‘Star Wars: The Rise of Kylo Ren’ – Comic Book Review
Why Kylo Ren turned to the Dark Side, plus more questions about Kylo Ren answered…
“You’re no Vader — you’re just a child in a mask.”
Snoke’s dismissal of Kylo Ren in “The Last Jedi” cuts deep, just as the Supreme Leader intends it to. We can immediately see the rage and hurt simmering in Kylo’s eyes. He wants so badly to be seen as the heir to Sith Lord Darth Vader, but he can’t quite rid himself of his pull to his family, to Rey, and to the light side of the Force.
Kylo Ren is arguably the most fascinating character to be introduced in the Star War sequel trilogy. He’s tortured and complex, the son of two of the Rebellion’s greatest heroes — Leia Organa and Han Solo — who falls to the dark side.
While the films give us hints about Kylo Ren’s backstory, his past is explored in much greater — and even more tragic — depth in “The Rise of Kylo Ren,” a four-part comic book miniseries that wrapped up in March (the trade paperback is scheduled to come out in May). It’s written by Charles Soule and illustrated by Will Sliney, and the two of them are able to show what’s going on in Kylo Ren’s head in a wonderfully nuanced way.
These comics answer important questions about who Kylo Ren is, and why he turned to the dark side, and they make the story told in the films even more powerful.
Why Kylo Ren is a ‘bad villain’… and why Kylo Ren is a good character
Fans have been discussing Kylo Ren’s effectiveness as a villain ever since “The Force Awakens.” Although Kylo Ren/Ben Solo is one of my favorite Star Wars characters, I actually don’t think he’s that great at being a villain — and that’s exactly what makes him a great character.
When Kylo Ren tries to do something evil in the movies, we see how much it pains him. Killing his father tears him apart. Rey should be his enemy, but he falls in love with her. In “The Last Jedi,” he spares his mother because he can’t bring himself to fire on her starship (and he’s filled with horror when another pilot fires on her ship instead).
Kylo’s anger is often just a facade for his crippling self-doubt and self-loathing, which is illustrated very clearly in “The Rise of Kylo Ren” comic book series. His mind is slowly poisoned by Snoke, who we later learn is just a puppet of Emperor Palpatine.
How Kylo Ren turned evil
“The Rise of Kylo Ren” issue No. 1 provides more information about the night Ben Solo started down the path toward becoming Kylo Ren. We already saw brief flashbacks to this scene, from varying points of view, in “The Last Jedi” — it’s the night Ben assumes his uncle is trying to kill him, and Luke’s Jedi temple burns.
Some fans previously believed that Ben destroyed the temple and slaughtered the students who refused to turn to the dark side, but that’s not quite what actually happened.
Afraid and confused, Ben looks around at the burning temple. It’s not fully clear who set the temple on fire, though it’s sort-of implied the act of destruction was committed by the Knights of Ren, who make a brief appearance in “The Force Awakens” and have more screen time in “The Rise of Skywalker” as Kylo Ren’s grim, masked enforcers.
Even after this comic series, the Knights of Ren remain shrouded in some mystery, though I think that’s by design. What we don’t see is always scarier than what we do. The Knights of Ren follow their own code and use the Force to serve their own ends, seeking destruction for its own sake.
After the destruction of the Jedi temple, several of Luke’s other students confront Ben and blame him for what they assume is Luke’s death. Ben feels he has nowhere to turn but to Snoke, who’s been lying to Ben for some time and telling him no one really cares about him and that he will be the mentor Ben has always longed for.
Where did Kylo Ren get his name?
Snoke encourages Ben to seek out the Knights of Ren and prove that he’s a worthy servant of the dark side. However, if Ben is going to join the Knights of Ren, he’ll have to take a new name — his “true name,” ending “Ben Solo” once and for all.
Ben tells Snoke that he hates his given name. He’s named after a legendary Jedi Master, Obi-Wan “Ben” Kenobi, a man he’s never met with a legacy that’s impossible to live up to. And Ben’s last name doesn’t even have a legacy; in “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” we learn that name was just randomly assigned to Han by an Imperial recruiter.
Snoke wants Ben to reject all ties to his family and his past, so that he’s easier to isolate and manipulate. Ben thinks he’ll find freedom by joining up with the Knights of Ren and giving himself a new name, “Kylo Ren,” but this new title is just a different kind of bondage.
Even with his new name and a new mask, deep inside Kylo Ren is still Ben Solo. Although he thinks the dark side will give him the freedom and fulfillment he deeply craves, ironically it’s not until he embraces being Ben Solo once again in “The Rise of Skywalker” that he finds true balance within himself and within the Force.
This review covers issues No. 1 and 2 of “The Rise of Kylo Ren.” Check out part two of the review here!
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