In the fifth issue of Cavan Scott’s The High Republic comic series, we finally learn what’s been plaguing Jedi Master Sskeer – and it all leads up to a pretty big cliffhanger!
To recap where we’ve been, the Jedi faced off against the Drengir on Sedri Minor, with Sskeer being taken over by the carnivorous beasts and nearly defeated. To make matters worse, the Hutt Cartel shows up, claiming rulership of the planet. That’s where the previous issue ended, and it’s where this one picks up.
Let’s dive in!
The issue throws us right into the middle of the action, as Keeve Trennis tries to hold off a furious onslaught while Ceret tries to help some of the villagers escape… only to be stopped by a Gamorrean riding a Rancor, standing in their way. We then flash back to the beginning of the encounter, where we see Avar Kriss and Myarga the Benevolent, the representative of the Hutt Cartel, negotiating. Myarga claims the planet for the Hutts, saying that the villagers signed a contract. Kriss, meanwhile, maintains that this is not Hutt space. But Sskeer’s anger continues to boil, frustrated that Avar apparently isn’t doing anything – and so he acts, using the Force to attack Myarga. This causes the Hutt forces to come storming in. Kriss says that there are enough of them to start a war, but that it’s the Jedi’s job to stop it.
She contacts the Starlight Beacon to request aid, but the Jedi on the station have a problem of their own: they are trying to fend off a Drengir attack. Many on the station are already infected, and it appears that Imri Cantaros will be next – but his new master, Vernestra Rwoh, intervenes to try to save him. Both sides realize that they won’t be able to provide aid to the other, left to trust in the Force. Meanwhile, Ceret and Terec team up to take down the rancor, helping the villagers.
Sskeer continues to attack Myarga, and Avar tells Keeve that the Hutt Cartel won’t stop until he’s safe. So Keeve intervenes, desperately trying to get through to her embattled master. She uses her lightsaber to sever the plant arm the Drengir had given him, but that doesn’t help. The Drengir still control Sskeer, and he begins attacking Keeve. Soon, for a moment, Sskeer seems to return, and he confesses the truth to Keeve: his connection to the Force is fading. He was ashamed to admit it before, and he says that there’s really only one thing they can do to defeat the Drengir.
While that’s happening, the villagers approach Kalo, the leader who betrayed them by making these deals, and attack him – but a rancor shows up and disrupts it. Elsewhere, Avar convinces Myarga to team up with the Jedi to fight the Drengir by having the Starlight Beacon route the thousands of distress calls about the Drengir from across the galaxy to her, allowing Myarga to hear it – including, apparently, that Nal Hutta is under attack.
Sskeer tells Keeve that she can use his connection with the Drengir to tell the beasts that all of their meat is diseased, causing them to not want to eat them. Sskeer says that he trusts Keeve and lowers his defenses, allowing Keeve to use the Force to override his thoughts, sending the thoughts to the Drengir that they are unclean meat. On both Sedri Minor and the Starlight Beacon, the Drengir retreat, ceasing their attacks. While they wonder if it’s over, Avar cautions them that the Drengir never give up. Meanwhile, Keeve holds the unconscious body of Sskeer in her arms, frantically crying out that this wasn’t part of the plan.
For pretty much the entire run of this series so far, the big mystery has been about Sskeer. From the very first issue, it’s been clear that something isn’t right with him. Of course, he’s been through a lot in recent days, most notably the death of his close friend Jora Malli in battle against the Nihil. But there’s something more, something that has been eating at him, something that has been causing him to flirt with the dark side and move ever closer to succumbing to the darkness. That escalated in the last issue, when he was taken by the Drengir. He fought it, but it was nonetheless clear that he’s still struggling.
That came to focus again in this issue, and we finally got a very important and significant answer why: his connection with the Force is diminishing. He admits that there are things that have happened that he should have sensed but didn’t, and he was ashamed to admit it. This is very interesting, and it’s not something we’ve seen often in Star Wars, as a Jedi’s connection to the Force is actively weakening and declining. We know that this does happen (for example, Chiss Sky-walkers have a connection to the Force while they are young that fades as they age), but it’s rarely been the focus for a Jedi. And, of course, given the centrality and utmost importance of the Jedi being connected with the Force, that would be greatly problematic and concerning for a Jedi Master. And that’s an understatement.
What this doesn’t answer, however, is why Sskeer seems to be embracing the darkness more and more. After all, one would assume that if his connection to the Force was diminishing, so too would his connection to the dark side of the Force. But here’s where I’ll speculate: I wonder if Sskeer’s desperation and embarrassment over his predicament has left him open to the lure of the dark side, and I wonder if the dark side promises a stronger connection to the Force or something like that. It would explain the pull to the dark, as well as him being taken by the Drengir – he’s seeking to recapture his sensitivity to the Force, even if that means embracing some darkness. Of course that’s all speculation on my part, but I do think it makes some sense.
So you might say that we have a partial answer, but I’m sure there’s still more to come. But in the final page of this issue, we see that Sskeer is apparently unconscious, with Keeve frantically trying to get through to him. Keeve’s actions have had a dramatic – and dangerous – effect on her master. Here we see that Sskeer still wants to do what is right, willing to sacrifice himself to save others, so even though he’s conflicted, he’s not evil (yet). It’s a great plan and works well, but now Sskeer seems to be in an even worse spot than he was before.