Since his first dramatic appearance in the 2015 film Star Wars: The Force Awakens, in which he immediately demonstrates his immense power by using the Force to stop a blaster bolt in midair (a feat only witnessed one other time, when Darth Vader did it during the now-iconic corridor sequence at the end of the 2016 film Rogue One), the origin of Kylo Ren, the name taken up by Ben Solo in his descent into the Dark Side, has remained a mystery.
Now, however, thanks to the four-part Marvel Comics miniseries Star Wars: Rise of Kylo Ren, written by Charles Soule with artwork by Will Sliney, that mystery has been unraveled. In the first issue, released on December 18th of last year, the backstory of the surname of Ren was explained: it was originally the name of the mythic lightsaber that would, by the time of The Force Awakens, wind up in the hands of Ben Solo.
By extension, it also became the name of the warrior who wielded the saber, and the cult surrounding that figure and his weapon eventually become known as the Knights of Ren. In the story’s latest installment, which debuted on January 8th, Ben’s reasons for abandoning his birth name become clear, as he tells Snoke: “Everything is a lie.” Bearing the names of legends is a burden of expectation that has been placed upon him against his will, and his eventual rejection of that name is a way, albeit a destructive one, of exercising his own personal agency and seizing control of his fate.
It’s a sentiment that he expressed more explicitly in the 2017 film Star Wars: The Last Jedi when he told Rey: “Let the past die. Kill it, if you have to. It’s the only way to become who you were meant to be.” Luke Skywalker echoes a similarly negative view of the weight of legend when he tells Rey about his pivotal confrontation with his nephew: “I failed, because I was Luke Skywalker. Jedi Master. A legend.”
In his desire to let his own past die, Ben choses to kill off the parts of himself that he feels restrained by in issue #2. Equally a Skywalker and a Solo, he literally sheds the majority of his names, plucking out the two pieces of each lineage that he decides to build his own identity around: the KY of Skywalker, and the LO of Solo. And thus is born the character of Kylo Ren.
It’s surely no coincidence that Ben’s own father, Han, experienced a similar crisis of identity in the 2018 film Solo. When he attempts to join the Imperial Fleet to escape Corellia, Han is asked who his people are – a question, once more, of legacy and lineage – and confesses that he has none. He is then perfunctorily assigned the government-issued placeholder surname of Solo, as one who travels alone. Ben later rages against his father’s assumed identity, in part because it’s one that Han did not choose for himself, but rather accepted from others. “Did you know that’s not even his real name?,” he tells Snoke. “He’s a lie.”
The first two issues of Star Wars: Rise of Kylo Ren are available now, with issue #3 due to hit shelves on February 12th and issue #4 in stores March 11th.