A good crime story isn’t all action, it has parts of the case where the heroes are stumped, they go back to their personal lives and reflect, waiting on the next clue to the case. This is that issue of Trail of Shadows, and luckily, just because it’s less action for our heroes doesn’t make it any less important.
Writer Daniel José Older has written an issue that adds pathos to his two leading characters, gives the villains room to shine (or should it be darken) in the story, and sets the story up for the final two issues of this exciting mini-series.
After last issue’s confrontation with the Nihil/Arathab Fal, Emerick, Sian, and Stellan Gios regroup to think through their next steps. This scene provides some great context for those of us reading it monthly, who need small reminders on the plot. We’re looking for the weapon that killed Loden Greatstorm and clues on how to get it off the black market, if that is what Fal is selling!
The reflection doesn’t last long though as the team are called back to Starlight Beacon; there has been another attack that matches the way Greatstorm died.
After their first appearance early in the main High Republic comic, it has been pleasantly surprising to see not only how much Ceret and Terec have been utilised as characters, but also that their unique bond has been used as a vital and creative plot point.
Keeve Trennis was there when Terec was attacked by the weapon that took the form of a creature, almost killing the twin. Trennis is visibly shaken, and in a nice moment Emerick reassures the young Jedi with a hug.
Meanwhile, The Eye of the Nihil, Marchion Ro, has problems of his own. He doesn’t trust his torture expert, Uttersond, sending out a team to investigate him.
Uttersond has his own agenda though, as Arathab Fal attacks his ship and slaughters the crew he appears to be backed into a corner with. The twist of the issue though…
Fal and Uttersond are working together! This is a massive revelation and really solidifies this mini-series as being worthwhile reading rather than an ancillary plot. In The Rising Storm novel this series follows on from, Uttersond becomes a prominent character in the torture of Loden Greatstorm and Ro’s inner circle. So it’s great to see his character not just expanded on upon, but pivoted into something more menacing.
Ro’s hunters have caught up with the doctor though, to assess his loyalties, so his and Fal’s plan will have to wait. Fal is able to get away using a jump drive, meaning he was a Nihil and possesses the same technology they have to make quick and easy getaways.
Uttersond’s cover isn’t quite blown though — despite everyone else on the ship being dead, Uttersond has survived the ‘attack’.
We don’t see what actually happens, but it’s fair to say that, to protect his cover, Fal has shot the Chadra-Fan. Ro isn’t convinced he’s not a traitor, but reasons that they’ll never know if he dies; the doctor gets to live… for now.
Back on Starlight, Sian and Emerick have a heart to heart moment in which the later admits that he isn’t dispassionate as a Jedi and still feels deeply, and that he has come to care about Sian.
This is such a sweet ending to the issue, especially now that we’re just over the halfway mark for the series. Friendship is such an essential theme to Star Wars, and it’s nice to see it echoed here.
This era is supposed to be the Jedi at their height, so it’s great to see them have a more fluid and less dogmatic view of the Force and emotions compared the more rigid views we see in the prequel movies. It’s also nice Older hasn’t chosen to go down the temptation of a love route, which had already been explored (Obi-Wan/Satine, Anakin/Padmé, Avar Kriss/Stellan Gios), and instead opted for the unlikely friendship angle.
One of the best things about this series is that it doesn’t seem to be treading water, or feel like a side quest, we’re getting real plot and character progression not just from the Jedi, but also from prominent Nihil figures. Sometimes, mini-series are just fun side plots, but this feels like an integral part of The High Republic.