In Solo: A Star Wars Story, we met Han Solo, before there was a “Solo”.
When we first meet him in the film, he’s just “Han,” a young boy living on the streets of Corellia, but after a failed escape attempt resulted in Qi’ra being taken, Han joins the Empire. When asked for his family name, Han doesn’t know it, so the Imperial officer just gives him the name “Solo”, because he’s all alone. And that’s the story of how Han Solo got his name.
I actually thought it worked fairly well in the movie, but not everybody did. Admittedly, it’s not exactly what everyone thought was the case when they heard the name Han Solo for the first time, so it can be a bit disorienting. But here’s what I love about Star Wars, with its plethora of storytelling avenues: they can take something like that and make it have a very significant emotional payoff later on, even with another character, and make it feel entirely natural.
That happened in the outstanding second issue of The Rise of Kylo Ren comic miniseries, written by Charles Soule and drawn by Will Sliney, as Ben Solo talks to Snoke about his name.
When Snoke mentions that the Knights of Ren might not be interested in Ben Solo, Ben replies, “I hate that name.” Snoke inquires about this, asking, “Oh? Why is that? You are named after legends.” Ben replies: “That’s exactly it, Snoke. Obi-Wan Kenobi… big famous Jedi. Everyone thinks I’m supposed to be him. I never even met him. And Solo… did you know that’s not even his real name? He’s a lie. Everything is a lie.”
This picks up on both of the people who factor into Ben Solo’s name:
- The first is Obi-Wan Kenobi, who was known as “Ben” when Luke Skywalker met him. I don’t believe it has ever been officially confirmed that Ben Solo was named after Ben Kenobi, but we practically knew that was the reason even if it wasn’t made explicit. But now it is: Ben Solo was named after Ben Kenobi. Some might, of course, ask why this makes sense, as Ben was really impactful to Luke, not necessarily Han or Leia. But think about it this way: Ben Kenobi was really the one who led to Han Solo and Leia Organa coming together in the first place. Ben Solo is the one who answered the call for help that led to Leia’s life being saved. Ben Solo is the one who maybe first inspired Han to think there was something to this whole Force business. It makes sense that Han and Leia would want to remember and honor that guy in naming their child after him. But in naming Ben after a Jedi legend, who meant so much to Luke Skywalker and seemingly meant a lot to Han and Leia too, it put a ton of pressure on Ben that he had to live up to that legend.
- The second is Han Solo, Ben’s father, who gives Ben his last name. But Ben knows the truth about the name Solo, as he knows that it wasn’t actually Han’s real last name but was instead just given to him by the Imperial officer because Han was alone. So Ben doesn’t even like this name, because it feels so fake to him. And in Ben’s mind, this is easily twisted to being that everything is a lie.
It’s actually a very compelling thought process, and it’s so easy to see where Ben is coming from. He is the son of legends, the nephew of a legend, and named after a legend. Talk about the pressure that he’s under to live up to all of that! And he has learned that his last name isn’t actually what he thought it was, so he thinks everything in his life is a lie. Keep in mind too that he’s saying this shortly after he woke up to find Luke Skywalker, his Master, standing over him with his lightsaber ignited, so it’s fairly easy to see why Ben thinks everything he’s known is a lie. And keep in mind too that it’s entirely possible that Ben had just recently learned the truth about his grandfather, too, as Leia, Han, and Luke kept the truth about Anakin Skywalker being Darth Vader from Ben until it came out publicly in the New Republic Senate. So in short order, Ben likely had plenty of reason to believe that his family was, in fact, a lie.
And this is all what I love about how Star Wars connects these stories: a small line in Solo becomes a big emotional roadblock for Ben Solo that feels so natural that it causes us to resonate with him and understand where he’s coming from, even if we don’t agree. I thought this was a brilliant move by Charles Soule.