Writer Cavan Scott and artists Ario Anindito and Mark Morales, along with colorist Annalisa Leoni and letterer Ariana Maher bring us an intense follow-up issue in “Star Wars: The High Republic” #2. Having set the mood in the first issue, this chapter focuses on building some mystery in a suspenseful and atmospheric comic that takes Star Wars into a place it seldom travels: horror. With a tightly paced script with excellent plot development and more outstanding visual work, this is becoming more and more an absolute treat for comic and Star Wars fans alike.
“The Nihil strike! A ship found adrift in space, the crew brutally slaughtered and cargo stolen. What terror awaits the The Jedi of Starlight Beacon as they explore the wreck. Newly knighted Keeve Trennis must overcome her insecurity in the face of new teammates, but can she trust her closest ally?”
Writing & Plot
With the first issue, Cavan Scott effectively set up the inner working and dynamics of protagonist Keeve Trennis, her master Sskeer, as well as sampled the tone of the Star Wars universe in the time period. For “The High Republic” #2, Scott takes advantage of the new mystery of this uncharted time by placing these characters in an unnerving and tense situation. We don’t often get horror in canon Star Wars tales, so getting a nice derelict-ship chapter a la System Shock/Alien was a serious treat. The fact that Scott was able to write the hell out of the pacing and intensity makes me want to see him write a full horror series in the galaxy far far away. Even more engaging is how Scott exploits his characters’ weaknesses and insecurities to amp up the tension. Newly knighted Keeve Trennis’s confidence and cool-headedness are usurped by her uncertainty in new situations. Without getting into spoilers, Jedi master Sskeer’s noticable lack of emotional control makes him unpredictable and sometimes short sighted. This comic is elevated by the perfect combination of written elements that make for a highly engaging and riveting reading experience. Scott’s sense of dialogue and narrative are naturalistic but universe appropriate, and deviate wildly from character to character. There are moments of characters reciting technobabble and explaining the geopolitical landscape of outer rim colonies, and honestly it feels right. It’s modern Star Wars doing what it does. This issue once again reminds me of some of Filoni’s best work on The Clone Wars, as well as some of Dark Horse’s best Star Wars material – with a splash of Knights of the Old Republic. This is some of the best Star Wars material I’ve experienced in the past couple years, and it’s got me immensely excited to see where this story goes.
Star Wars comics have a long lineage of fantastic visual work, so it’s fortunate that “The High Republic” #2 has artists Ario Anindito and Mark Morales on hand to bring this universe to life. Anindito’s pencils are both stylistically inventive and faithful to the Star Wars aesthetic, providing designs that are largely familiar while differentiating themselves from the universe we know so well. From the dank hallways of a derelict ship, to the uniforms and lightsabers of our Jedi protagonists, everything has that definite “Yep, it’s Star Wars…” look while also saying “…but I’ve never seen it look quite like that.” The dimension and detail provided by Mark Morales’s inks furthers these positives, especially in the context of character expressions and lighting. The colors from Annalisa Leoni bring home the book’s aesthetic, as every panel is alive (or dead) with a huge array of varying tones. The lighting’s effect on each surface is probably the most impressive single feature, as no feature look the exact same in every scene, no matter how many times they appear. Of course the appropriate colors for this universe are all used to great length, but it’s the attention paid and the production value brought to this story that is so impressive. The pacing brought in by the panel direction and the choices of shots and what they decide to withhold and present at a given time make this comic a really special read. The opening sequence on the derelict craft is presented in a semi-traditional horror style, full of suspenseful reaction shots, plodding moments of tense exploration, and good ol’ “it’s right behind you!” ambush scenes. The letters from Ariana Maher are a bold and modern font that reads very easily and stays out of the way. On the other hand, the SFX lettering is perfectly set amongst the pages and brings the sound right to your ears in that synesthesia sensation only comics can bring. This is a brilliant looking comic, and among some of the most well drawn Star Wars comics ever put to page.
“Star Wars: The High Republic” #2 is an intense use of genre mixing and exploiting the strengths and weaknesses of a new cast to really let the audience see how they tick. Cavan Scott puts together a script that digs at the mental and emotional cores of its lead character, and through a cramped horror-esque setting explores character dynamics that will shape the plot for the rest of this story in unpredictable ways. The visual work of Ario Anindito, Mark Morales, and Annalisa Leoni makes for a gorgeous and high-production affair that does the job of setting the story’s pace and bringing this uncharted era of the Star Wars universe to life in spectacular fashion. Be sure to grab this newest chapter of Star Wars storytelling when it hits shelves on 2-3!