Phase One of the High Republic is over.
The massive Star Wars storytelling initiative that launched in January 2021 wrapped up its first of three planned phases recently, and the first phase included a staggering nine books, five comic series spanning 38 combined issues, two manga books, an audio drama, and a few short stories. The team of storytellers, which includes Charles Soule, Cavan Scott, Claudia Gray, Daniel José Older, and Justina Ireland, have done a masterful job of building a new yet familiar universe, in a brand new era and with brand new characters. There are a lot of standout characters, but in my mind, the biggest star of phase one was Keeve Trennis.
She’s the main character of the 15 issue The High Republic comic series written by Scott, and in it we see her go from a padawan fearful she’s failed her trial all the way to the one who is, quite literally, left to ensure the light of the Jedi remains standing.
We first meet Keeve as she’s facing her Jedi Trials, which she passes in an unconventional manner, saving an indigenous species from undetected frequencies transmitted by the new Starlight Beacon. She becomes closely connected with Marshal Avar Kriss, and Keeve (along with her master, Sskeer, and the Jedi twins Terec and Ceret) join Kriss’s crusades against the Drengir. Keeve plays a pivotal role in this crisis, and without her the Jedi would not have eradicated the threat. She’s the one who stumbles upon the Drengir on Sedri Minor and rescues Ceret; she’s the one who bravely enters the Drengir Hive Mind and discovers the location of the Great Progenitor; and she’s the one who arrives at just the right moment to rescue Avar Kriss from the Great Progenitor – leading to the defeat of the enemy.
The victory is short-lived, however, after the Nihil attack on the Republic Fair on Valo. Keeve is furious at what she perceives as Jedi inaction and stands up to Council Member Stellan Gios, telling him as much. She goes undercover to infiltrate the Nihil, but her cover is blown and Lourna Dee brings Keeve and Terec face-to-face with the Nameless – the feared and mysterious Nihil weapon that is devastating to Jedi. They were rescued by Kriss, Sskeer, and the team, but the fight against the Nihil was not over. Later, the Jedi launched an attack on the Great Hall of the Nihil in an effort to capture Dee, whom they presumed to be the Eye of the Nihil. In the attack Avar began killing in cold blood, out for revenge on the Nihil, but it was Keeve who stood up to her, dueling her until Avar came to her senses. Then, as Avar went for the killing blow on Dee, it was Keeve who intervened, saving Lourna’s life (and, in a different sense, Avar’s as well). They brought Dee as a prisoner to the Starlight Beacon… just as the station was rocked with explosions. The Jedi strike force infiltrated the station to see how they could help, where they were again confronted with the Nameless. Sskeer, whose connection to the Force was waning, held them off. Keeve rescued Terec and Ceret, and she reunited with Avar on the planet’s surface – where a devastated Avar collapsed into Keeve’s arms in grief.
There’s no question that Keeve Trennis has had the best character arc so far in the High Republic, and I’m not even sure there’s a close second. We’ve seen her grow from a Padawan into one of the Jedi Order’s most exemplary Knights. Avar Kriss is the light of the Jedi, the Hero of Hetzal, the one that everyone in the Order and in the galaxy seems to look to for hope and for guidance; it’s Avar’s song that unites the others. But it’s no coincidence that this series ends with Avar being held up by Keeve, overcome with sorrow. It’s a visual representation of what the reader has already seen play out over the series, that Keeve is in many ways the most brilliant beacon of light, and that’s in part because of how she holds up Avar. Keeve stands up to her hero and actually fights off Avar when the Marshal is driven to kill, but Keeve also responds with understanding and compassion, telling Avar that, “Not everyone can be perfect all of the time. Not even you. None of us are infallible. Thinking we are leads only [to the dark side].”
Keeve has strong bonds of friendship and loyalty that make her all the stronger. She shares a special connection with her master, Sskeer, and she grows particularly close to him and protective of him as he begins losing his connection with the Force and teetering with rage. In an emotional moment the two share near the end of the series, she tells him that she will make him proud and will be his legacy. But to this, he responds, “No, Keeve. That’s the last thing you ssshould be. This isn’t about me. It’s about you. You need to follow your own path… create your own legacy. Become your own Jedi. That has been the reward of every master sssince before the dawn of the Luminous… the greatest reward of all…”
She forms strong friendships with others too, like Avar Kriss, Ceret, and Terec, and every step of the way she is willing to defend her friends and stand up for them – while also not being afraid to stand up to them. She has strong convictions and tons of compassion. And she holds fast to the light, to hope, amidst dark times. In the very first issue, she says, “There’s always hope, Kanrii, sometimes you just have to work for it.” Over the next 15 issues, she does indeed need to work for that hope, but she does: even after the Great Disaster, even after the attack on the Republic Fair, even after thinking she failed her Trials, even after her master’s struggles, even after struggling to believe that she measures up to the Jedi, even after her harrowing encounters with the Drengir, the Nihil, and the Nameless, even after seeing her two teachers (Sskeer and Avar) struggle to hold to the light, even after haunting visions that have her facing off with the Sith and seeing all hope lost, even after the fall of Starlight it seems – even through all of that, Keeve Trennis holds on to hope. Keeve holds on to the light.
I’d go so far as to say that in these 15 issues, Keeve’s story is one of the very best, most engaging, and most well-told stories we’ve ever gotten about a Jedi padawan growing into a strong Knight of the Order. We haven’t actually seen it happen a ton (most of it happens in-between stories that we’re told in the Star Wars universe), but here we actually get to see it. And it’s fantastic.
There’s a ton to love about the High Republic so far, but Keeve Trennis is at the top of the list. In my opinion, she’s the most compelling character from the era so far, and I can’t wait to see where her story goes from here – especially since it appears we know where it winds up eventually. Like I said at the beginning, one of the best things that these writers have done in this first phase of the era is establish some legitimately great characters, and it makes so much of the rest of the storytelling work.
The High Republic is awesome. And although there are many reasons why, Keeve Trennis is one of the very biggest and best.