Over the last decade, Star Wars has done an immensely satisfying job of adding depth to its villains. Through comics and television, a character with as few lines and as little screen time as Darth Maul has risen from a fiendish one-off villain to a character with emotional ties and pathos. Charles Soule and Will Siney’s The Rise of Kylo Ren #3 is following through on this trend by continuing to change our image of Kylo Ren, shifting him from conflicted to full on victim. The Ben Solo we’ve gotten in the comics is young, impressionable, and sensitive. Most every move he’s made has been out of desperation. All of his actions seem colored by a shade of remorse that The Knights of Ren and Snoke want to bury under a layer of darkness.
We catch up with Ben when he tracks down OG Ren and his crew at a seedy outer rim dive bar where the Knights explain to Ben that one must deliver a good death in order to join their ranks. Ben proceeds to tell the story of how he killed a Jedi. Much like the Jedi Temple from the first issue, Ben’s act of aggression is mostly an accident. Yes, the person died because of him, but the lightsaber wasn’t his or even thrown by him. As a matter of fact, his former classmate died because Ben was trying to save someone else. His first kill is hardly a kill at all, but rather a horrible accident. Ben then casts his remaining two classmates aside before making his escape. Much of this is used to build his reputation as a monster in the films, but it is actually more of a domino effect from brief moments of fear. As you might guess, The Knights don’t qualify this as a good kill but agree to take the boy in on Snoke’s recommendation.
Injecting Ben’s backstory with so much unfortunate circumstance and exploitation makes many of his darker moments all the sadder. Much like Anakin, it feels as though Ben ends up on the darkside out of necessity. Anakin does so because he thinks it will save Padme and Ben does so because it feels like the only thing he can do. It builds sympathy but also makes the darkside less seductive and more manipulative, for better or worse. The morals of the universe don’t always make perfect sense, but I get it in service of adding sympathy to these characters. All in all, this comic has done a solid job of making Ben’s transition into Kylo Ren a legitimate tragedy. When we see Ben next he’ll be off with the Knights of Ren who took him under their wing on one condition: he serves up the freshest look in the Star Wars universe- all black with the lightsaber on the back and a blaster hanging from his side. It’s the perfect mix of Luke’s ROTJ look and that classic Solo smugglers swagger. In the next issue, Ben will presumably make his full transition into Kylo Ren and, if Soule and Sliney continue to make the story as nuanced as it’s been, it has all the makings of something truly special.
Rating: 8.5* out of 10
*a full additional point was added for Ben’s outfit