Star Wars, aka A New Hope, was a film very much needed at its time. In an era of anti-heroes, the world got Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, a clear good and evil if there has ever been one. Yet, as the story progressed that line dividing good and evil became blurry.
Never has that been more true than it is for Kylo Ren. The son of Han and Leia, Kylo Ren is a character that people are extremely divided on. One side argues that he is the villain of the sequel trilogy and that, because of his terrible acts, is irredeemable. This, however, is a misunderstanding of what redemption actually means. In the opposing corner are the Bendemptionists, who just got a major score via the Age of Republic: Snoke comic.
WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS FOR AGE OF RESISTANCE: SNOKE
The films have many clues that point towards Ben Solo’s eventual redemption, but this recent issue seems to be Lucasfilm shouting from the hilltops demanding that people understand what the character of Kylo Ren is all about. Redemption.
The issue starts with Snoke holding a younger Kylo Ren over a canyon in the same fashion he held Rey in the throne room during The Last Jedi. The writer is clearly starting in this fashion to remind the reader that these two are integrally connected, even if they may not know each other yet. Interestingly, Snoke somewhat plays the role of Yoda to Kylo’s Luke Skywalker as he tells Kylo he should be afraid.
The story starts as such because it is meant to set the reader in the mindset that Kylo is more connected to the heroes than he is the villain. Kylo Ren is a fake Darth Vader, as Snoke is wont to tell his apprentice. Notice in the panel below how Snoke looks at the mask of Kylo Ren, not the person, as he says that Klyo must face what is holding him back: Kylo Ren.
Snoke also tells his apprentice that he cannot hide behind a mask here. Where? Dagobah, the exact place Luke Skywalker started his Jedi training. Not Mustafar, Vader’s home, but the place where Luke had to confront the Vader in himself. In another echo of Yoda, Snoke promises that Kylo will only find what he is too weak to bury. This is critical because it speaks to the nature of the dark side. The dark side does not bring healing, understanding, nor any real concept of self. Rather, it encourages its disciples to bury, to not confront, to essentially try to ignore their struggles. As most anyone who has ever attempted to just “push down” rather than handle an issue can proclaim, this doesn’t end well.
All of this has been set up to remind us of who Kylo Ren really is. He’s not a villain, but an abused, hurt child in a mask. When this child, sans mask, enters the cave on Dagobah, he sees his Vader, which is in fact Luke. Acting as he believes he should, he kills the visage of his uncle.
Kylo Ren thinks he’s done. He’s confronted his greatest pain. Or, he thinks he has.
Take note of the look on this boy’s face as his parents call out to him. It is not that of a villain who has conquered a weakness, but of a broken man. Killing Luke did not solve his issue, for that issue runs far deeper. This is what truly lies behind the mask, and what Snoke has truly brought him here to confront. However, the visuals tell the reader that this narrative that Snoke is trying to create with Kylo Ren is not the reality. In the frame below, Han and Leia still have their son’s back. They still want him to come home. They still love him.
The next frame shows not an angry man who wants revenge on parents who robbed him of the life he deserved. Instead, it is an image very reminiscent of an abused and abandoned dog, seeking love but not even really knowing what that means. For context, I’ve placed an image of my dog the day I rescued him. This was a dog who had been abused continually and abandoned at least twice. As Maz would say, they have the same eyes.
These are not the eyes of a villain, but of a victim. These are not the eyes of someone who knows himself, but someone who has been so hurt that he has to create a fake self. Even if we were to take away all the points the films have provided for why Episode IX will be a story of redemption, this comic alone points directly to that as a fact.
Kylo Ren has done terrible things, that is not debatable. But Star Wars is about hope and redemption, that is not debatable. When you go see The Rise of Skywalker, keep these panels in your mind, and in your heart open yourself to the idea that redemption, absolution, and forgiveness are far from the same things.