Published: January 8th, 2020
Writer: Charles Soule
Penciler: Will Sliney
Cover Artist: Clayton Crain
SNOKE SINKS HIS CLAWS IN! YOUNG BEN SOLO FACES THE KNIGHTS OF REN! With the new Jedi school in ruins and fellow students hot on his trail for the murder of their master, Ben Solo flees to the only friend he has left in the galaxy – a man named Snoke. But Snoke has plans for Ben – and ideas about the Force that are as dangerous as they are intriguing for the troubled young Jedi. If Ben wishes to be truly free – the answers might lie with the dark side. And with the Knights of Ren! But it won’t be the first time he’s tangled with the Knights. In the past, Jedi Master Luke Skywalker journeys to the Unknown Regions and brings young Ben along for the mission. Can even Luke Skywalker stand against the fabled Knights of Ren?!
Crain’s direct cover, with its battle of light and dark, hints at some of the dramatic events that actually occur in this issue, and all the Knights of Ren look so vicious with their motley assortment of weapons. Hiding in the background, almost out of focus, is an Upsilon-class shuttle which is a subtle reference to the secretly expanding First Order. Captivating is probably the best way to describe Muir’s incentive variant, which is a mind-blowing, somber portrait contrasting Ben Solo and Kylo Ren.
The extremely surprising ending of the last issue is exactly where The Rise of Kylo Ren #2 picks up, as a green-fingered Snoke manipulates Ben Solo into doubting his Jedi training and instead to seek out the Knights of Ren. Then the story jumps back in time to when a much younger Ben first faced-off against the Knights, alongside Luke Skywalker and Lor San Tekka, in order to protect a valuable Jedi hoard hidden on Elphrona. In the present, Ben returns to this planet seeking clues to the Knights of Ren’s whereabouts – only to be confronted by his former Jedi classmates.
There’s so much about The Rise of Kylo Ren #2 that is amazing, but one thing that really stands out in this issue is how Soule brilliantly connects it to other areas of the canon. Since their tense exchange in The Force Awakens, it was clear that Kylo Ren and Lor San Tekka had a history, and Soule explains a little about Ben’s younger days gallivanting around with Luke and Lor searching for Jedi relics. Another tie-in is that when he’s venting out his frustration to Snoke, Ben angrily states his name is a lie, particularly the Solo part, which is something fans only recently learned in Solo: A Star Wars Story. Soule also brilliantly weaves in a new way of using the Force via connecting to certain objects, as seen in The Rise of Skywalker.
Both worlds featured in this story, Snoke’s mysterious garden and the ruins of Elphrona, are so beautifully rendered by Sliney, even though they couldn’t be more different. The garden that Snoke presides over at first appears lush and beautiful, but on closer inspection hidden in the panels are twisting roots and skeletons, hinting at something sinister beneath the façade – much like Snoke himself. Then Elphrona evokes the grandeur of real-world historic sites, although with towering Jedi statues and an assortment of relics that Star Wars geeks will surely want to identify. However, perhaps the most impressive part of Sliney’s art is the young teenage version of Ben Solo. To make him still have Adam Driver’s recognisable features but in a younger face is testament to Sliney’s drawing skills and exploration into the character.
Although this is a series dedicated to the struggles of Ben Solo, during the flashback it’s Luke who really gets to shine. Fans will delight in seeing the Jedi Master taking on all seven of the Knights of Ren at once (in a scene coincidentally similar to one from The Rise of Skywalker) without even exerting himself and throwing in some Yoda lines for good measure. Another interesting element of this flashback is that Snoke is speaking inside Ben’s mind, which is something we’ve already seen, but here he’s still quite young. So when, and how, exactly did the two meet? Hopefully this could be something that Soule will explain in a future issue.
Just like last time, the ending is very intriguing, especially Ren himself. This isn’t the shortening of Kylo Ren, but actually the current leader who lends his name to that of the Knights and is an unusual mix of Han Solo’s wit combined with Darth Vader’s menace. It will be interesting to see what role he’ll play in shaping Ben into Kylo Ren. Of course, there’s another cliffhanger but will the confrontational notes of this ending earn Ben’s future Dark Side alias the nickname: Jedi Killer?
Star Wars: The Rise of Kylo Ren #2 was published January 8, 2020 by Marvel Comics. This issue is available via The Marvel App and from all good comic bookstores and retails at $3.99.