Over the last few months, we’ve been learning the story of Ben Solo’s fall to the dark side in The Rise of Kylo Ren, the excellent four-part comic miniseries written by Charles Soule and illustrated by Will Sliney.
The fourth and final issue was recently released, and it shows us Solo finally giving into the dark side and becoming Kylo Ren.
For much of the first three issues we’ve seen Solo’s conflicted spirit, but he has clearly been hesitant to give in to the dark side, being largely posited as a victim. And while that is still true, things change in this issue as he finally breaks.
And as that happens, through the Force the event is sensed by some key people in Solo’s life.
As Ren and his Knights seek an artifact on Mimban with Ben Solo, Ren threatens the locals for information. Not wanting to see them harmed, however, Ben probes the leader’s mind to find the location of the artifact, testing a variation of the Jedi mind trick that Snoke had taught him. The Knights still kill the locals, however, much to Solo’s dismay. At that point Voe and Tai arrive, having tracked down Ben. Voe springs into action defending the locals and fighting the Knights, while Tai duels Ben.
As Ben and Tai fight, Ben grows more and more angry, at one point exclaiming, “Choice? I have no choice and never did. Even my name isn’t a choice. The dark side and the light both claimed me for their own the moment I was born. … Whether it’s Luke Skywalker or Snoke, neither one sees me as a person. I’m just a… legacy. Just a set of expectations.” Tai, meanwhile, continues to try to get through to Ben that he has a choice to be better, to make a difference with his life. Their duel proceeds onto a ledge and Ben gets the upper hand; Tai says Ben can kill him if he has to, but wants Ben to be who he really is. This seems to get through to Ben, but something snaps Tai’s neck, killing him.
Ben turns and realizes that it was Ren, claiming to have killed Voe, who says Ben is fighting every step of the way and doesn’t want to live in the shadow. Feeling a new sense of resolve, Ben calls Tai’s lightsaber to his hand and, wielding both his and Tai’s sabers, springs into action against Ren. As they duel, we see Palpatine reaching out to Ben, telling him to be who he was always meant to be.
This then cuts us into a beautiful and stunning spread of Ben dueling Ren as Ben gives into his dark side, which is felt across the galaxy by Snoke, by Leia, by Rey, and by Palpatine. Ben kills Ren by stabbing him through the chest and sends the rest of the Knights flying.
He then comes to face Voe, who it turns out wasn’t killed by Ren, and Ben murders her in cold blood. In light of all that has transpired, the Knights of Ren bow to Ben Solo as their new leader.
There’s a lot to unpack here, but I really want to focus in on this: Ben Solo’s rebellion was felt across the galaxy by several key figures.
- Snoke felt it. This one’s pretty obvious, as Snoke was manipulating Ben from a young age. The comic has previously shown Ben communing with Snoke as a child during his training with Luke, and it has further shown Ben’s familiarity with Snoke. While we didn’t really learn anything about the Supreme Leader’s relationship with Palpatine, it’s no surprise that Snoke would have felt Ben’s turn to the dark side. As Ben duels Ren with the intent to kill him, Snoke says, “Yes, my boy… yes.” This is exactly what he wanted to happen.
- Leia felt it. In contrast to Snoke, Leia says, “Ben… oh no… Ben.” I’m not sure whether Leia felt anything that happened at Luke’s temple, but she does seem to sense what’s happening here as Ben fights Ren. And I can’t imagine the heartbreaking reality that sets in for Leia as she senses her son turning to the dark side of the Force, yet is powerless to stop it. And with this confirming that Leia did sense her son’s turn to the dark side, it helps us to realize that it hadn’t happened yet during the events of Bloodline (though it’s still possible he had rebelled against Luke by that point); we previously hadn’t known how Leia found out, but I think this is the best answer – she sensed it through the Force.
- Rey felt it. While on Jakku as a child, Rey is with Unkar Plutt when she says, “Huh. You feel that? Feels… cold.” This makes perfect sense, considering Rey and Ben are a dyad in the Force. She could sense him (though it doesn’t seem she’s aware it’s Ben Solo), and I’m guessing that he could sense her too (perhaps giving insight into his “what girl?” statement from The Force Awakens). So Rey felt Ben’s descent to the dark side, just without realizing it.
- Palpatine felt it. As Ben duels Ren, Palpatine is on Exegol saying, “Now you will be who you are. Who you were always meant to be.” He also says, “Yes. Yes. Claim your birthright and strike him down.” This issue was the first time Palpatine showed up in this comic, so we didn’t really get any clarity on how it worked between him and Snoke. However, it is very clear that Palpatine played a pivotal role in Ben’s final descent to the dark side, manipulating him and urging him along the way.
So in all of this, Ben’s actions sent ripple effects across the galaxy to those connected with him, whether they realized it or not. But what about Luke? Did he sense it? I’m going to speculate here, because we don’t know (he doesn’t appear anywhere in this issue). I wonder if Luke has already cut himself off from the Force at this point? It seems that when Luke came to and found his Temple burning, concluding that it was Ben, he went into self-imposed exile. We also know that he cut himself off from the Force during his exile. So it would be reasonable to think that Luke by this point in the story has already headed off to Ahch-To. I speculate this for a couple of reasons: (1) if Luke wasn’t cut off from the Force, of course someone of his prowess would have sensed it happening; (2) if Luke sensed it, I don’t know why that wouldn’t have been included here; and (3) if Luke had sensed this happening, sensing Ben’s final descent to the dark side happening so long after the fateful night at the Temple, perhaps Luke would have reached a different conclusion about what Ben’s motivations were at the Temple than he had in The Last Jedi.
The other question worth considering is this: when did Ben Solo turn to the dark side? Before this comic, we all just assumed that it was when he turned on Luke and destroyed the Temple. This comic showed us that Ben really didn’t want any of this, however, and in the first three issues wasn’t wanting to take any life. That was still the case at the beginning of this issue. So I really think this comic wants us to realize that Ben Solo hadn’t fully and finally given into the dark side yet. However, this issue shows us two key points in which that happened: (1) when Ben fights Ren, he is filled with rage and hatred with a desire for revenge, all of which lead to the dark side, and he strikes Ren down; and (2) Ben kills Voe in cold blood. The way this issue is drawn, with Snoke, Leia, Rey, and Palpatine all sensing him fighting Ren, I think that’s supposed to be representing the turning point for Ben. Yet while that’s the turning point, it’s him killing Voe that truly cements it. Ben Solo has turned to the dark side and become Kylo Ren. And that sent shock waves through the galaxy.
Other articles about The Rise of Kylo Ren you might like:
- The Rise of Kylo Ren #1 gives us a shocking revelation about the destruction of Luke’s Temple
- The Rise of Kylo Ren #2 shows Jedi Master Luke Skywalker fighting the Knights of Ren!
- The Rise of Kylo Ren #2 ties in to Solo in a brilliant and emotional way
- The Rise of Kylo Ren #2 makes it seem like Ben Solo was initially not aware of Snoke’s connection to the First Order
- We’ve only heard the term “High Republic” twice in Star Wars… and it’s very interesting where they appeared
- The Rise of Kylo Ren #3 shows Ben Solo join the Knights of Ren
- Jedi Master Luke Skywalker’s explanation of the Force to one of his students makes a ton of sense