How 'The High Republic' Will Build a New Era of 'Star Wars'

Star Wars The High Republic: Light of the Jedi - Book Cover - Publicity-H 2020
Courtesy of Del Rey
There's a brightness and sense of hope to the event's art, a clear distinction from the darker and seedier side of the galaxy we've come to know.

"For over a thousand generations, the Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic. Before the dark times, before the Empire." Monday night, Lucasfilm unveiled a first look into the more civilized age that Obi-Wan Kenobi made Luke Skywalker aware of all those many years ago. This previously unexplored era in Galactic History, known as The High Republic, is set approximately 200 years before the events of The Phantom Menace (1999). Developed under the name Project Luminous back in 2019, The High Republic is an all-ages storytelling initiative that, for now, will span across comics and novels, with further media expansion certain to follow. For over a year, Star Wars fans have wondered what would come after The Rise of Skywalker and the end of the Skywalker Saga. Since Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm in 2012, all of Star Wars storytelling has been anchored to the time during and between the 11 films of the series. Now the anchor has been raised and creators and fans are free to set sail into the unknown reaches of the galaxy. Make no mistake, The High Republic changes the scope and scale of everything we thought we knew about Star Wars.

At the center of The High Republic are the Jedi, whom, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy says, we’ll get to experience in their prime. We’ve seen the Jedi corrupted by their roles as political figures and war leaders during the Prequel era, the last remnants of their ways lead to a rebellion during the Original Trilogy, and their religion die out and become myth, only for the spark of hope to be reignited again during the time of the Sequel Trilogy. But never before, within this current canon, have we seen the Jedi Order act as their faith intended. Lucasfilm publishing creative director Michael Siglain compared the Jedi Knights of this order to the Knights of the Round Table of Arthurian Legend. While no names of characters were revealed yet, concept art by Phil Noto was shown off, featuring Jedi of all races (including a Wookie Jedi!), and wielding all manner of colored lightsabers, some with the sword guards that will later inspire Kylo Ren’s saber.

The projects announced at last night’s event, and set to roll out in August at Star Wars Celebration are: Star Wars: The High Republic: Into the Dark by Claudia Gray, Star Wars: The High Republic: A Test of Courage by Justina Ireland, Star Wars: The High Republic Adventures by Daniel José Older, Star Wars: The High Republic by Cavan Scott and Star Wars: The High Republic: Light of the Jedi by Charles Soule, which will be the first to arrive on shelves. This first line of works will fall under “Phase I: Light of the Jedi,” with future phases set to roll out over the years. There’s a brightness and sense of hope to artwork and covers shown for The High Republic, a clear distinction from the darker and seedier side of Star Wars we’ve come to know from a galaxy under threat of the Empire and First Order. Despite that, this new age is not without its own conflicts. After all, what would Star Wars be without the threat of war.

“There hasn’t been a full-scale war since the formation of the Republic,” Sio Bibble says in Episode I. Yet for anyone fearing that The High Republic contradicts established history, it’s important to point out the use of the term “full-scale war.” The High Republic takes place during an established, yet unexplored period known as the Great Peace of the Republic, which ran from the end of the Jedi-Sith War to the Clone Wars. But this era was not without its conflicts, and while the citizens of the galaxy lived a mostly peaceful existence, the Jedi still had to fight to maintain that. An event known as The Great Disaster launches us into the High Republic, and reveals new villains, the Nihil, who are described as space Vikings. Star Wars has always been tied to both science fiction and fantasy, but the High Republic seems to be leaning more into the fantasy side of things in this Knights versus Vikings conflict. With all of this new ground being broken, is there any chance for familiar faces to crop up?

One of the most exciting things about the reveal of The High Republic is the opportunity to explore new worlds and characters. It’s through this that the franchise will survive and inspire new video games, movies and series. But the opportunity to build a new mythology doesn’t mean that the old is forgotten. Following the Jedi-Sith War, the Sith established the rule of two, through Darth Bane and his still unrevealed apprentice. While it seems likely that we won’t see any red lightsabers immediately during The High Republic, giving creators a chance to explore other issues, the dark side is still out there, biding its time. And what about that code name, Project Luminous? In The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Master Yoda says to Luke Skywalker, “luminous beings are we.” Yoda is 900 years old by the time of his death, meaning that he was definitely alive and thriving during the time of the High Republic. With fandom having already fallen in love with the force-sensitive child dubbed Baby Yoda, are they ready for the heartthrob that is young(er) Yoda? Time will tell, but there are certain to be a few twists to the lore along the way. The future of Star Wars is looking bright.