So many things have been rising in the Star Wars galaxy lately: the Resistance, Skywalker, and now Kylo Ren. With the climactic feature film installment Star Wars: – The Rise of Skywalker hitting theaters this week, it makes perfect sense that Lucasfilm would also partner with Marvel Comics to release a high-profile comic book that finally details the process by which Ben Solo transformed from a young Jedi-in-training to the future Supreme Leader of the First Order.
Star Wars: The Rise of Kylo Ren (the first issue of which arrived in comic shops on Wednesday) is, naturally, set prior to the events of The Force Awakens, and follows Padawan Ben as he confronts his fellow students, believes he killed his own Jedi Master Luke Skywalker, and reports to a mysterious being named Snoke. The series is intended to fill in some long-obscure gaps in the Star Wars sequel trilogy mythos, and does so by effectively jumping around in time within that narrative.
But we don’t quite begin at the Jedi Temple of Luke Skywalker, as the above image suggests. Instead the comic opens “Long Ago” with a newly introduced masked, heavily scarred character who simply identifies himself as “Ren,” though he clarifies that this is not his actual name. He is recruiting for a cult-like group in touch with the Force– which they refer to as “The Shadow”– but his methods seem to result in more deaths than members. The Ren is revealed to be this group’s name for the blade of a lightsaber (or the Kyber-crystal energy that creates it, I suppose) and they apparently worship it by eliminating anyone who doesn’t meet their club’s very strictly enforced standards.
Flash forward to “Now,” at the point where Ben Solo has just crushed Luke under his hut (as depicted via Rashomon-style flashbacks in Star Wars: The Last Jedi) and stands watching the Jedi Temple burn. Three other pupils return from off-planet to discover this scene, and they accost Ben, demanding to know what happened. As you might guess, this dispute doesn’t go smoothly for either party, and the remainder of the issue consists of an aggressive showdown followed by a pursuit across space, winding up at the eerily serene, garden-like domain of the creature played much more menacingly by Andy Serkis in the movies.
We don’t see the moment Ben first meets Snoke in this installment (subtitled “Chapter One”), but the “To Be Continued” tease at the end of the issue and the “On Sale Next” cover preview of #2 suggest that future chapters will continue to skip around in the timeline. We do learn that it was Luke who gave Snoke those scars and that Ben and his master had already encountered the Knights of Ren before their confrontation in the tent… both stories to be told in future issues, if I had to guess. It’s also made clear that Ben wasn’t the one who burned down the temple– a Dark Side cloud forms behind the structure as it explodes in a huge crack of lighting– the ostensible implication being that Snoke was behind the destruction, though The Rise of Skywalker sheds some more light on the likely true culprit.
Writer Charles Soule (Star Wars: Darth Vader – Dark Lord of the Sith) and artist Will Sliney (Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge) do a fantastic job of delivering the exact right tone and pacing this story requires. As the answers come, the mystery only deepens as I was left wanting to know more about the ancient Ren, Snoke’s deceptively peaceful demeanor, and the relationship between the Knights of Ren and Luke’s Jedi academy. In The Last Jedi, Luke says Ben killed most of his students and left with a few others. Did he mean the ones who are attempting to pursue him across the stars and bring him to justice? If so, what becomes of them? I’d always assumed the missing students were the Knights of Ren, but it sure appears as though I was mistaken. Either way, we’ll find out more when the second issue of this already-excellent series is published in mid-January.
Star Wars: The Rise of Kylo Ren #1 is available now wherever comic books are sold.
Mike serves as Laughing Place’s lead Southern California reporter, Editorial Director for Star Wars content, and host of the weekly “Who’s the Bossk?” Star Wars podcast. He’s been fascinated by Disney theme parks and storytelling in general since a very young age and resides in Burbank, California with his beloved wife and cats.