strictly as canon reading material, it means that there is so mch space to build within the past for an eventual future where jedi have returned to prominance. Projects down the line can show characters channeling the force in awe-inspiring ways that Rey and Kylo demonstrated in the final film.