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Charles Soule reveals why Ben Solo captivated him, and fans, in The Rise of Kylo Ren
In the seven months since Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker ended the whole dang Skywalker Saga, there have been plenty of passionately split opinions about the quality of said installment. (Yes, we know that’s an understatement.)
Case in point: It’s also been seven months since the release of Marvel Comics’ canon, four-part comic series, Star Wars: The Rise of Kylo Ren, written by Charles Soule and pencilled/inked by Will Sliney, and it's still selling like freshly roasted porg. Earlier in July, Marvel announced that Issue #1 will have its fourth printing. It's proof positive that fans can’t get enough of finding out what they didn’t get to see in the films about Ben Solo’s tragic fall from the Light side into the persona of Kylo Ren.
Someone who had an inkling that might be the case is writer Soule, who outlined and wrote the comic arc that’s since become such a bestseller. His entry into the official Star Wars verse came in 2015 writing the Star Wars: Lando comic. He’s currently on The Empire Strikes Back era comic run, Destiny Path, which continues with new issues Aug. 5. And his upcoming title The High Republic: Light of the Jedi, set for release in January 2021, kicks off the brand new Star Wars prose series set 200 years before the Skywalker Saga.
SYFY WIRE recently got on the phone with Soule to talk about why Kylo’s legacy is so strong.
You’ve done a lot of Star Wars stories in the past five years, so you’re savvy about what sparks with the fandom. But even knowing that, did the response to The Rise of Kylo Ren surpass your expectations?
Charles Soule: It did. I've worked in Star Wars. I've worked at Marvel. I've worked in licensed storytelling enough to know when a concept is just the thing that everybody wants. And part of that is because I can tell it's something that I would really want to read, or know, whether that's the story that I'm working on for the Star Wars comic now, which picks up right after Empire Strikes Back, or something like Kylo Ren, talking about how Ben Solo became Kylo Ren. So, I think the potential of it was obvious, and that's one of the reasons that both Will Sliney and I were so excited to work on it.
But in terms of reception, one of the things that's really become clear to me over the course of working on this project — and maybe it should've been obvious to me before — is the depth of love for particularly the Ben Solo character and the way that the fandom embraced the elements of the character that are almost implied by the films more than the text. There's a lot of subtext with Ben Solo. And Rey as well. And that's been something that people have really enjoyed. That was pretty clear, but getting a chance to write a story that gave actual additional text to Ben, as opposed to just letting people speculate, seemed like something that would have a massive audience. But, I will say that it exceeded even my high expectations. But that's great.
When they came to you with Kylo Ren, how much detail about Ben was attached to it?
Well, with every Star Wars project that I work on, it's generally an outline that I generate, which is then vetted by Story Group and the Marvel editors and the Lucasfilm publishing editors. So, there's a lot of eyes on pretty much anything that I do.
And, of course, with Rise of Kylo Ren, because of the timing of it, [the book] was something that was being developed before Episode IX came out. There was a great deal of secrecy about the elements of that storyline in the film. And [the first issue] was going to drop the day before the film came out, so there was a lot of focus on what could be in Issue #1, how it could work, how the elements of Ben’s story that were revealed in the film could be fleshed out in different ways by the comic. There was a lot of back and forth on the outline. Everybody knew that this was a story that was gonna have a ton of fan interest.
And I never really mind Story Group’s notes, or input, or Lucasfilm editorial, or Marvel editorial notes in any case because they're always constructive as opposed to reductive or destructive. And it's always great to get their insight, especially because they know things that I don't. We all really wanted to do the story justice and work really hard on it. And I know that Will Sliney definitely treated it the same.
This was a really important story within the overall Star Wars timeline, so, let's really focus on it. Let's make sure we give it, not just our A-game, which is our standard, but our A-plus-plus game. And I think the way that it's been embraced, by and large, is a validation of that.
What was most interesting to you as a writer to get across about Ben/Kylo in the series?
I think that the important thing that I really wanted to convey in Rise of Kylo Ren was that Ben Solo was a figure who had been tapped by destiny. And in the Star Wars galaxy, that cosmic force is kind of a stand-in for fate or destiny. I think that from the day he was born, just based on the storytelling we've seen, the fact that he was part of a dyad with Rey, is such a unique thing in Force mythology He was a figure that was going to be at the center of a lot of significant events in Star Wars from the moment he was born.
