2021 is the beginning of a new era of the Star Wars universe — literally. Lucasfilm has assembled a crack team of writers and artists to carve out The High Republic, a time centuries before the Skywalker family started wrecking galactic politics.
There are going to be High Republic books, comics, and even a live-action Disney Plus series. And among our first glimpses of this new frontier of Star Wars storytelling is coming straight from Marvel Comics’ Star Wars: The High Republic. Written by Cavan Scott and drawn by Ario Anindito, the comic is all about the most powerful Jedi in the galaxy butting heads against a huge disaster.
Courtesy of Lucasfilm and Marvel, we’ve got two sneak peek pages of The High Republic #1, full of new Star Wars characters and new Star Wars locations. Polygon grilled Scott over Zoom to hear everything we can learn about the High Republic and its people from Anindito’s art.
The Starlight Beacon
We begin with a space station, the Starlight Beacon, located in the middle of the Starless Expanse — a dark and desolate area between the galactic core through which many travelers are passing in order to make new homes on the Outer Rim.
The station is one of the Great Works of the Republic’s current chancellor, intended to show the stability and empathy of the government. It’s namesake is the beacon at the top of its spire, which emits a steady pulse. Anyone in the Outer Rim can point a receiver to the Starlight Beacon and know that the Republic is still out there, no matter how far.
The rest of the station has everything a Jedi or a traveller could ask for — hospitals, laboratories, training spaces — even a fully fledged Jedi Temple.
“The exciting thing about this is that it’s new, and it’s shiny,” Scott told Polygon. “The whole point of this era is that we’re used to Star Wars being a bit grungy and lived-in, [but] this is when everything was new in the galaxy. This is where they were compiling resources to make sure that people had a good life, especially on the Outer Rim.”
Meet Estala Maru, a Kessurian Jedi Master, seen here levitating with his cup of caf.
“He is responsible for making sure that everything is working on the station and beyond,” Scott shared. “He is literally doing one thousand things at once at all times — and that’s not a Jedi Power or a Force power — but it’s his particular skill that he can see things happening at exactly the same time and keep track track of it. He is very process lead, which gets on peoples nerves from time to time. He also has a great line of sarcasm which no one expects. A very dry sense of humor.”
Avar Kriss, who’ll make her debut in the The High Republic: Light of the Jedi novel a day before The High Republic hits comic shop shelves, is one of the most respected Jedi knights of her era.
But there’s something even more important behind her: A truly deep cut retro Star Wars toy reference.
“The astromech that you can see, the little droid, is a droid that works with Maru quite a lot,” Scott told Polygon. “When the first toys came out in the ’70s, the cantina toy from Kenner had a cardboard background and there was a droid drawn on it. It wasn’t a figure, it was just drawn, it was just rusty on the side of the cantina, and that’s him.”
Grandmasters Veter and Yoda
The pages round out with what appears the somewhat unexpected arrival of two Jedi Grandmasters — unlike in the prequel trilogy, when there was only one Grandmaster on the Jedi Council, the High Republic era has a full three.
The taller and more hirsute figure here is Grandmaster Vita. According to Scott, “He is a elderly Jedi Master of many, many years. He’s been Grandmaster for a long, long time. He’s coming to the end of his time on the Council, really.”
And then there’s the little green guy we all know and love, Grogu — I mean, Yoda. And he’s a little more free wheeling and rebellious than we might remember him. Though he’s been a Grandmaster for many years, and is respected throughout the Jedi order and the Republic, Scott says this younger Yoda is “known to be a bit of a free spirit. He hasn’t sat on the Council physically for a long, long time, because he’s got a bunch of padawan that he’s working with out in space.”
Yoda’s adventures with those Padawan are the subject of the The High Republic Adventures comic series from IDW Publishing, written by Daniel José Older and drawn by Harvey Tolibao.
“So people have been constantly expecting [Yoda] to return to Coruscant,” said Scott, “to return to the Temple, to return to the Council. His attitude is ‘Well, I can be on the Council wherever I am.’”
The two Grandmasters have arrived on the Starlight Beacon for the station’s dedication ceremony, which is why Avar seems surprised to see Yoda there — he’s not the type to throw in on ceremony. “No one was sure if he was going to turn up or not,” Scott said.
What happens after the ceremony? What happens after the Great Disaster? Readers will have to tune in to The High Republic and all of its sibling books and comics to find out. Marvel’s The High Republic hits comic shop and digital shelves on Jan. 6, 2021.