Everybody is familiar with the Star Wars movies. But the Star Wars universe is bigger than just what’s shown in nine movies. The Mandalorian and other Disney+ shows, videogames, and animated television series are all part of the larger Star Wars narrative. And Star Wars novels and comics were once the beating heart of that extended universe. For decades, they were THE only source for new Star Wars stories. After Disney took over, most of those old novels were “de-canonized” and the new novels mostly served to flesh out/make sense of the new movies. In an effort to jazz up the publishing arm, Lucasfilm has embarked upon a brand new initiative that explores a never-before-seen era of the Star Wars universe: the High Republic!
The High Republic era takes place about 200 hundred years before the events of The Phantom Menace. According to the marketing materials, the aim is to portray The Jedi and the Republic at the height of their power, when they actually (mostly) work. That’s never been portrayed before!
I thought it could be neat to get in on the ground floor of this story project. The huge amount of material in the Star Wars expanded universe intimidated me in the past. The lore seemed so complex. I had no idea where to start, what was essential for a deeper understanding, what was good, etc. It looked like a lot of work to try to figure it all out. But with this High Republic era, I didn’t have to spend years reading and spending $$$ to catch up on a bunch of canon material. I could get into the series at the very beginning!
I also believed that the Golden Age of a working Republic and a solid Jedi Order could be cool to see, like a kind of magic Star Trek.
I feared that a working Republic and a solid Jedi Order could be really boring, like regular Star Trek.
Only one way to find out! I read every High Republic release that’s come out this year.
The verdict? It ain’t boring.
The Jedi are interesting, varied individuals. They explore their feelings, they openly question teachings and directions, they wrestle with doubt, they have personality. And the stories aren’t the same ol’ repetition of a Light Side nobody fighting/redeeming a Sith Dark Lord. The whole thing feels fresh and new, while still keeping the essential vibe of Star Wars intact. As I’ll explain in more detail below, not all of the releases are absolutely fantastic. Overall, though, the High Republic era is a welcome and interesting addition to the Star Wars universe.
You don’t have to read all of the High Republic releases. My mini-reviews of each one follow, but the TLDR version is: (1) Light of the Jedi is absolutely essential, (2) A Test of Courage is very good but MIGHT not be important to later releases (3) Into the Dark ain’t great but MIGHT be important to later releases, (4) and the High Republic comic book looks like it might be essential.