This review was originally posted on The Geeky Waffle, and has been reposted here with permission.
It seems unbelievable that it took Star Wars this long to get an original manga story.
There have been adaptations of The Legend of Luke Skywalker, Leia: Princess of Alderaan, Lost Stars and Guardians of the Whills, but Star Wars canon gets its first manga story designed for that specific medium with Shima Shinya and Justina Ireland’s The High Republic: The Edge of Balance.
Manga feels like a very natural fit for a Star Wars story. Beyond the Japanese roots of Star Wars itself, the medium allows for the same kind of dynamic movement we see in comic books, but with a unique visual style. Mizuki Sakakibara’s art lends a beautiful touch, visually conveying the balance the story finds between the philosophical aspects of communing with the Force, and the more action heavy side of things that we’ve come to expect from Star Wars.
Set initially after the Hyperspace Disaster, The Edge of Balance is focused not on the core worlds and the heart of the action as the novels are, but rather on the frontier world of Banchii, where settlers and refugees are being relocated in the hopes of starting over. Leading the resettlement effort is Jedi Knight Lily Tora-Asi. Accompanied by her Padawan Keerin, her mentor Master Arkoff, and two younglings named Viv’nia and Nima, Lily strives to maintain that balance between training the next generation of Jedi, and fulfilling her duty to the order, while also doing right by the people under her care.
Idyllic as Banchii may seem, it is not immune from the threats haunting the rest of the galaxy. Soon after arriving with the last of the settlers, the community is faced with a Drengir infestation and attack. Unable to figure out how the Drengir even got there, Lily spearheads an investigation, aided not only by the Jedi of the Banchii temple, but by newly-arrived settlement medic Dr. Silar. Also there to provide some insight is Master Stellan Gios, who stops by to shed some light on the issue, and bring news from the wider galaxy.
Character-wise, Stellan Gios is the only connective tissue between The Edge of Balance and the rest of the High Republic. While I appreciate his presence on a personal level, I also acknowledge the strength of allowing this series to tell a story completely apart from the rest. This is the golden age of the Jedi after all. Why not branch out as far as possible?
As a protagonist, Lily Tora-Asi joins the ranks of some of the High Republic’s greats. Despite her young age, she consistently strives to do the best by those around her, pushing through her own trauma related to the Hyperspace Disaster. Though she wasn’t on Valo when the Nihil attacked, it’s hard to believe the weight of the lives lost won’t press on her in some way. Especially when they’re being related to her by Stellan, the Hero of Valo himself.
In a lot of ways, Lily is reminiscent of Vernestra Rwoh – another character of Ireland’s. It’s not just that both of them are very young, and are not only knights, but masters with padawans. It’s also not that they have extremely cool lightsaber designs (Lily wields two lightsabers with beautiful circular crossguards). Rather, it’s because both of them take on a very heavy burden of responsibility, their own needs taking a backseat to those who may have need of them. Many have expressed concern at Vernestra crashing and burning, and I’d venture to say we should worry about Lily as well.
Volume 1 ends on a cliffhanger that answers as many questions as it brings up, connects the story to the conflict as a whole and makes the wait for volume 2 feel that much longer.
The Edge of Balance vol. 1 is available now.
Special thanks to Viz Media for the advance copy for review purposes.
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