Review – A Thoughtful Jedi Is Tested in ‘The High Republic: The Edge of Balance’ by Shima Shinya and Justina Ireland
We continue to meet new characters across the stories of The High Republic and where they were on the fateful day of the Great Hyperspace Disaster. The Edge of Balance introduces us to Jedi Lily Tora-Asi, a younger Jedi who still looks to her mentors for guidance. Teaching a Padawan of her own, Keerin, creates a cycle of learning where Lily is both teacher and student. Co-authors Shima Shinya and Justina Ireland give Star Wars fans a chance to pause and reflect on the state of the galaxy with The Edge of Balance, just as a familiar threat reappears. Complimented by the excellent, intricate art of Mizuki Sakakibara, The Edge of Balance is tailored for manga and it’s a great addition to The High Republic.
Just a warning, I’ll touch on events in this story, so there may be some spoilers. For someone like me, who feels like they’ve been gulping down High Republic stories when they all drop, it felt refreshing to read a mostly contained story, without major galactic events unfolding at breakneck pace. The Edge of Balance is mostly contained to the Outer Rim planet Banchii, so the reader is able to slow down and get to know these new characters. The writing from Shinya and Ireland is meditative, making you feel as if you’re in the middle of a lesson between Lily and Keerin. It’s nice to know as chaos unfolds around the galaxy there are still Jedi going about their business, trying to understand themselves and the Force better. Unfortunately, danger is never far away, and Banchii is not spared.
We meet Lily and her Padawan aboard a refugee ship bound for Banchii. The pair are accompanied by Wookiee Jedi Master Arkoff, a mentor of Lily’s. Their purpose on Banchii is to help with the resettlement of the refugees and establish a Jedi Temple on the planet. The High Republic continues to establish just how vast the network of Jedi Temples and outposts are across the galaxy. Lily even notes she never dreamed she’d be this far in the Outer Rim. On the voyage there, Lily has vivid dreams about the Great Hyperspace Disaster, remembering where she was that day. These dreams are an ominous precursor to the trouble she might find on Banchii. For the most part, The Edge of Balance is serene. Chronologically, this story takes place just before the events of The Rising Storm.
Balance in the title underlines the theme of this story. Lily notes the importance in all things elemental, which serve figuratively for her teachings in the Force. Lily carries two lightsabers, and in one passage notes the duality of the laser sword’s purpose: they protect life and bring death. Lily’s contemplation of the lightsaber’s purpose foreshadows the arrival of the Drengir, death stemming from the Banchii soil meant to give life to the displaced refugees. I’m sure there are numerous metaphors relative to Lily’s observations, foreshadowing or not, but those passages stuck with me.
The Drengir arrived via an unknowing farmer who was gifted the seeds by a stranger. At this point, Lily and the others are unaware the Nihil have spread Drengir spores across the galaxy in an unholy alliance. The action depicted in Mizuki Sakakibara’s art is some of the best we’ve seen where the Drengir are. They truly come alive as the monsters they are, quickly overwhelming the Jedi, but Lily is able to best them when she figures out they always go for the easy kill. When Master Stellan Gios arrives, not long after the attack on Valo, he informs Lily of what the Drengir are and Master Kriss’ ongoing campaign to eliminate their source, the Great Progenitor.
When her mentors are needed elsewhere, Lily must stay behind to guard the Jedi Temple and Banchii. This isn’t a test as much as it is a show of confidence from Stellan and Master Arkoff. Lily is, like so many younger Jedi and Padawans we’ve met in High Republic stories, more competent than they realize and wiser than their years. I like Lily’s old-soul thoughtfulness, and she rises to the assignment despite trepidations about being so far away from the rest of the Jedi Order. Though they’ve managed to vanquish the Drengir, we learn one of the refugees is working with the Nihil, and he’s summoning them to speed up whatever plans they have for Banchii.
The Edge of Balance is the first volume of the series, the next set to pick up right after this abrupt ending. There is a lot to enjoy in these pages, which bring The High Republic to manga for the first time. Mizuki Sakakibara, Justina Ireland, and Shima Shinya created a great, distinctive story apart from the rapidly expanding collection of books and comics falling under The High Republic banner. Fans will likely be delighted by the introduction of these new characters, and there’s certainly plenty of room for them to grow as we move further into the future. For now, sit back and enjoy the meditations of Lily as she comes into her own as a Jedi Knight. I’m certainly looking forward to watching her grow and hearing what else comes from such a wondrous mind.
The High Republic: The Edge of Balance is available where comics and graphic novels are sold. Special thanks to Viz Media for the ARC used in this review.