Many memes grew out of the release of The Last Jedi last year, but one of the most enduringly silly was perhaps Ben Swolo — inspired by the moment when Kylo Ren, during a Force-powered FaceTime chat with Rey, pops up sans shirt, revealing a chiselled torso that is probably still feverishly inspiring Rey/Kylo fanfic writers to this very day. But the Internet is the Internet — and so with some delicate tweaking of a screenshot, Kylo Ren gave way to the absolute unit that is Ben Swolo.
The chest that launched a thousand memes. Photo: Lucasfilm
What’s all this got to do with Star Wars comics and the Solo family legacy, you ask? This week’s Star Wars #57 — by Kieron Gillen, Angel Unzueta, Guru-eFX, and Clayton Cowles — continues to follow up on Darth Vader’s devastating attack on the Rebel Fleet that’s formed a major part of the series’ latest arc. Although the Rebels managed to fight back against a surprise assault from Vader’s new flagship, the Super Star Destroyer Executor (and came up with the legendary Rogue Squadron, while they were at it), it came at a great cost: many of the Alliance’s newly-acquired Mon Calamari vessels were lost in the carnage. And the group itself, after coming together across various cells to unite at Yavin, now finds itself split and scattered once more.
That includes Han, Leia, and Luke, who, after being cut off from Chewie and the rest of their Alliance friends during the battle, have found themselves on the run. They’re currently stranded on a private moon called Hubin that, give or take the occasional giant beast attack, seems suspiciously pleasant (and suspiciously Imperial-free). Star Wars #57 sees the team trying to acclimatise to the idea that they’ll be on Hubin for a lot longer than they’d planned: its extreme policy of non-interference and isolationism means that traders only visit the moon every six months.
Han may not be strong in the Force, but his tavern sensitivity is off the charts. Image: Angel Unzueta, Guru-eFX, and Clayton Cowles (Marvel Comics)
Leia, ever the diplomat, tries to put on a noble face to the group’s host and Hubin’s ruler, Thane Markona. Luke is uncharacteristically sceptical of the whole deal and how Markona manages to keep the Empire’s grasp off a seemingly idyllic little world. And Han... well, Han’s Han. He goes swanning off the minute he finds something vaguely resembling a bar. What Han finds is that instead of paying credits for his booze, he’ll have to work, just like every other inhabitant on Hubin. And so when Leia goes to find her friends after parlaying with Markona, she’s in for... well, see the sight for yourself:
Anyone else just break out into the song about Han C-3PO wrote in The Courtship of Princess Leia? No? Just me? Image: Angel Unzueta, Guru-eFX, and Clayton Cowles (Marvel Comics)
Oh, indeed, your worshipfulness.
Given Star Wars’ ceaseless, at times frustrating fascination with contextualizing itself, a more academic manner in which to analyse Han Solo as a shirtless space lumberjack might be to suggest that Star Wars #57 has offered us the canonical moment the sparks really started flying in Han and Leia’s eventual romantic relationship. It’s the catalyst of one of the franchise’s greatest loves, the crucial moment in which Leia arrives at the “Oh no, that jerk is a hot jerk” stage of attraction.
But given Star Wars’ other fascination with generations and legacy, I like to think of it as the passing of the torso-torch, from Han Swolo to Ben Swolo. For he will become a bit of a hunk, like his father before him.