When your very marketing loses you points with a fandom of the franchise you’re attempting to build on because it makes them question your understanding then you did something wrong. That’s what happened with the “High Republic” project. The message board brought into question how well they know or care about the Star Wars franchise. That has nothing to do with the quality of their work but how well they continue a long-running continuity. As noted many time here there is a difference, and not every creator is right for every project. The “High Republic” team do not seem to be aware of this as they attempt to create a multimedia sub-franchise (that’s not an insult, it’s just a term) around their own additions to canon.
First to be released is Charles Soule’s Light Of The Jedi. I know Soule only by reputation for his work on the Daredevil comics for Marvel. So I don’t know how good a fit he is in this franchise. IGN has released the first chapter of this book on their website as a preview sampler. Well, since I have an article series about reviewing novels one chapter at a time I feel qualified to base my opinion based on this sample. After all, a sample/teaser/trailer/advertisement/preview is meant to sell you on the whole experience. That’s kind of the point. So does this sell a potentially good Star Wars series? Well, go read that chapter first because here there be spoilers.
Prepare to take your first step into a new era of Star Wars. Set 200 years before the events of the Skywalker Saga, the High Republic finds the Jedi at their peak as they watch over the galaxy during a time of peace. But it’s not long before that peace is disturbed by a devastating incident and the Knights of the Jedi Order must spring into action.
That’s from the start of the article, and this is the framework of the “High Republic”, an outside force invading the Star Wars galaxy.
I will give Soule credit for the first few paragraphs (I’m assuming they stuck the prologue in there as well) at least trying to emulate the usual crawl from the beginning of the main Star Wars films (not used in the side story movies or most TV/web productions) but that’s surface stuff. Too many of today’s creators only look at the surface, the most surface layer possible the better, and don’t understand the nuances. The short version is that the galaxy is at peace thanks to the Jedi Knights but the Outer Rim is not quite part of the current Republic so it’s become the usual bad guy haven you get from these kinds of stories. The current Chancellor is planning to bring them into the fold in part with the “Starlight Beacon” project. I have a feeling that’s either part of the problem later in the story or part of the solution at the end. Otherwise why bring it up?
The chapter properly opens with Captain Hedda Casset, who we learn quite a bit about before she dies. (You did read the chapter before this, right? I even avoided the short interview with Soule to get my first impressions from the material.) I’m not sure if this is setting up the book’s conflict unless we learn someone (probably the new enemy this sub-franchise is built around) put that object in their way. Obviously we’re not going to learn that in the first chapter. We also don’t learn the fate of the kids or other families that are part of her doomed ship’s voyage to a new planet in the Outer Rim to start a colony. Will Serj rise again?
The story is told well enough. The anecdote about the countess who had the conscience to send a sea creature back home at her own expense when her people couldn’t properly take care of it was nice. It was meant to show us the versatility of the Legacy Run…hang on. I don’t know if this was meta “humor” or intentional, but the ship that falls apart and ends, with the fate of the children in doubt, is the “Legacy” Run. As in how we’re being told the legacy of the “Skywalker saga” is over. Again, it may not be intentional and I could be reading too much into the name, but given the writers’ approach to the franchise lately I have…concerns. I also don’t recognize any of the terms or alien race names from prior works but I’m not fully versed in the expanded lore and we see new species added all the time. One term that caught my eye was “Tibanna”, and apparently that is something out of larger canon (though I don’t know which continuity) so maybe the other non-humans are as well? Not that it matters since they’re most likely dead too, though Casset dies not knowing for sure. She seemed interesting. It’s too bad we won’t get more with her.
It’s the interview bits with IGN and Soule that tells more of what’s to come.
As the preview for Light of the Jedi reveals …it’s the seemingly accidental destruction of a large spaceship traveling through hyperspace that causes all of the calamity. In The Last Jedi, the Holdo Maneuver showed us just how dangerous a ship moving at hyperspace speeds can be, but the way Soule describes what happens in his story makes it sound considerably worse.
“This excerpt is our first look at the moment that changes The High Republic forever,” Soule told IGN. “The destruction of the Legacy Run is the catalyst for a galaxy-wide disaster. Fragments of the destroyed cargo vessel begin flying out of hyperspace at super-accelerated speeds, meaning that deadly missiles of debris can appear anywhere at any time, from the Outer Rim to the Core. In this moment of crisis, the Republic turns to the guardians of peace and justice—the Jedi.”
So one way or another the colonists are dead.
Soule continued, “The opening beats of Light of the Jedi depict an epic disaster, and a heroic, thrilling response by both the Republic and the Jedi to save lives and end the crisis. It’s just the beginning, though. The Legacy Run disaster kicks off a much larger story; it really is just one piece of a much bigger saga.”
So is this story more of a rescue mission than a battle? It could work. I’m just wondering about how this is all going to go between numerous novels and comics and maybe video games (I can’t recall) as the full invasion story is told. As for this book there are no major continuity flaws at this point but nothing really assuring me this will feel like Star Wars when it’s done. I probably won’t get it with all the other books I have to review for Chapter By Chapter but I’m still in “wait and see” mode, with concerns given what I’ve seen and heard about the Star Wars writers’ room. Who knows, it might be good…but will it be Star Wars? I’m afraid that still hasn’t been answered.