SPOILER REVIEW - "The High Republic #4: There is No Fear: Ch IV: Song of the Drengir" by Cavan Scott
This was a very straight forward issue with a few really good surprises, although one honestly felt a bit like a cop out. There were also a couple of places where things didn't match up but overall Cavan Scott is still doing a bangup job in bringing the High Republic to life in comic book form! Additionally, the artwork was beautiful and displayed the horror our heroes were going through at the "hands" of the Drengir with aplomb!
We start off with a brief flashback into Sskeer's (the Trandoshan Jedi) training of Keeve on Kirima in the Mid-Rim 6 years previous. Sskeer asks his Padawan to leap from one side of a cliff to the other across a large ravine. Keeve thinks, "[He was] always there to catch me when I fell. To put me back on track. He was my rock. My universe... How could it have gone so wrong?" This flashback and the accompanying thoughts from Keeve led me to believe there was going to be some dark and sinister reasoning for Sskeer succumbing to the Drengir, Something complicated and full of Force lore or at least a deep and mysterious personal struggle...but...no...at least not for the time being, it did seem as if he was about to get more vulnerable and personal with how he's been feeling and what he's been dealing with since the Battle of Kur, but Avar Kriss cuts him off because of the immediate danger they face.
Which leads me to the surprise I wasn't too keen on. Turns out...Sskeer was semi-faking all along when it came to trapping his fellow Jedi and the small local boy down in the caverns with the Drengir on Sedri Minor in the "present" time. Sskeer goes on for awhile telling the story of how the Drengir came to be a threat, seeming to speak as one of them (I would've enjoyed a more Force-lore filled story than what we got--more on this below). And after Keeve pushes him and pushes him trying to save him, he's just like "Haha! But I was faking!" He actually proclaims, "That's just it my former Apprentisss...I did need to do it...to understand the true nature of these beings...and understand their weaknesses!" Although he does admit that the creatures almost overwhelmed him. Regardless, I felt like there was a ton of build up for something that didn't amount to much. But perhaps the personal struggles Sskeer wants to tell Keeve about will deepen the complexity of the situation once we find out what they are!
Side note: In becoming part of the Drengir, faking it or not, Sskeer's missing arm has been replaced with thick vines wrapped around each other. At one point, he acts as if whenever a lightsaber cuts through a Drengir, it hurts him as well, but the heroes escape the cave intact so I'm not sure if that was just a thread that didn't get picked up or what was going on. Also, Avar Kriss mentions that Sskeer had cut himself off from the Force which she knew because she didn't hear his song--something she's known for amongst the Jedi, hearing everyone as songs in the Force (see Charles Soule's adult novel Light of the Jedi for more on that). I just really want to know what in the heck is really going on with Sskeer and hope that the explanation we've gotten so far is not the full one.
As for the Drengir's backstory, here it is as told by Sskeer, "Once, the Drengir ssspread across the galaxy feasting on flesh and bone wherever it wasss found. The harvest was abundant. The harvest was plentiful. Others saw our power and reaped alongside usss, working together for the greatest gain. But nothing lasts forever. Sssoon they betrayed us, as was their nature...sssoon they paid the price. Fearing what they could not kill, they plotted against us...they trapped the firsst of us within their totems, forcing her to sleep... And while the Great Progenitor slept, we slept also beneath the ground. Until travelers stumbled upon the Progenitor...waking her from her ssslumber...waking us all." During this tale we get a glimpse of the Amaxine Station from Into the Dark by Claudia Gray and 4 hooded statues surrounding 3 Drengir with an array of hooded figures looking on. I would assume these are supposed to be the 4 totems that the Jedi found on the Amaxine Station in Into the Dark but they are far too large to be the same ones and the Into the Dark ones are also highly decorated with jewels and are distinctly 4 different species. But the juxtaposition of images of the station and the statues is just too coincidental... And the "travelers" who woke the Progenitor are most likely Cohmac, Orla, and crew--also from Into the Dark--who removed the totems and knocked the Drengir out of stasis. I'm loving the interconnectedness if in fact that's what it is...hopefully I'm not crazy stretching!! I also desperately want to know more about this relationship between the Sith and the Drengir as I just find it simply fascinating. I mean, the Sith are genuinely terrified of these creatures...but what happened to bring out that fear??
The second surprise is that the dead Hutt filled with blaster holes that was taken to Starlight Beacon for autopsy is actually physically infested with Drengir and what we witness is super reminiscent of Alien! Major creep factor. So...Starlight Beacon is now being attacked from the inside by a new breed of beast that seems impossible to kill...
The third surprise is Kal Sulman, the sketchy leader of Sedri, has not made any sort of arrangement with the Nihil or the Drengir as it appears the case may be...but with the Hutts of all people!!! And I'm not talking Jabba-style Hutt, I'm talking gladiator style Hutt! This dude is wearing mech armor, he's got a necklace of skulls around his neck, and he's flanked by two rancor-riding Gamorreans with axes!! This is some really fantastic worldbuilding and artwork here!! And I cannot wait to see how much butt this suped up Hutt is going to kick.
Despite a few less than mind-blowing "reveals" there was some truly wonderful plot and art in this issue. And I'm stoked to see where it goes from here!!
SCORE: 8/10 because of potential cross-media connections and the bada** Hutt!!
"The High Republic #4: There is No Fear: Chapter IV: Song of the Drengir" written by Cavan Scott, illustrated by Ario Anindito, Mark Morales, and Annalisa Leoni
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