The latest Age of Resistance comic was about Supreme Leader Snoke, but it really starred Kylo Ren. It is a very good and interesting story that explored a couple of moments in the course of Snoke’s training of Kylo, including a visit to the dark side cave on Dagobah that Luke had faced decades earlier.
In this cave, Ben Solo faces what he fears – and sees his family. So this issue really gave us a better look at Ben Solo, particularly as it pertains to his relationships with others. So in this article, I want to explore a bit what we learned about Ben’s relationship with Snoke, with Luke, with Hand and Leia, and with himself.
Ben Solo’s relationship with Snoke
This isn’t any surprise, but this comic highlights the fact that Snoke was a very cruel master to Kylo Ren. In fact, at a couple of places in the comic I found myself thinking, “you left Luke Skywalker for him?” But all this does is provide a more sympathetic view of a confused young man who has been manipulated and used by a sinister, selfish force. Snoke literally tells Kylo to his face that he wouldn’t have saved his life, because Skywalker would have and it would have held back Ren from reaching his potential. But right there is an admission that Snoke doesn’t really care for Kylo Ren aside from his potential power – something we’ve already known but now have an example for, and something that serves as even more of a contrast with Ben Solo’s family. Additionally, however, Snoke ridicules and mocks Kylo about hiding behind the mask, and he resorts to physical violence against his apprentice with Kylo begins to respond to this.
The films were as obvious as we needed them to be, as they certainly showed Snoke’s cruelty toward Kylo, but this comic takes it even further. It’s very easy to see why Kylo Ren would want to kill Snoke in The Last Jedi – and I think we even get some hints about that in this issue. As Snoke instructs Kylo to strike out against this vision of his parents, Snoke details how he can see Kylo’s actions, from his feelings to his igniting the lightsaber to his lashing out. But we as the reader soon realize that Kylo wasn’t lashing out against his parents but against the cave – though Snoke doesn’t realize it. This, of course, is how Kylo winds up killing Snoke in TLJ: Snoke sees what is going on inside of Kylo but not what’s going on outside, which allows Kylo to trick his master and kill him. I think this event might be the moment when Kylo realized that he could potentially manipulate Snoke that way, and that has me wondering if his final line in the issue could be taken another way as well. He tells Snoke that he won’t need other apprentices; the obvious way to take this is that Kylo is expressing confidence in himself, but I wonder if there’s also a small hint of Kylo’s resolve to eventually rid himself of Snoke’s influence and cruelty.
Ben Solo’s relationship with Skywalker
We don’t know a ton about Ben Solo’s relationship with Luke Skywalker, considering that he trained with him for many years before the fateful events at Luke’s Jedi Temple one night. But regardless of their history, it is clear that Kylo Ren is filled with hatred for his uncle and former master. He also can’t understand Snoke’s respect for Skywalker, and he views Luke as weak. Snoke has a much clearer picture on Skywalker, because Kylo is too consumed by his hatred for his master to see through that. But Snoke stokes that anger quite a bit. He insists that Skywalker’s way of training Ren wasn’t the best for the young Force user, and then while Ren is in the cave Snoke reminds him that Luke would have killed him that night because he feared him.
All of this is stuff that we saw in The Last Jedi during the flashbacks, so it shouldn’t surprise us. But as the movie made clear, the truth of what happened that night is tainted by the differing perceptions of Luke and Ben. Luke never actually intended to kill his nephew, but Ben thought his master was trying to murder him. This created differing perceptions of the night, led to Luke heading into exile after his failure, and led to Ben embracing the darkness already within him. I do wonder, however, how much of Ben’s perceptions of that night are influenced by Snoke. Here, as Kylo faces off against Luke, we see Luke saying, “I don’t want to fight you”, but Snoke saying that Luke wanted to kill Ben. Do you notice the contradiction here? This comic makes me even more curious to know just how much Ben Solo’s recollection of the events of that night are influenced and tainted by Snoke. He doesn’t believe that Luke doesn’t want to fight him, but does believe what Snoke tells him. I find that very curious. I wonder if Ben Solo, deep down, knows that Luke wouldn’t actually have killed him – or whether Snoke’s influence is so pervasive that Ben is blinded to that truth.
Ben Solo’s relationship with his parents
Ultimately, however, Kylo had no problem killing Luke in this vision. The same can’t be said of his parents. When he sees them, he is clearly shaken and much less resolved. The love, kindness, warmth, and pleading expressed by Han and Leia are met by Kylo recoiling, not sure what to do with it. And when Snoke continues to taunt Kylo and instructs him to deal with his past, Kylo can’t bring himself to lash out against his parents. Instead, he destoys the cave – but never acts out against Han or Leia.
We know this will change – he eventually does bring himself to kill Han Solo – but that the conflict remains, as it did when he faced his father but even more so when he declined to kill his mother. I think this is very important to consider: whereas Ben Solo is filled with rage and hatred toward Luke Skywalker, those same emotions aren’t present at all in this issue toward his parents. That fits with what he tells Rey in TLJ – that he didn’t hate his father – and with what Leia tells Han in TFA – that when it came to saving their son, Luke was a Jedi but Han was his father. There was something special about Ben’s relationship to his parents, even though it seems he thinks they failed in various ways. Maybe the best way of thinking about it is that while Luke appears to be the target of Ben’s hatred, Han and Leia are simply collateral damage. But this issue delves even more into the idea that Ben’s parents believe he can be redeemed, and I’d be shocked if The Rise of Skywalker doesn’t pay off on that in a big, meaningful way – hopefully involving his parents helping pull him back to the light.
Ben Solo’s relationship with himself
While the big takeaways in this issue are about Ben’s relationship to others, I think it’s appropriate to look briefly at the struggle within himself as well. Snoke sees this struggle and wants his apprentice to snuff it out, embracing the darkness finally and totally. This is something that is picked up in the films too, especially in TLJ when Snoke talks of Kylo’s weakness in killing Han Solo, a deed that split his spirit. Snoke says that Ben Solo has too much of his father’s heart in him, and it’s clear that the conflict wasn’t just new there. This internal conflict that is going on within Ben Solo is most obvious when he refuses to strike out against his parents, as we just looked at.
But also, Snoke again taunts Kylo for wearing the mask – saying that he can’t hide or pretend to be Vader where they’re going. The wording there is interesting, because we know that Ren has a fascination with his grandfather and seems to idolize him, and Snoke here makes it clear that Kylo is actually trying to be Vader (or at least the next Vader). Snoke views it as Kylo hiding behind the mask. His mask therefore could be a sign of his conflicted spirit, but it is probably just as much – if not more so – a sign of his fascination with Vader. So far, Ben Solo has actually followed a pretty similar path to his grandfather – and I bet that will continue in ways ROTJ picked up on with Anakin Skywalker once more.