Review – An Ancient Enemy From Beneath in Marvel’s Star Wars: The High Republic #3
Keeve Trennis certainly has her hands full on her fist mission as a Jedi. On the planet Sedri Minor, the dark side looms over the Jedi contingent investigating the what the Nihil and the Hutt may be up to in the Outer Rim. Starlight Beacon Marshal and Jedi Avar Kriss has arrived to make sense of what’s going on, concerned with Sskeer’s aggressive and ruthless execution of the lone Nihil. After greeting the locals, Keeve finds a lead the missing Jedi, Ceret.
Avar Kriss is NOT happy with Sskeer but doesn’t really have time to lecture. Terec, still sharing the same mind as their twin, is screaming about a darkness. It’s pretty apparent to everyone Force-sensitive the dark side is upon them. With all of the chaos, both Avar and Sskeer can only try to manage Terec instead of diving deep into what might be the cause of it. It doesn’t help matters the two powerful Jedi argue and exchange criticisms while the darkness grows. Keeve is not feeling great about her mission so far.
Keeve is greeted by some locals. She finds out the planet is in distress, from missing children to dying crops. The harvest of Sedri Minor is crucial to the galaxy, as bacta is an emerging medicine (at this point in the history of the galaxy, at least) and it’s derived from the grains on Sedri Minor and a few other worlds. The hyperspace disaster has made bacta and food scarce, so all grains are valuable. As Keeve engages with the locals to find out more, their leader emerges, determined to keep planetary business away from the ears of the Jedi. Many in the galaxy are still isolated from the Republic and the Jedi, so this is typical. Keeve doesn’t let the isolationist leader keep her from investigating.
One of the children, Bartol, who greeted Keeve follows her into the fields of barley. As they get deeper into the field, the darkness around them grows until they come to a sinkhole. Bartol jumps into it while Keeve stops him with the Force and lowers both of them into it. Together, they move into the darkness to find their missing friends.
The isolationist, self-proclaimed leader makes his way onto the ship, confronting Avar and Sskeer. Whatever disputes they might have, Avar is alarmed when Sulman informs her Keeve is gone. She departs quickly, leaving Sskeer to look after Terec. It’s also her way of attempting to demonstrate the Jedi can be trusted. Avar is still livid with Sskeer for what happened and feels the dark side, so I was surprised she left him behind, as a gulf of mistrust suddenly exists between them.
Keeve and Bartol come upon their friends, inexplicably strung up in some sort of biological web. It seems to be made from roots of the barley and other biological material. Keeve quickly cuts Julus down but he’s dead. As Bartol loses it, Keeve tries to console him while asking Ceret what kept them bound. Ceret is vacant and disoriented but the dark side is stronger than ever, surrounding them. Suddenly, Ceret becomes lucid and warns her before the cause of the darkness reveals itself.
The Drengir have arrived! Their first appearance in the comics, the Drengir were arguably the primary antagonists of Claudia Gray’s Into the Dark. A botanical species strong enough in the dark side to make even the Sith cautious (Read Into the Dark for more, it’s excellent), the Drengir have somehow made their way to this planet. It’s possible the Nihil delivered them here or they possessed someone to pilot them, as it’s implied in Gray’s novel they are confined to a singular planet and a remote space station. Those questions are irrelevant, as Keeve now has her hands full with one of the deadliest adversaries the galaxy has seen.
The Drengir use the toxic chemicals flowing through them to produce violent hallucinations and effectively control whoever they can poison with it. Interestingly, they are able to do this through the connection between Ceret and Terec. At least I’m assuming that’s what this dark fluid is being sprayed into Sskeer’s eyes. I’ll avoid spoilers for Claudia Gray’s Into the Dark but the psychological control they can exert is just as powerful on a Jedi as it is on anyone else. And even more dangerous, because they can manipulate the Jedi to use the Force to do their dirty work.
Avar arrives to join the fight with Keeve, as a Drengir-possessed Ceret has taken Barstol prisoner. Avar is able to use her heightened ability to tap into a Jedi’s bond with the Force (Described more in Light of the Jedi by Charles Soule) and temporarily break the hold the Drengir have over Ceret. Ceret does nothing but repeat the High Republic/Jedi mantra, ironically, as it’s supposed to be a beacon of light for a weary galaxy. After a few moments, Ceret breaks from the spell completely and warns Avar and Keeve the Drengir are too strong. Suddenly, the single Drengir Avar split with her saber regenerates into two entities. Double the Drengir, double the trouble, and they are not alone.
Whoa! Sskeer has come to join the party, as well as several other Drengir. I think we know why the Sedri Minor crop yield has been low. Hopefully Keeve (his former Padawan) and Avar can bring him back to the light. This is a troubling turn of events, to see the Drengir out and about in the galaxy. Between the Legacy Run hyperspace disaster, the emergence of the Nihil, and now the Drengir…the High Republic is about to get bumpy.
Writer Cavan Scott continues to demonstrate his touch for the ominous and eerie in Star Wars. He feels like the perfect person to bring these terrifying villains into the comics. I have to mention the art by Ario Anindito; inker Mark Morales; and colorist Annalisa Leoni, giving the Drengir a splendidly horrific entrance. If you’re curious about the Drengir and want to know more about them, James Baney (The Resistance Broadcast) and I made a quick video synopsis of Into the Dark, which we talk a little bit about their role in the story, if you don’t mind being spoiled. While this issue didn’t blow my mind, it connected the previous issue to what I imagine will be a thrilling next few additions to the story. And it looks like things are going to get sticky for Keeve and Avar in the next issue.