So, I thought that that was the most interesting element of the character for me. It was to have a character who, by the time he's at Luke’s temple and certainly by the time the events happen that we see in the story, he knows the weight of expectations that have been put on him. And not just by presumably the cosmic force, but also by his family and his friends and other people in the galaxy who know his lineage, if that's a word that we can use here, which I think we can. I mean, as the child of Leia Organa and Han Solo, and the nephew of Luke Skywalker and the grandson of Darth Vader and the grandson of Padme, there's a lot that goes into Ben Solo’s lineage that even if the Force didn't exist would have been a lot. That's the thing that I wanted to dig into because I thought that that was something that would be a lot of weight for any person to bear. I think Ben Solo is somebody whose abilities in the living force provided a sense of possibility for people both on the light side and the dark side. In some ways, perhaps, they saw the possibility of Ben’s abilities more than Ben the person. And Ben, at the time of the story, is realizing that to a degree. And I thought that was a very interesting spot to start telling his story and a very interesting place from which to approach his turn.
How much freedom did they give you and Will on what to portray and how to portray it?
I had basically nothing but support from Story Group and Lucasfilm, which was great. I think that we all just wanted to tell a story that did this character justice. And, of course, there are notes. There's always notes, but it doesn’t mean that there was any sort of pushback to a nuanced portrayal. I think everybody wanted to try to tell a story that felt as deeply mythological as Luke Skywalker’s story or Darth Vader’s story or Ahsoka. There's a lot of really great stories within the larger Star Wars universe about people’s struggle with destiny and the Light side and the Dark side in all of the things that we've seen. And Rise of Kylo Ren is a comic, but we wanted it to feel just as powerful as anything that you would see in a film or a TV show. And so, creating a nuanced character with interesting things going on, with challenges that are relatable, even though it's a long time ago, a galaxy far, far away. All of that was the goal of everybody involved in the project from the start.
Is there something in particular in the four-issue arc that you love?
Sure, you know, there's tons of stuff. That's one of the great things about making comics is that there's always surprises because you're working with other people. They may read your script, and they interpret something differently than you expected. Or even in colors, the folks at GURU-eFX, they lit some of the final battle scenes in Issue #4. They chose color palettes that really highlighted a lot of what was going on in really interesting ways.
I think that the bleeding of the kyber crystal at the end was a really cool sequence that we really wanted to get in. I’d had that in the outline from the beginning, and I really wanted to make sure that there was space for it. But I was a little concerned because four issues of a comic is not a ton of page count, even with the first issue having additional pages in it. I had to pull out every trick I had to make it work, to make sure that there would be room for it. But it did, and I feel like it felt very natural within it. And then, obviously, the way Will did it and GURU colored it and just the whole thing, it really landed beautifully. So, you know, that sequence stands out very well in my mind.
And I also really liked all the stuff with Luke fighting the Knights of Ren in Issue #2. That's one of the great things about working on Star Wars, I am just as much a fan as anybody else is. And I hope it shows in the work. But getting to write the story that this is literally the only time we have ever seen Luke Skywalker pull out his lightsaber and be awesome between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. And even then, he had amazing moments in The Last Jedi, but they were different. They weren't like what we saw in The Rise of Kylo Ren #2. So, knowing that Will Sliney and I would be the first two creators out of the gate to be able to do that was just super cool. I mean, it felt great. So, it was a lot of fun.
Since the book has been a huge success, have sequels been discussed?
There's always more stories to tell. Who knows what will happen. I know that there is a large focus in the fandom about what stories might be told about Ben Solo going forward. And I know people want them to happen and all that, so I can't really speculate about anything. I’m not really in the loop on it. I had a great time on Rise of Kylo Ren. I would be thrilled to do more if the opportunity ever presented itself. I really enjoy working and writing Ben and Rey. I enjoy the sequel timeline quite a bit. There's just a lot of meat on the bone in terms of the storytelling of those characters, whether before or after Episode 9. So, who knows? I have no real insight into what they're thinking, but if they came to me and asked me for ideas, I'm sure I have them. And who knows what would happen in the future?
Just looking ahead, you get to kick off The High Republic timeline in January. Any teases about it outside of the excerpt?
I hate to say it, but I'm really hugely restricted in being able to talk about High Republic in any way. I can say that I'm really excited for the book to come out. I'm glad that people got a chance to see a little bit of it in the excerpt that was released last week. But anything other than that, I know better.
The trade edition of Star Wars: The Rise of Kylo Ren is available July 28, 2020 at all retailers.