Writer Charles Soule is a trailblazer in many regards concerning the exploration of the Force. His work in Darth Vader took the dueling souls of Vader and Anakin into a plane of the dark side we’ve never seen. He introduced new ways of Jedi collaborating in the Force in Light of the Jedi, opening the door to The High Republic. Here, in the 20th issue of Marvel’s titular Star Wars series, Soule takes us to what might be the most unique and interesting Force vergences we’ve seen yet. SPOILERS AHEAD….
First, the art by Marco Castiello is so good. It’s a departure from the usual polished look of this titular series, creating a dreamlike edginess which sets the tone very well. Luke is struggling. He’s facing the possibility of being Vader’s son while inheriting the legacy of the Jedi that will bind him to the destiny of bringing down his father and the Sith. Luke feels lost in the galaxy, and the cryptic messages from his teacher, Yoda, via a Force holocron aren’t helping. Luke is ready to give up until Artoo urges him to continue listening and Yoda mentions a vergence in the Force: the Sea of Gazian, the only planet Luke has yet to go looking for more information about the Jedi and the Force.
Soule continues the humanization of Luke Skywalker, highlighting the Jedi we see in both Return of the Jedi and The Last Jedi. For me, it’s important to realize these Jedi aren’t demigods. Using the Force in a god-like way is what gets them into trouble, and they are at their best when we see their humanity. Luke’s frustrations here underscore the heroism of tossing his lightsaber aside in his final confrontation with the Sith. This path to confronting his father will be a journey of the soul, not of the warrior.
Luke and Artoo arrive on Gazian, and the sea is… well, it’s mushrooms. Mushrooms, and more importantly the mycelial networks they harbor (I encourage you to take a Google deep dive on the subject), are incredibly complex and interesting organics which stretch from soil to star. Luke isn’t quite sure what to think of this planet covered in fungus, so he hops off his X-wing to take a look. Only there isn’t anything to stand on; Gazian itself is the vergence and consumes him immediately.
Quickly, the hallucinatory/Force power takes Luke, transporting his mind into another realm of the Force. Luke isn’t the first Jedi to venture into this realm. Elzar Mann, a prominent Jedi from the High Republic era, greets Luke. We learn this fungal network creates Force echoes of Jedi who’ve visited. It’s essentially created an archive of Jedi minds for other Jedi to tap into. Elzar is the first to greet Luke. This is a pretty huge addition to the tools and archives the Jedi are able to tap in their quest to understand the Force. It’s likely we’ll see a greater explanation in future High Republic stories. I’m a big fan of this idea, an organic hive mind of Jedi through a mycelial network! It’s so cool!
This echo of Elzar shouldn’t be mistaken for a Force ghost. The representation of Elzar is only aware of the knowledge and events the actual Elzar knew when he took a dive in the Sea of Gazian. The living vergence Elzar speaks through can guide Luke through memories of the collective knowledge. Soule never specifies where Elzar was when he tapped into this vergence, but it’s after the events of The Rising Storm, as Elzar relates to the moment when Luke touched the dark side in the cave on Dagobah. As Luke presses for more, Elzar decides to share his stories and the ones he’s been told.
Luke gets a glimpse of the Jedi Temple of the High Republic era. We also get some specificity that the Sith War ended eight-hundred years before Light of the Jedi. Elzar acknowledges he’s not sure what’s become of the Jedi in Luke’s era, but states it’s probably not good if Luke is searching for any information he can get. Another important point Elzar makes is the Jedi are NOT the Force. The Jedi are guides to the Force, but Elzar lets Luke know there are other paths, and that doesn’t mean they are all evil because they’re not through the Jedi. The High Republic Jedi are much less rigid and dogmatic than the prequel-era Jedi who Luke’s teachings stem from.
Artist Marco Castiello gives us a glimpse of the Sith Wars, along with several other eras of the Jedi as Elzar explains the role of the Jedi is to be whatever the galaxy needs them to be. Luke’s task is daunting, and Elzar encourages him to let the Force guide him, let the galaxy tell him what they need. Elzar explains Luke’s role at this point is to endure, be the last light left in the galaxy so it can shine bright again someday. Elzar reminds Luke he won’t be alone and he can tap into this network again — there will be many voices waiting for him. Before Luke leaves, he sees many familiar faces who’ve been there before him. That frame is worth the price of the issue alone, so I won’t spoil it here.
As Luke returns to the corporeal, he sees remains of other Jedi who never returned and lost themselves in the mycelial network. One of them is holding a book, and Luke grabs it while climbing back to the surface. This will likely serve as Luke’s guide to the next point in his journey.
This issue is very special. For a while, I’ve felt some of the comics were stuck in place, just going through the motions of space opera. Charles Soule adds some real depth to the character of Luke Skywalker, launching him into a new phase of his journey. I love the use of this vision and imagine it will only take him to more exciting places. The connection to Elzar Mann and those stories will likely mean a lot to folks who’ve been devoting so many hours to The High Republic. The connection between this two eras certainly could’ve been mishandled, but I feel Soule did it in a unique and very meaningful way. Can’t wait for the next part of Luke’s journey!