Exclusive art: Jedi Keeve Trennis hits the Nihil Occlusion Zone

Plus a look at an alternate opening for the High Republic, a path not taken...

Exclusive art: Jedi Keeve Trennis hits the Nihil Occlusion Zone

Hello there!

Straight out of the gate, I wanted to share an amazing piece of art by Jim Towe and Jim Campbell from Star Wars: The High Republic #4, on sale Wednesday 6th March. Keeve Trennis and the Ataraxia hit the Occlusion Zone... the Occlusion Zone hits back!

The funny thing about this moment is that I first wrote it... or at least an extremely similar scene, back in the original issue 1 of the original 2021 run, inventing the scav-droids for the opening pages of Star Wars: The High Republic #1... not that you've ever seen it.

Why? Well, I've talked about it before, but I wrote and submitted an entire first issue of that first comic, sending it in 27th March 2020 before thinking... that's not right. The story didn't hang together and it didn't give the introduction I needed for Keeve. The biggest difference was Keeve wasn't Sskeer's master. Looking back that seems incredible to me, but that piece of the puzzle hadn't fallen together yet, but it was definitely missing.

The issue - entitled 'A more civilised age' opened with the dedication of Starlight Beacon, Avar delivering the speech that we now see at the end of the issue that finally made it into people's hands.

And, as the Jedi raise their sabers and proclaim 'For Light and Life', we share Jedi Knight Keeve Trennis' thoughts...

You have no idea what it was like to be there. Hearing Master Kriss’s words. Feeling the eyes of the Galaxy upon you.
Your arm shaking, mouth dry, knowing what was expected of you.
Everywhere I looked, I was surrounded by legends. To my left…to my right…and in the middle of them all…me…barely a month since I took my Trials.
A Jedi Knight. Posted to the most important space station in the history of…well…anything.
But Avar Kriss was right. She is always right.
The Force was with us and the future was bright. A future filled with adventure, excitement and…

You turn the page and are immediately greeted by a spread of Keeve in a Jedi space suit wrestling with a Scav-Droid.

pest control?

It's a fun opening and obviously the concept of the scav-droids stuck with me as I would go on to finally introduce them in The Rising Storm.

Here's how they were described in that first script:

SCAV-DROIDS are Nihil droids that are blasted into space to pick satellites clean of tech. They are about the size of a wolf and shaped like a mechanical hermit crab, a profusion of pointed legs and manipulator arms bursting out of the metal ‘shell’ they use to store their loot.

There were other things in the scene that didn't make it: the ship Keeve took to the Azure Pass where the scav-droids were attacking 'Starlight communication nodes': The Rapscallion's Heart piloted by Vane Sarpen and his bodyguard droid, VP-8R, fluent in over six million forms of violence.

I even made a very poor attempt at designing a look for Keeve's spacesuit, which I'm almost embarrassed to share here...

That chest piece was obviously a call-back (or call-forward) to Anakin's armour in the Clone Wars. There was also a note that, unlike the 'sketch' which showed the armour as brown, it should be 'gleaming' like Arthur's armour in John Boorman's Excalibur.

Elsewhere, Avar, Sskeer, Vernestra and Imri were heading to a planet called Carnagra where disaster was about to strike, Sskeer making his opinion of Keeve abundantly clear:

What a grumpy old Trandoshan!

Off the script went to the Marvel editors, but I wasn't happy, although I couldn't put my finger on why. Then the pandemic shut everything down and work on the comic stopped temporarily as the call went out to comic creators to 'pencil down.'

It was the pause I needed. The pause the script needed. During the hiatus, I went back and re-read that monologue by Keeve and realisation struck. Instead of hearing about her knighting and how much she was in awe of Avar Kriss we needed to see both... which would mean introducing her master, whoever that was. No sooner as the thought crossed my mind than I realised we'd already met her master in my original draft... not that they had been seen together.


Why hadn't I thought of that before? Sskeer's tragic future was already mapped out, but making Keeve his padawan would give the planned trauma the emotional core it was lacking, their relationship becoming the bedrock not just of their individual stories, but of the series as a whole.

I went away and rewrote issue one from scratch, losing the Rapscallion's Heart and their crew (although they would go on to appear in one of my Star Wars Insider stories), out went the scav-droids and back we went to Padawan Keev Trennis conducting her trials alongside the Master she always should have had. The greenlight hadn't yet been given to the changes, but I sent it in anyway on 2nd July 2020.

An enthusiastic thumbs up immediately came back and we were off.

Four years on, the story we'd be telling now would've been very different if inspiration hadn't struck and, boy-oh-boy, am I glad that I went back to the drawing board.

Sometimes you just know what you have to do to put a story right, even if you can't see the solution straight away. At those moments, you have to take a step back and let it percolate, your brain re-arranging the pieces until – wham – the answer is staring you into your face.

It's a kind of magic. Maybe, even the Force!

All that said, I'm glad that Keeve is finally facing those pesky droids. Here's the solicitation for the issue which is out next week:

JEDI MASTER KEEVE TRENNIS has disobeyed direct orders from CORUSCANT and entered NIHIL space. Her mission: to find and save a soul thought lost.
Familiar faces from PHASE I of STAR WARS: THE HIGH REPUBLIC return…but not as they used to be!

Make sure you head to your local comic book store to pick it up!

That's all for this week, a quick one as I've got a busy few days rushing from one meeting to the next. Maybe I'll be able to tell you about some of them next week when we return for the usual mix of updates, news and your questions answered!

Until then, take care (and watch out for those scav-droids!)