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Graphic Novel Review: Star Wars: The High Republic – Trail of Shadows – Daniel José Older (writer), David Wachter (artist), Giada Marchisio (colors)

A beautifully written and illustrated stand-alone story in the ever-expanding Star Wars: The High Republic initiative.

While Star Wars’ The High Republic initiative is meant to be a multimedia project where you can pick up the story through novels, comics, or audiobooks, and theoretically just read the main “adult” novels and get the whole story, my main complaint with the initiative is that this just isn’t true. Characters introduced in novels nearly disappear from future novels to become main characters in comics, and important incidents fleshed out in comics are brought up in novels with little background info for those who might not have read the comics. Basically, although I love the overarching story of The High Republic, I understand why new readers are completely confused about how and where to start reading.

Trail of Shadows almost avoids this–almost, because the very first panel is a major spoiler for the end of one of the novels, and the very last panel is a spoiler for another. However, the rest of the story stands beautifully alone, mostly owing to the fact that the two main characters, Jedi Emerick Caphtor and civilian private eye Sian Holt are completely new to The High Republic, so readers don’t need to worry about missing any important backstory regarding those characters. Emerick and Sian find themselves investigating the murder of a renowned Jedi Master, and Older frames this as a classic noir detective story–not something often seen within the Star Wars franchise.

Shrii ka rai ka rai…we’re coming to take you away…

Ancient Star Wars nursery rhyme

Older’s writing can be a little divisive, or at least that’s what I get from reading other reviews and comments on his past works. I think it’s because he cuts a lot of nuance out of his plots and goes straight to the heart of whatever he’s trying to portray to the reader without a lot of fluff involved. While I, too, sometimes enjoy a long, winding, 850+-page story (see: Outlander and A Game of Thrones), those aren’t the types of stories I want to read all the time. I appreciate Older’s straightforwardness, especially within a franchise that spans countless movies, novels, TV shows, video games, and comics.

The plot brings us through the gritty underworld of capital city-planet Coruscant, where many fans have been dying for the franchise to explore in-depth for years. As this is a short 5-issue miniseries, we don’t get to fully dive into the underworld, but it’s great to see the seedier side of the capital of the Star Wars universe. A creepy nursery rhyme that characters remember or hear at key moments throughout the story punctuates some of the darker moments and ties the whole plot together. Emerick, a Jedi forbidden to form attachments, and Sian begin having feelings for each other, and this is one point where I wish Older would expand a little on his writings–another couple of scenes of those two growing closer would really sell their budding romance, which felt a little thin at the end. Not every romance has to have long, gushing monologues about love, but perhaps because this was a miniseries I didn’t feel like they had enough time to explore their relationship.

Nevertheless, I’m always excited for more of The High Republic era, and Older is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors from the initiative. Trail of Shadows, by its basically stand-alone nature, is a refreshing addition to the ever-expanding High Republic era, and I greatly appreciate that I don’t have to remember tons of plot details from other stories to enjoy it. I can’t wait to see what the next round of books and comics will explore when The High Republic stories resume publication in a few months.

Disclaimer: I purchased the print version of this graphic novel on my own because I am a gigantic Star Wars fan. I was not paid for this review, and all opinions are my own.

Title: Star Wars: The High Republic – Trail Of Shadows
Author: Daniel José Older
Artists: David Wachter (artist), Giada Marchisio (colors)
Publication date: 12 April 2022
Print Length: 120 pages
Marie’s Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

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