Star Wars: The High Republic – The Edge of Balance/Guardian of the Whills by Shima Shinya

Star Wars: The High Republic – The Edge of Balance/Guardian of the WhillsStar Wars: The High Republic – The Edge of Balance/Guardian of the Whills by Shima Shinya
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Definitely the strongest of the two Star Wars offerings this Free Comic Book Day, this comic previews two upcoming releases from Viz Media, who publish manga. While they generally been publishing manga adaptions of existing novels, such as with Guardians Of The Whills, The Edge Of Balance, set during the High Republic era, is their first original Star Wars manga.

If this preview is anything to go by it’s going to be great! We’re introduced to a young Jedi Knight, Lily Tora-Asi, who’s just starting out on her own. Reflecting on being a padawan while also preparing to take on a padawan of her own. It’s a perspective we haven’t seen too much of in Star Wars fiction, and I’m looking forward to reading more of it.

The extract from Guardians Of The Whills is also charming, and made me regret not having read the novel yet. I really must get o that soon…

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Star Wars: The High Republic Adventures FCBD 2021 by Daniel José Older

Star Wars: The High Republic Adventures FCBD 2021Star Wars: The High Republic Adventures FCBD 2021 by Daniel José Older
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Billed as “a prelude to IDW’s Star Wars: The High Republic Adventures series” this is, in fact, not that. Instead it’s set after the novel Race to Crashpoint Tower and before the second arc of High Republic Adventures, plus is reprints some of High Republic Adventures #1.

The story, such as it is, is very slight, little to nothing happens and the art is nowhere good as it is in the regular High Republic Adventures book. I’m a little disappointed. I know these IDW books are aimed at a younger audience, but the High Republic one, so far, has been a lot more grown up and truly “all ages” than the regular Star Wars Adventures comic.

This is really only for completionists, of which I’m one, and young kids who you’re just introducing to comics. Although, for them, I’m not sure they’d have any clue as to who anyone is or what’s going on.

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Star Wars: The High Republic #8 by Cavan Scott

Star Wars: The High Republic #8Star Wars: The High Republic #8 by Cavan Scott
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is some classic Star Wars action. It’s Jedi vs Drengir with the fate of the galaxy in the balance!

I’ll be honest, I’m surprised that the Drengir have been defeated in a comic, given that they were introduced in a novel. That’s no bad thing, I’m glad that the story is crossing media in this way. That said, I wonder I this is the last we’ll actually see of the Drengir, given that they’re now in stasis at the heart of Starlight Beacon (I keep wanting to call it the Starlight Citadel, but that’s something else entirely, from a whole other fictional universe). Surely it’s only a matter of time before the station suffers a major power loss and the Drengir get free. After all, when we first met the Drengir they were trapped on a space station…

But this is good stuff. This is the Jedi in their prime, which is what we were promised with the High Republic. This arc got very dark in places, so to end it on such a note of light and hope feels good.

That said, it actually ends by setting up the next arc, and it seems like that’s going to be just as dark.

The art, as ever, is excellent, and Phil Noto’s cover is simply gorgeous.

The High Republic continues to be a high point for the new Star Wars canon.

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Star Wars: The High Republic Adventures #5 by Daniel José Older

Star Wars: The High Republic Adventures #5Star Wars: The High Republic Adventures #5 by Daniel José Older
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is probably the weakest issue in this otherwise excellent series yet, and it’s not helped by the use of multiple artists. I know these things are unavoidable at times, because deadlines are deadlines and artists are only human, but the issue’s storytelling definitely suffers for it.

Ultimately, this story concludes the first arc of High Republic Adventures, with Zeen and Krix choosing the paths that each of them will follow. Krix chooses the Nihil and Zeen chooses the Jedi, something which was fairly inevitable from the start, but it’s been interesting to see them both essentially start from the same place but follow wildly diverging paths.

We also get a reveal of Marchion Ro’s face, and we see he has blue skin. Some have taken this to mean that he’s a Chiss, but it’s a big galaxy and he doesn’t appear to have red eyes, so I shall reserve judgement where this is concerned. He also gives Krix a helmet very similar to his own, not only inducting him into the ranks of the Nihil but seemingly taking him on as some kind of apprentice, which is an interesting development. It seems certain that Krix and Zeen’s paths will lead them back together, but when next they meet they’ll be enemies. It’s a classic trope, but there’s nothing wrong with that.

Despite this slightly weak ending, the first arc of this series has been excellent, and I look forward to reading more. I just wish it was a little easier to get hold of here in the UK!

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Star Wars: The High Republic #7 by Cavan Scott

Star Wars: The High Republic #7Star Wars: The High Republic #7 by Cavan Scott
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m currently reading the novel Into The Dark by Claudia Gray, so it was a pleasant surprise to have Orla Jareni turn up in this. Although with Sly Moore showing up in Darth Vader #14, it feels a little like the month of the Umbrans!

Keeve is facing a bit of a crisis of confidence after her encounter with the Drengir and this manifests in a particularly disturbing vision while she’s meditating. That’s where we first meet Orla Jareni, but it’s not long before we meet her for real as Keeve finds herself in over her head and up against the Nihil while on a solo rescue mission, when Orla recues her in the nick of time. Orla is a Jedi Wayseeker, which means she doesn’t follow the direction of the Jedi Council and isn’t affiliated with any Jedi temple, but is finding her own path in the galaxy.

