IDW’s Star Wars: The High Republic Adventures has delivered an exhilarating annual collection, featuring stories from Charles Soule, Claudia Gray, Justina Ireland, Daniel Jose Older, and Cavan Scott. It is, in my opinion, a celebration of the work that they have gifted the world with over the past year, as each story is a mostly lighthearted glimpse into the lives of so many of the characters that we don’t typically get to see in the comics.
The first in the 2021 Annual is Charles Soule’s “Set for Life,” which takes us back to a time before he ripped our hearts out with Light of the Jedi. On the mining world of Elphrona, Master Greastorm teaches Bell a lesson about making decisions, cautions him not to expect perfection from others, and reminds him about the Jedi’s purpose to protect life and light. Bell’s beloved charhound Ember and Porter Engle even make minor appearances! The artwork in “Set for Life” was done by Sam Beck, with lettering by Johanna Natalie.
In Claudia Gray’s “No Stone Unturned” we see Leox and Affie making a mad dash through a maze as they try to escape from a dicey situation caused by their most recent job. Oh, treasure hunting gigs! They were apparently hired to retrieve a gemstone from the planet, which turned out to be a revered sun jewel. Even though they decided to return it to the people, they learn that their theft hindered a ceremony that dictates the success of the upcoming new year. Fortunately, Geode saves the day and the crew gets to share in the celebratory feast. The end of the story matches up neatly where Gray first introduced readers to this cast of characters in Into the Dark. This story was drawn by Jason Loo, with coloring by Megan Huang and lettering by Neil Uyetake.
“First Mission” by Justina Ireland is a prelude to her first High Republic era novel A Test of Courage and gives us a glimpse into the very first day that Vernestra was paired with Stellan Gios as her Master. We get to see that she has always been in a league of her own and that Stellan Gios has always been a dork. Verenestra accompanies Stellan and Master Lynela Kane-Oyu to the Hynestrian Royal Palace where a banquet is being held. Through this adventure, we get to see a little bit of Stellan teaching Vern about diplomacy and we get to see that the Hutts are always causing trouble, no matter where they go. It’s also such a fun glimpse into their Master-Padawan relationship and it seems to be the type of duo who can learn a lot from each other. The artwork was by Yael Nathan, with lettering by Neil Uyetake.
In “Crash and the Crew Do What They Do” by Daniel Jose Older, we are introduced to Crash, an unlikely member of Chancellor Lina Soh’s security detail, who has been tasked with ensuring that things go smoothly during one of her public appearances. Of course, things do not go smoothly—but Crash manages to save the day. It’s a really fun story that is a bit different than the other stories in the issue. Even the gorgeous artwork by Jesse Lonergan stood out as a very different approach, in contrast to the other tales.
To close out the 2021 Annual, Cavan Scott takes us to the Outer Rim in “The Haul” where Lourna Dee arrives, much to the chagrin of the Storm who is there looking to reap a bounty that will earn them favor with the Eye. Lourna has her own plans, but they are thrown into chaos when the Jedi Porter Engle stops them from breaking into the vault and taking their payload. The artwork in “The Haul” was done by Stefano Simeone with lettering by Nathan Widick.
I hope we get more prequel anthology annuals like this as we continue to move through The High Republic because it gives us a unique opportunity to see a side of the characters that we haven’t seen before, where they are untested by the trials that The High Republic has put them through.
Star Wars: The High Republic Adventures Annual is on sale now.