REVIEW: Star Wars – The High Republic – Edge of Balance, Vol. 1 (2021)

A Manga By Shima Shinya (Author), Justina Ireland (Author), Mizuki Sakakibara (Illustrator)

I have been really impressed with the Star Wars multimedia Event – The High Republic. Usually stuff like this fizzles out really fast or never lives up to the original intention, but seeing all of the comics, audio dramas, novels, and even children’s books get released under this banner has made me more excited to be a Star Wars fan than I have been in a long time. Between this and the recent TV output surpassing most people’s wildest expectations, its a great time to be a fan. While there have been comics already, this is the first Japanese styled Manga released under the banner as of yet. While not Disney’s first foray into attracting the anime/manga demographic (there are already some Star Wars manga), it’s perhaps one of my favorites so far.

“In the aftermath of the Hyperspace Disaster, young Jedi Knight, Lily Tora-Asi is assigned to help displaced civilians relocate to Banchii, a newly inhabited planet in the Inugg system far in the outer rim. Banchii is the site of a new Jedi temple led by Master Arkoff, Lily’s Wookiee mentor, who imagines the temple as a place of peace for new inhabitants and for those who are traveling beyond. While balancing the arrival of incoming settlers with the strange mysteries of this remote outpost, Lily wonders if she’s doing enough to bring peace to the galaxy. But when hidden dangers begin to emerge, the young Jedi will face her greatest challenge yet . . .”

If you take into account the timeline for this, the events of Edge of Balance take place roughly after most everything else we’ve read up to this point, or at least after the events of the various comics we’ve had so far, but before the new audio drama, Tempest Runner. The chief antagonists for this book are the intelligent carnivorous plant species The Drengir, first seen in Into The Dark and later the main comic from Marvel. While this book doesn’t tread much new ground with the established chronology, it was cool to see how the The Drengir have been able to attack so many planets at the same time, and who may be lying in wait to capitalize on the situation.

Lily Tora-Asi is an interesting character because she has issues with herself, and is fearful that her flaws (most notably stubbornness) might impact her ability to take care of the remote farming settlement in the outer-rim that she has been assigned to. She is left, at the end of this book, with somewhat of a “field promotion” and is not sure she can handle it. This sets her apart from a similar character, Vernestra Rwoh, which some have accused of being a bit of a “Mary Sue”. I don’t feel that’s fair, because even the Vern character shows up mostly in books for younger readers, and those ALWAYS tend to have characters like that, and she makes decisions that she gets called out on, which somewhat tarnishes her “I’m perfect” appearance. I only mention this because I see most new Star Wars characters being attached to that label and it irks me. The crowd that seem to hate ANY female Star Wars character, no matter what they do are not people I associate with. So far Lily, at least is a fully fleshed-out character.

There is a slight attempt to make Lily appear Japanese in her mannerisms, stoicism, style of light-saber, and even a vague Asiatic appearance. This is however very mild, and simply acts as a way to make this seem more “Manga” than the other comics by marvel and IDW. I groan usually when they do stuff like this, but it’s done with enough care that they avoid the trope of having “Space Japan”, unlike other similar productions. Lily’s two-saber fighting style was cool, as well was her ability to defeat the Drengir with what basically amounts to a fire tornado. Definite Avatar: The Last Airbender vibes there.

I enjoyed this quite a bit, and it might honestly be my favorite of the three comic storylines I’ve read so far. It’s not bogged down with tons of new characters, nor does it go astray from the main two storylines currently running in this phase of The High Republic, which is always a plus. It ends on a crazy cliffhanger, showing that the next volume might just be a wild ride, and even includes a bonus story to acquaint the reader with lore from the farming planet of Banchii. While this is rated teen, I didn’t really see any reason a kid wouldn’t like this, and it is perhaps the most “kid-friendly” of all of the comics so far. I would definitely recommend this, if you are enjoying this storyline.

If you would like a copy of this yourself, click HERE.

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