I find Keeve Trennis to be a compelling character, and I also welcome the chance to find out more about Orla Jareni (although I guess now I know she survives Into The Dark!). Cavan Scott’s writing is always good, and the art here is up to the standard of the rest of Marvel’s Star Wars books.

This is great stuff and I’m thoroughly enjoying The High Republic as a whole.

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Star Wars: The High Republic #6 by Cavan Scott

Star Wars: The High Republic #6Star Wars: The High Republic #6 by Cavan Scott
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book continues to be the perfect blend of character development and action, which is no mean feat given the number of characters and the amount of action on offer here!

The Drengir are a compelling, unique and genuinely terrifying new enemy, in a period in which the Jedi seem to be facing assaults on a number of different fronts. Times like these call for strange allies, and none are stranger than the Hutts. Seeing Jedi ride into battle on the backs of Rancors alongside Hutts was something I didn’t know I wanted, but was no less awesome for that.

This is enjoyable, fun, dramatic and action packed!

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Star Wars: The High Republic Adventures #4 by Daniel José Older

Star Wars: The High Republic Adventures #4Star Wars: The High Republic Adventures #4 by Daniel José Older
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Not gonna lie, I kinda love this bunch of idiots.

Seeing all the padawans crammed into a Jedi vector just made me smile. That they were doing it to stupidly go and rescue their friend just made it better. Reckless are they, indeed.

This is just fantastic, full of youthful energy and the angst that goes with it.

Because heading off into an obvious trap is just what heroes do.

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Star Wars: The High Republic Adventures #3 by Daniel José Older

Star Wars: The High Republic Adventures #3Star Wars: The High Republic Adventures #3 by Daniel José Older
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The story continually flips between Krix with the Nihil on the Gaze Electric and Zeen with the Jedi on the Starlight Beacon (I keep wanting to call it the Starlight Citadel, but that’s something from a whole different comic entirely).

It’s an interesting dichotomy as both the Nihil and the Jedi are manipulating Krix and Zeen in their own ways and asking them to do things they’re not entirely comfortable with. But, of course, while the Jedi are motivated by wanting to fight evil, the Nihil have very different motivations.

This issue is mostly set up for the conflict to come, but that’s not a bad thing. Things need to be set up in a story…that’s how story telling works. And in the meantime we get to know Zeen and Krix a bit better. Krix is clearly someone who’s willing to throw others under the bus to save his own neck. But…can you really blame him? How would any of us act in his situation.

The art is really quite lovely. It’s not in the usual “Marvel style” that those reading recent Star Wars comics will be accustomed to, and reminds me more of the Star Wars comics produced in the early days of Dark Horse’s run. But, this isn’t a Marvel comic, after all, and the art style fits the book incredibly well.

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Star Wars: The High Republic #5 by Cavan Scott

Star Wars: The High Republic #5Star Wars: The High Republic #5 by Cavan Scott
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This issue is a pretty relentless fight scene for start to finish, as the Jedi fight both the Hutts and the Drengir, while Skeer fights an internal battle against the Drengir too.

There’s a lot going on, but it’s easy enough to struggle and in typical Star Wars style, just as all seems lost the tide of battle turns.

That said, I don’t see a coalition of Jedi and Hutts lasting any longer than the Hutts finding it useful.

The art is top notch and the High Republic continues to be quality across the board.

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A Test of Courage by Justina Ireland

A Test of Courage (Star Wars: The High Republic)A Test of Courage by Justina Ireland
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I ummed and ahhed about whether to give this book four or five stars for a while, but then I realised that my only issue with it was that it wasn’t what I expected it to be, and it’s not fair to judge a book against my expectations, I should review it for what it actually is.

You see, I moved straight on to reading this after Light of the Jedi, rather than reading a non-Star Wars book, as I usually do after reading a Star Wars book, because I assumed it would be a quick read. I thought I’d plow through this in a matter of days, and I was wrong. It’s a smaller sized hardback book, with larger type and it’s aimed at a younger audience, so I thought I’d finish it quickly. But what I found was a much deeper and engaging book that I expected. So, it’s not the book’s fault that I wasn’t able to finish it quickly and move on to another Witcher novel!

This book mainly deals with the subjects of loss and grieving, and how the grieving process can lead you to a dark place…which is especially dangerous for a Jedi (which is why attachments are discouraged, after all). We not only see this through the young Jedi Padawan, Imri, who loses his master, but also through a young boy called Honesty, who loses his father. Both of these deaths occur during a Nihil attack that leaves these two boys, along with young Jedi Knight Vernestra Rwoh and the even younger Avon Starros (an ancestor of Sanna Starros, who’s currently hanging out with Doctor Aphra over in her comic), stranded on a moon called Wevo, where the rain is so caustic that it can burn through their flesh.

Eventually they discover that they have company on Wevo, the Nihil who destroyed the ship they were travelling on and who are ultimately responsible for the death of their loved ones. Naturally this leads them facing the moral quandary of whether to take revenge or seek justice…and, well, it’s a Star Wars book so you can probably guess how it ends, but there are enough twists along the way to keep you from getting bored.

The characters are compelling and the book leaves you wanting to know more about all of them, and I believe we will, at the very least, be getting more of Vernestra and Imri (who have already had a brief cameo in the High Republic comic series), but I very much hope we also get to see more of the brilliant Avon too.

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