It’ll be a while before we see Star Wars back in theaters, but one of the franchise’s more interesting publishing experiments is moving forward next year: The High Republic.
During the 2021 San Diego Comic-Con, Lucasfilm unveiled its next phase of its prequel High Republic series, featuring new books and comics from the core story team of Claudia Gray, Charles Soule, Justina Ireland, and Daniel José Older.
This latest era of storytelling in the Star Wars universe is a big, cross-platform event — like a mini-connected universe that’s playing out across novels (adult, YA, and Middle-grade), and comics, all set generations before the events of the main Skywalker Saga that took place between Episodes 1-9.
Over the years, Lucasfilm has launched a number of cross-medium story events, starting in the mid-1990s with Shadows of the Empire (which included a novel, video game, comics, and action figures), X-Wing (games, comics, and novels), The New Jedi Order (novels), The Clone Wars (novels, cartoons, comics, short fiction), and more. The High Republic is the latest example of this sort of event: a sprawling story that’s told through a number of works by a team of authors — in this case, Gray, Soule, Ireland, Older, and Cavan Scott.
Lucasfilm kicked off The High Republic earlier this year with an initial wave of books and comics: Light of the Jedi by Soule, Into the Dark by Gray, and A Test of Courage by Ireland, and an initial batch of comics from Older at IDW and Scott at Marvel. In that batch of stories, they introduced readers to a sort of renaissance in the Republic’s history: an egalitarian period where the Republic was slowly expanding its reach into the galaxy’s rim through trade and diplomacy, only to run into trouble when they encounter an organized group of marauders utilizing some new hyperspace technology, who cause a devastating hyperspace accident and kick off a war between them and the Jedi.
The second wave kicked off last month with a novel called The Rising Storm by Scott, a YA novel called Out of the Shadows by Gray, a middle gray novel called Race to Crashpoint by Older, and an audio drama from Scott called Tempest Runner. Following the events of the first wave of books, the Republic, its Jedi, and the terrorist faction known as the Nihil continue to clash as their leader, Machion Ro sets out to unleash a new wave of attacks that could splinter the Republic and the work that it’s trying to accomplish.
During the panel, Scott noted that The Rising Storm kicked off the next big inciting incident of the wave: an attack on the Republic Fair — a big celebration of all things that the Republic is known for. It was a story of everything going wrong for everyone: the Republic didn’t think that the Nihil would attack again, while the Nihil believed that by attacking the Republic fair, they’d establish themselves as a feared presence in the galaxy.
Scott also teased what’s to come in his Marvel comic series and upcoming audio drama: a Jedi will be joining the Nihil, and one notable character will find themselves in prison, respectively.
Older spoke about how the recently released Race to Crashpoint tied in with Scott’s book: it follows a new Padawan, Ram Jomaram, living on the planet where the fair is set to take place, and who has to contend with the attention that that brings, as well as the growing violence in the galaxy that the Republic / Nihil conflict is bringing. Older noted that we’ll see Ram again in the upcoming High Republic comic that’ll be released for Free Comic Book Day, and he’ll appear in some other comics that Older is writing for IDW.
Ireland’s next book, Out of the Shadows, is due out next week, and follows a hauler named Sylvestri Yarrow, who’s having some trouble as the conflict escalates: it’s making things dangerous and driving her prices up and she’s getting desperate for work. She’s attacked by the Nihil and after that, heads off to Coruscant to try and get the Republic to take the threat seriously. That gets “her into a whole mess of political drama,” Ireland says, putting her into contact with Venestra Rwoh (who we first saw in Ireland’s middle grade novel A Test of Courage). “Things start off seemingly one way,” She described, “and then the deeper you get into the story, the more the onion is peeled to reveal something else inside.”
Ireland pointed out that one of the things that she loved about the interlocking storytelling is that it’s an opportunity for their characters to grow as they bounce between adventures and as the action ramps up.
Charles Soule kicked off the series with Light of the Jedi, and explained that it was a daunting challenge, but “everything I wanted to do creatively” with the Star Wars universe. He’s also been heartened by the response to one of the series central themes: “we are the Republic,” which he says resonated with a number of readers.
He spoke a bit about the threat that the Nihil represents to the Republic and how they’re a different sort of antagonist: they start off as a run of the mill marauder group, but over the course of his book, they’ve begun to evolve and become more ambitious and organized under the leadership of Machion Ro. Soule says that Machion’s role is almost ceremonial at the start of the book, but over the course of the story, he begins to take control and gives them not only organization, but a deadly purpose.
Claudia Gray spoke a bit about her YA book Into the Dark, and her character creations, Jedi Master Jora Malli and her Parawan Reath Silas. With their relationship having grown and changed over the course of the book, she’s excited to see Reath show up in Ireland’s Out of the Shadows.
By the end of the panel, it was revealed what the next wave of books will look like: Lucasfilm announced that the third adult novel in the series will be called The Fallen Star, and will be written by Gray. Older will write the next YA novel, Midnight Horizon, while Ireland will pen the next middle grate, Mission to Disaster. The comic series will also continue, as Soule will write a pair of oversized, 30-page issues called Eye of the Storm that will flesh out the origin story of Machion Ro.
During its panel, the authors provided the briefest of brief glimpses into what to expect from their upcoming books. Older teased that Midnight Horizon will be a “chaotic mess in the best possible way”. Ireland jokes that her middle grade novel Mission to Disaster “is not ominous at all!” Gray noted that her next installment in the series is The Fallen Star, which willl finish off “Phase 1 of The High Republic.” From the sounds of things, it sounds as though things are about to get much, much darker for the galaxy.
On Twitter, Ireland summed it up in the best way possible:
Lucasfilm hasn’t released a firm set of release dates just yet, but noted that the wave will kick off sometime in January 2022, giving us plenty of time to catch up on the books that have already hit stores.