I know you're here for Star Wars: The Rise of Kylo Ren #1, but have you heard about CATS? Andrew Lloyd Webber’s blockbuster of a musical based on TS Eliot’s charming cat poems was just made into a film by director Tom Hooper (Les Miserables, The King's Speech), to a slew of incredible critical pans
I know you’re here for Star Wars: The Rise of Kylo Ren #1, but have you heard about CATS? Andrew Lloyd Webber’s blockbuster of a musical based on TS Eliot’s charming cat poems was just made into a film by director Tom Hooper (Les Miserables, The King’s Speech), to a slew of incredible critical pans and general confusion.
Star Wars: The Rise of Kylo Ren #1
Charles Soule (writer), Will Sliney (art), GURU-eFX (colors), VC’s Travis Lanham (letters)
December 18th, 2019
I’m starting with CATS because the classic Broadway CATS costumes, while extremely ’80s, also don’t look much like actual cats. The costumes and makeup merely suggest a cat in a mostly aesthetically pleasing way (which is not CGI’ing fur onto a skintight bodysuit, turns out). And the audience understands that these actors in fur and leg warmers are meant to be cats, even though they are not weirdly smoothed and furry. In fact, the attempt at making the actors look more like cats makes them less cat-like and instead unsettling.
Hooper is a reasonable director when working with the normal tools of his trade, but when he’s out of that zone he falls apart. Will Sliney similarly seems perfectly competent as a comics artist, but in Star Wars: The Rise of Kylo Ren #1 he falls woefully short of accurately replicating the odd angles and planes of actor Adam Driver’s face. I get it — Driver does not have an easy to draw face (part of his appeal), and it’s only the first issue, so it’s possible that Sliney will get the hang of it later.
Kylo’s face is given more details than the non-movie characters and thus there are more details to get slightly wrong. I think Sliney would have done better to simply try to suggest Adam Driver, with fewer lines and more distinctive features. We all know who plays Kylo Ren/Ben Solo in the films, and what he looks like, and that audience familiarity works against Sliney here. Personally, I would prefer a likeness that feels like the character Kylo Ren over unsettling attempts at looking like Adam Driver.
The one other glaring problem with this book is the lettering, from VC’s Travis Lanham. A sad truth about comics lettering is that it’s not often mentioned when it’s doing its job — lettering is most noticed when it’s bad. And this lettering? Not great.
First, let’s start with the caption ‘Long Ago.’ I believe it’s meant to fit into the Star Wars house style of using movie fonts, but it does nothing for me as a reader. It suggests nothing. Then, the word balloon. Let’s be real — everyone in Star Wars who wears a mask has some kind of cool, modulated voice, but this guy? Looks like he’s talking like your regular, half-rotted swole bro at the gym. There’s no menace, no swagger, no danger or mystery added by this extremely by-the-book lettering style.
Storywise, Charles Soule appears to be shaking up the previously known/assumed backstory of Ben Solo’s fall to the Dark Side — while Luke Skywalker’s Jedi academy is still razed to the ground, it’s unclear who exactly is to blame, with Kylo/Ben insisting that he “never wanted this.” It feels like an attempted softening of Ben Solo, though Sliney adds in some very expressive puppy dog eyes in a few panels that cut to cold and calculating so it may be a fake-out (the first panel here is definitely my favorite of his Kylos).
Soule also introduces us to three Jedi-in-training who were conveniently off-world while all this mysteriously went down, each of whom seems to have a different take on Ben Solo, either willing to take him out or hoping to talk him back to the light.
We also get a few pages with our old pal Snoke, who’s also showing a softer side of himself. There’s a cute little prequel reference (I see you, Soule) so there’s a hint of Soule’s humor here despite the grim darkness of it all.
I’m intrigued but not barreled over by Star Wars: The Rise of Kylo Ren #1; I’m not sure I’m personally that interested in making Kylo Ren more sympathetic or understandable. But if Kylo’s your villain, this is probably worth a read.