J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is a bumpy ride across the finish line of the Skywalker Saga, but there’s a silver lining for fans of the 40-year franchise: there are enough ripped-open cans of worms and intentional plot holes to fill Expanded Universe material for the next century. In fact, Marvel’s already publishing books that deepen the story of Episode 9. The Rise of Kylo Ren #1, out this week, not only picks up with Ben Solo after Luke Skywalker makes the conflicted decision to off his padawan, but delves into the history of The Knights of Ren and Supreme Leader Snoke, with whom we know the Jedi will one day shack up.
[Ed. note: this post contains minor spoilers for The Rise of Kylo Ren #1, but no spoilers for The Rise of Skywalker.]
We don’t know much about the Knights despite being three movies (and one Disney Plus series) into the post-Return of the Jedi future. Introduced in The Force Awakens, the Force-wielding soldiers are cronies of Kylo Ren. But not really: until The Rise of Skywalker, we don’t see much of the Knights in action, and even in the new installment, they’re more like obsidian versions of the Emperor’s Royal Guard than a secret order of combatants. They look cool. That’s good enough in a Star Wars movie.
In an interview with StarWars.com, Charles Soule describes the look of the Knights as combining motorcycle gangs, classic Westerns, and Samurai tales. In theory, The Rise of Kylo Ren will finally bring depth to the characters, as the book wades through history spanning the destruction of Luke Skywalker’s Jedi temple and the opening of The Force Awakens. The first issue sets up the mystery with blunt force.
The Rise of Kylo Ren opens “long ago,” as a battle rages on an icy planet. We meet “Ren,” the vein-popping leader of the Knights, as he tries to lure a new Force to the Dark Side. According to Soule, the Knights aren’t powerful Force users like Jedi or Sith, but they can float enough sharp objects through the air to ruin an adversary’s day.
The Knights find purpose in the pursuit of death. They bathe in shadow. It’s all pretty creepy and zealotus — not to mention a little sexual. That level of thirst is not where Ben Solo’s head is at when we find him in this book.
A majority of The Rise of Kylo Ren #1 depicts the immediate fallout of Luke’s assassination attempt on Ben. Admittedly pissed, the son of Leia and Han strikes out against his master, then becomes the target of several Jedi who don’t appreciate his attitude. Will Sliney captures a surprising amount of Adam Driver’s pouty psychology in his caricature of Ben, and it’s a punch to the gut when we see the Jedi flee his pals on the light side to take solace in the warm embrace of ... Snoke.
Earlier this year, Marvel published a prequel comic focused on the former Supreme Leader, positioning him more as Kylo Ren’s Yoda than his boss. But the story was set firmly in the lead up to The Force Awakens, and didn’t answer the most pressing question: who the hell is Snoke? For now, we know ... he gardens. The Rise of Kylo Ren #1 promises more backstory.
The sequel-trilogy-set published in the last few years have all been hampered by the fact that Lucasfilm and J.J. Abrams have been clinging to mysteries that would lead them into The Rise of Skywalker. With the movie finally out in theaters this week, the world has the opportunity to expand the lore without worry of interference. Fans won’t get much new Knights of Ren in the movie. There are hints of Snoke’s past, too, but nothing that focused story would be able to establish. The Rise of Skywalker already feels richer reading The Rise of Kylo Ren #1, and one can only imagine what happens when Soule and Sliney are off the spoiler-protecting leash.