The Rise of Skywalker left many longtime fans of Star Wars with questions. A few of the answers were threaded through animated prequels and tie-in compendiums, signaling a shift away from Lucasfilm’s long-standing divide between movie and Expanded Universe connectivity. Before, a movie like Rogue One built off the mythology of past films, and fans if Clone Wars could geek out over an appearance by Saw Gerrera.
Rise of Skywalker makes greater demands, and if Marvel’s The Rise of Kylo Ren #2 is any indication, the future of Star Wars storytelling is an all-encompassing transmedia odyssey.
[Ed. note: this post contains spoilers for The Rise of Kylo Ren #2.]
The first issue of Kylo Ren, which arrived in the days before Rise of Skywalker’s release, introduced readers to the Knights of Ren, their mysterious leader (a buff lightsaber-wielder also known as Ren), and in a jump ahead in time, a distraught Ben Solo. After his scuffle with Luke Skywalker, which left the Jedi training grounds in ruin, the boy who would one day be Kylo Ren fled to the arms of Snoke, hoping to connect with the Knights of Ren. Kylo Ren #2 picks up with Ben and Snoke in the mysterious space greenhouse — the Emperor’s clone puppet really has a thing for gardening! — then flashes back to the poisoned Jedi’s first encounter with the Knights of Ren during a expedition with Luke.
Writer Charles Soule, done with murky introductions and free of Rise of Skywalker spoiler mandates, gleefully sets up Kylo’s descent into the Dark Side. Snoke is an eccentric with secrets to keep in the present timeline, while Kylo’s adventure with Luke and Lor San Tekka, the Jedi who briefly appeared in The Force Awakens courtesy of actor Max von Sydow, brings a taste of Indiana Jones to the Star Wars franchise. Anyone who wanted more Luke in his true post-Return of the Jedi years, but were jolted by the revelations of The Last Jedi, will be happy to see the Force master exploring the universe and whipping butt. Artist Will Sliney brings it all to life in a style that’s a mix of Mad Magazine caricature and mythic history. A younger Kylo is a startling site, considering he still looks like Adam Driver, but his wide-eyed gawking makes is the perfect audience proxy whenever Skywalker springs into action.
The years of Ben and Luke’s training are ripe for Soule, Sliney, and the rest of the team to bring to life, but it’s on this adventure that we get a taste of where the future of the Star Wars movie franchise might be headed. It’s tied together with the Expanded Universe stories, and it all seems to start here.
A few days before Kylo Ren #2, MakingStarWars.net, which has published reputable plot specifics in the past, ran a brief rumor about the story of the next, yet-to-be-announced chapter in the Star Wars film saga. According to an unnamed source next movies will take place in a period of time dubbed “The High Republic” era, which would land about 400 years before the events of the Skywalker saga. It’s a period when, according to the report, the Sith’s “Rule of Two” has been established by Darth Bane and Yoda would be a scrappy young Jedi. The movies would align with Project Luminous, a massive storytelling campaign previously teased at the 2019 Star Wars Celebration. According to a report by fan site ziro.hu, Luminous will tie together video games, comics, and books to chronicle the story of multiple Jedi investigating ancient Sith gods in “unknown regions” of the galaxy, a saga MakingStarWars.net says crosses over to the new films.
Taken all with a grain of salt, the idea of Star Wars catapulting back in time to escape the sameness of the Skywalker saga is a logical and daring move, one that allows them to carve out deeper, interconnected mythology with the shine of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The big shock this week is that The Rise of Kylo Ren #2 bolsters the rumor with a direct reference to the unestablished moment in time.
The trio of Jedi wind up at a Jedi outpost far off the core worlds established in the nine Skywalker saga films. Ben refers to the part of the Outer Rim as the “unknown regions,” the same phrase ziro.hu used in its description of Project Luminous. Lor San Tekka believes the temple, which Luke believes could be chock full of Jedi artifacts and Kyber crystal-powered weapons, as dating back to the High Republic era.
Outside of a brief mention in the canon-approved audiobook Dooku: Jedi Lost (“If you believe the stories — which Sifo-Dyas does, passionately — Teradine was a Padawan from the time of the High Republic,” a young Dooku says in the narration), Kylo Ren #2 contains the first actual mention of the High Republic in Star Wars lore. Based on what comes next, that seems significant in the context of the movie rumors.
Built into the side of a mountain and engraved with Jedi symbols, Luke, Lor, and Ben discover that the sanctuary is more of storage unit for Jedi Macguffins, including what looks to be a Sith wayfinder. If the Jedi of the High Republic, ones rumored to be at the center of Project Luminous and future Star Wars movies, are the Indiana Joneses of their day, then we’ve already seen the fruit of their labor.
The discovery is fleeting. No sooner than Luke stumbles upon the Jedi motherload, he encounters the Knights of Ren for the first time. The run-in — for reasons we won’t spoil here — will stick with Ben, and in theory the future Kylo Ren, forever.
At the top of the year, Marvel rebooted Star Wars comics in anticipation of a new era for the mega-franchise. Star Wars #1, released on Jan. 1, 2020, begins to rewrite the aftermath of Empire Strikes Back for the new canon. Kylo Ren will continue to fill in the backstory of how Han and Leia’s son was courted by the Dark Side (and hopefully tell us a little more about that whole Snoke clone thing).
But in passing, the new Star Wars books are also preparing us for something fresh: a step back in time before the days of the First Order, the Galactic Empire, the Republic, and everything we’ve seen on screen so far. If rumors are true (and they’re looking that way), Lucasfilm will lightspeed skip away from the original trilogy touchstones into the unknown regions of storytelling. And in that future, Marvel’s comics become more essential than ever.