With the release of Star Wars: The Rise of Kylo Ren #4 by writer Charles Soule and artist Will Sliney, we now have the complete origin story revealing how Ben Solo transformed into Kylo Ren with his signature crossguard lightsaber. Here’s a breakdown on how the once-promising young Jedi became a tragic villain.
Warning: beware of spoilers for Star Wars: The Rise of Kylo Ren!
Check out our video breakdown of the story below or continue scrolling to read the article.
To recap the story so far, after Ben’s confrontation with Luke Skywalker that left the Jedi Master buried in rubble, the Jedi academy was destroyed by freak lightning strikes from the sky, heavily implied to be the work of the Emperor. Ben fled to Snoke and was instructed to join the Knights of Ren, but the leader, named Ren, tells Ben that he must take a life as part of his initiation, and it must be a good death. A group of three remaining Jedi go after Ben to hopefully turn him back to the Light Side, but when Ben accidentally kills one of them, the last two Jedi decide it’s now their mission to put Ben down.
The final, climactic chapter picks up with the Knights of Ren attempting to steal a rare artifact known as the Mindsplinter (a nice reference to Splinter of the Mind’s Eye) by slaughtering the miners on the Minemoon of Mimban. Ren and his knights have no qualms about killing the miners, but Ben is still resistant to needless killing — a sign that the Light and Dark Sides are raging inside him, pulling him at both ends. The two remaining Jedi (Tai and Voe) arrive to protect the miners, stop the Knights of Ren, and finally deal with Ben.
Ben engages in a lightsaber duel against his old friend and classmate Tai, but when he disarms him, he can’t bring himself to take his life. Things get extremely emotional for Ben as he expresses how he’s felt like both the Light Side and the Dark Side have tried to claim him since his birth, and he’s never felt like he had a choice about which path to take in his life. Whether it’s Luke or Snoke, he’s fed up with being seen as a “legacy” rather than a person. Tai pleads with Ben to break from all that and choose his own path, but he’s cut short when Ren uses the Force to snap Tai’s neck. (Ren isn’t a trained Sith/Jedi, per se, but he does have a crude command over the Force and wields a red lightsaber.)
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Ben is shocked and saddened by the death of Tai. Ren taunts Ben, saying he’s been fighting the whole process of becoming a Knight of Ren because he doesn’t want to live in the “shadow” (the term Ren uses to describe the Dark Side of the Force). Ben corrects him, saying he is the shadow. The two have a brutal lightsaber battle, knock each other off a high cliff, and continue to battle mid-air while tumbling down.
As they fall, Ben’s hatred begins to manifest as something more profound and we see shots of various Force users around the galaxy sensing his ultimate fall to the Dark Side. Snoke and the Emperor encourage Ben’s self-destructive actions and appear to speak in one voice, showcasing how they are one in the same, as we learned in The Rise of Skywalker. Leia reacts in alarm at what her son has become. And a young Rey on Jakku feels a cold chill through the Force, a hint at their connection as a Force Dyad.
As the two combatants reach the ground, Ben plunges his lightsaber into Ren, killing him and finally delivering a “good death.”
With Ben now having embraced the Dark Side, he turns to his last remaining Jedi classmate, Voe, picks up Ren’s red lightsaber, and kills her.
As the dust from the battle settles, we see the Knights of Ren bowing to their new leader, Ben Solo.
The closing sequence aboard the Knights of Ren’s ship the Night Buzzard finally reveals how Ben builds his crossguard lightsaber. We watch as he takes the blue kyber crystal from his lightsaber and infuses it with crackling red Dark Side energy. This is a Dark Side technique we’ve seen before where one can “bleed” normal kyber crystals by channeling their hate and anger into it. However, as Ben performs the ritual, he sees the faces of the people who have cared most about him in his life — Han Solo, General Leia, Luke Skywalker, Lando Calrissian, Chewbacca, and Tai — and though the crystal does turn red, it also cracks in his hand.
It seems that even though Ben has embraced the Dark Side, he hasn’t fully committed to it because he still feels the love of his former family and friends, which is why the crystal broke. It’s imperfect and fractured, split in two by the pull of the Light and the Dark, just like he is.
When Ben ignites his new saber, the crackling red energy blade immediately overheats the hilt, so he installs two side vents that form a crossguard, thus creating the iconic Kylo Ren lightsaber.
While this comic mini-series covers a lot of ground, there are still a few unanswered questions. There’s no mention of Ben taking on the name “Kylo” to become Kylo Ren, so we don’t know why he chose that name or its significance. In The Last Jedi when Luke told Rey what happened after his confrontation with a young Ben Solo, he said that Ben fled with a handful of students, but that’s never covered in the story and seems to have been completely ignored. Much of Ben’s Kylo Ren persona is based on Darth Vader, but aside from Ren giving him the idea to wear a mask, the story never shows how Ben’s obsession with his grandfather influenced his decisions and informed how he chooses to dress himself as Kylo Ren.
For more news on Star Wars, check out 17 revelations from the Rise of Skywalker novel that answer burning questions the movie didn’t address.
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Joshua is Senior Features Editor at IGN. If Pokemon, Green Lantern, or Game of Thrones are frequently used words in your vocabulary, you’ll want to follow him on Twitter @JoshuaYehl and IGN.