Comic Review – “Star Wars: The High Republic Adventures” (2022) #4 and Free Comic Book Day 2023

I’m still in the process of catching up on Star Wars comic book issues that were released last week ahead of Star Wars Day on May the 4th, and another one got added over the weekend.

So in this review I’m going to cover both Star Wars: The High Republic Adventures, Volume II, #4 and the 2023 Free Comic Book Day issue of the same title, both written by Daniel José Older and released by Dark Horse Comics.

The High Republic Adventures (2022) #4 is another very fun issue following the Jedi Padawan Sav Malagán on her adventures with two warring groups of space pirates. This installment begins with pirate queen Maz Kanata having been captured by her rivals the Dank Graks, and Sav attempting to go undercover with that group to save her new mentor. The Graks and their leader Arkik Von are naturally distrusting of Sav, who is going by the name of Bazrip Ratht, so they put her (posing as a him) through a series of tests– including Bazrip’s background with a Force cult call the Central Isopter, his/her ability to use the Force, and Baz’s skill at combat against a group of deadly droids. Sav/Baz handily passes the tests and is granted a provisional membership in the Dank Graks, though not everyone on the team is happy about it. One member who is happy, however, is the Zabrak Saya Keem, who immediately takes Sav under her wing, giving her a tour of the Graks’ ship the Grim Devourer and revealing that she knows Sav is only pretending to be a boy. Sav and Saya bond quickly over their mutual status as outsiders among their own groups, while on another ship the Venomed Scabbard Maz’s crew travel to Jedha based on a tip Sav transmitted.

It seems the Dank Graks are one of a number of Force-using groups and cults that have been enlisted by the Path of the Open Hand to kick-start a war on the Pilgrim Moon, but even though our antiheroes got a tip-off from Sav they arrive too late to stop it. That gives us this issue’s cliffhanger ending (not to mention a crossover with other Phase II The High Republic offerings like The Battle of Jedha audio drama) as we wonder how Maz’s crew will deal with the conflict, and how Sav will go about completing the mission of rescuing Maz herself. Over the past few years I’ve learned to adjust my approach to reading Daniel José Older’s work in a different way than I do other Star Wars authors. His writing style leans more toward freewheeling fun and whimsical character interactions than anything else, and that’s definitely true of this issue– I really enjoyed getting to know the various members of the Dank Graks a bit better, and this story went a long way into humanizing some of that gang’s members, though they remain the central villain of this arc. Plus, Toni Bruno’s art (along with colorist Michael Atiyeh) really captures the spirit of what I believe Older is going for here, with an emphasis on heightened emotion and clear, precise action rather than the more complex plot machinations we might see in the output that’s targeted at adult audiences.

Then in The High Republic Adventures’ Free Comic Book Day 2023 issue, Older (alongside returning artist Harvey Tolibao) takes us back to Phase I of Lucasfilm’s ambitious publishing initiative, revisiting the character of Padawan Lula Talisola in a story, entitled “Starlight Coda,” that follows a group of Jedi during the Nihil’s devastating attack on the Republic space station Starlight Beacon. Lula, Qort, and Farzala try desperately to lead a class of younglings to safety as the station crashes from space to the planet Eiram below. I have to wonder why this issue wasn’t released on Free Comic Book Day 2022, which would have made much more sense coming just a few months after the conclusion of The High Republic Phase I, instead of more than a year as it stands. Maybe this was planned for last year and wasn’t finished in time? Either way, this is a really thrilling, if short, story that follows up on the characters we knew from The High Republic Adventures and briefly details what happens to them during the Starlight Beacon disaster as they face off against the Nihil and the Force-eating creatures called Levelers, even going so far as to have readers question the outcome for Lula Talisola and Nihil agent Krix Kamerat after the station disintegrates. I imagine we’ll learn more when Phase II begins this fall, and maybe that’s why we need the reminder right now. Still, it’s strange to have such consequential moments take place in a FCBD issue that fans could easily miss out on if they’re not paying attention. But hopefully the story, which ends on a cliffhanger, will be included in future collections of The High Republic Adventures.

Star Wars: The High Republic Adventures #4 is available now wherever comic books are sold.

Mike Celestino
Mike serves as Laughing Place's lead Southern California reporter, Editorial Director for Star Wars content, and host of the weekly "Who's the Bossk?" Star Wars podcast. He's been fascinated by Disney theme parks and storytelling in general all his life and resides in Burbank, California with his beloved wife and cats.