SPOILER REVIEW: "The High Republic #3: There is No Fear, Chapter III: Down Below" by Cavan Scott
This High Republic series is still going strong with surprises, darkness, and really well fleshed out characters. You could even say that Issue #3 has taken a swan dive into horror!! The artwork displays the creepy/spooky factor with aplomb and really pulls you in to the story. As for the title, "Down Below" certainly works since they all find themselves in the depths of a tunnel system leading away from a sinkhole when taken literally, and they find themselves struggling with deep darkness when taken figuratively. But "There is No Fear"? Not so much...there's a lot of fear, nearly too much to go around, leading all our heroes to end up in a very deadly situation...
We start on the Jedi starship the Ataraxia which has landed on Sedri Minor to check in with Sskeer and the disappeared Ceret. Ceret's twin Terec is aboard the ship and is losing it big time, foaming at the mouth and saying things like, "The darkness grows. It must be fed. It must be nourished." Because of the twins' psychic connection, Terec is mentally dealing with the same thing that Ceret is physically dealing with back in the crop field where Ceret vanished... Avar Kriss does what she can to calm the poor Terec down. It doesn't help matters that Sskeer is acting very un-Jedi-like and making everybody nervous in saying things like "Damned fool has lost his mind." to which Avar Kriss responds, "Fool? Terec isn't the one who butchered a Nihil in cold blood. Or who lost Ceret within minutes of making planetfall." Ouch!! Turns out that Sskeer is destined to face some very hard truths in regards to his place in the Jedi Order and that saying I'm sorry isn't going to get him anywhere. I really do feel for the guy--he's going through a lot but as a Jedi Master, so much more is expected of him than the average person in regards to emotional and mental control. I just don't think he can handle the pressure at this point.
Poor Keeve is left to stand watch outside the ship and bear witness to her former Master's (Sskeer) slow disintegration. She's devastated and doesn't know what to do. Several villagers come to her with food with a sincere thanks and willingness to help out as four citizens have disappeared and the people have no clue what has become of them. But Speaker Sulman will have none of it and declares his people don't need the help of the Republic or the Jedi and that they're just coming up with bizarre tall tales and nothing creepy is afoot. His intensity and stubbornness has cowed the people into not reaching out for help when they need it the most. Of course this does not deter our brave and determined Keeve Trennis!
Needless to say, Keeve heads off into the dying crop field to search for Ceret, coming across a young boy named Bartol along the way. They find Ceret alright, but they also discover a terrifying botanical monster called the Drengir!!! These suckers are drenched in the dark side, call sentients "meat", and are basically "Little Shop of Horrors"-style Audrey Two beasties. It's a bit derivative honestly, but I'm intrigued to see how the story develops around them. As for Sskeer, I'm not sure if the Drengir are affecting him from afar or if something else is up with him. Perhaps the Drengir are just able to get into his brain so readily because of his PTSD from the Battle of Kur. Either way, he appears to be doomed...
The Drengir made their first appearance in "A Bitter Harvest," a short story found in the Dark Legends anthology. It was a fabulously creepy tale that really stood out to me and I can't believe I hadn't made the connection until now! They've also of course made an appearance in Into the Dark (the High Republic young adult novel by Claudia Gray which I'm still only about halfway through) and by default, many years later, appear in "The Rise of Kylo Ren" short run comic series as Snoke has taken up residence in the same space station that the main characters of Into the Dark visit. The groundwork for these villains was put into play a long time ago and we are now getting to see its fruits which is so much fun!
We end this issue with Ceret, Keeve, Avar, and Bartol vs. Sskeer and the Drengir in a tunnel that snakes out from a big sink hole in the middle of the rotting crop field. Will Sskeer be able to overcome the darkness?? Or has it consumed him for good??... And where is Terec in all this?? I can't wait to find out the answers!!
Before I go, I'd like to also point out that Phil Noto's cover art perfectly encapsulates this issue and that was such a pleasure to see!!
MY SCORE: 7.5/10 - I really did enjoy this issue as I love when tales delve into the darkness! But the Audrey Two-ness of the Drengir is really throwing me off. They even have similar aesthetics with a large beak-like mouth and both yell out their need for "meat." Oh well, as I already said, I'm excited to see what happens from here...
"The High Republic: There is No Fear, Chapter III: Down Below" written by Cavan Scott, illustrated by Ario Anindito, Mark Morales, and Annalisa Leoni
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