Star War: Age of Resistance - Supreme Leader Snoke #1 is an exercise in giving fans unnecessary context to plot points -- as if the broad emotional strokes of the Star Wars franchise weren't conveying them well enough. To put it another way, this comic, despite being written and illustrated well, doesn't really tell us anything about Snoke and Kylo Ren that hasn't already been said on screen. This is retroactively showing instead of telling, reinforcing what we already know about the cadre of villains in the current era of Star Wars films we are in. So, does Supreme Leader Snoke #1 have a good justification for its own existence? More or less, yes. It does.
The Disney-produced Star Wars films have been met with a very bizarre and volatile mixed reaction from fans. There is a strange disconnect between what the films are, specifically Rian Johnson's The Last Jedi and how portions of the Star Wars fan base see them. Just google "TLJ Ruined Star Wars" and you'll find a myriad of Internet warriors nitpicking every single aspect of the film as they harshly judge these broad strokes for being an affront to their own interpretation of a story about bratty kids, space wizards and laser swords. However, The Last Jedi grossed a billion (with a 'b') dollars worldwide and is loved by fans and film critics all around the world, which doesn't sound like a franchise-ruining film if you ask us.
Yet, there are some facets of the sequel trilogy that admittedly are not terribly fleshed out on screen. This doesn't mean they don't make sense or betray a character as we know them from the films (yes, this includes Luke Skywalker's self-imposed exile). They can just be easily overlooked or not broadcast broadly enough to hammer home their point. The recent rash of Marvel's Star Wars comics have done an admirable job of trying to correct this.
Supreme Leader Snoke #1 dives into the master/apprentice relationship between the titular Big Bad and fallen Jedi golden boy, Kylo Ren (nee Ben Solo). What we gleaned from their relationship in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi wasn't anything warm and fuzzy. Their bond was one forged in fear and humiliation. Writer Tom Taylor and artist Leonard Kirk focus on a very specific moment in their master/apprentice relationship by having it mirror the training sequence between Luke and Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back.
Taylor and Kirk understand the name Skywalker carries a lot of baggage with it. Supreme Leader Snoke #1 is a reminder of this. Snoke takes his troubled young apprentice to the Dark Side Cave on Dagobah, and things get just as messy as they were when Kylo's uncle faced a projection of his father decades prior. This moment also lends itself well to the pervasive motif of recycling iconic moments from the original trilogy but twisting them in such a way that they often feel fresh. Moments like this, like the eventual death of Snoke in the middle of The Last Jedi, are meant to be subversive. They play off our preconceived notions of what Star Wars is supposed to be and then pull the rug from underneath our feet the moment we get our bearings. Without going too deep into spoiler territory, the outcome of Kylo's vision quest also plays into his character's ethos, which is defined by destroying the past, no matter how terrible it may seem to everyone else.
From an art standpoint, this issue is a bit of a mixed bag. Leonard Kirk's pencils are strong and the way he approximates actors from the films is great. Kylo looks more like Kylo and less like Adam Driver. And while it's hard to determine exactly when this story takes place, it's obvious Ben Solo is still with us at this point. Kirk does a good job of de-aging the character on the page without making it look off-putting. However, there are a few action panels here and there that are a bit "wonky" (this is a professional comic journalism term, by the way). Thankfully those images are few and far between, making this a rather handsome book for the majority of its page count.
For better or worse, Supreme Leader Snoke # 1 is an engaging glimpse into the inner workings of a bad relationship. And while it doesn't really shed any new light on their dynamic, it's worth a read for fans of the franchise. However, this book isn't going to change anyone's mind who didn't like Snoke being built up as a central villain and then killed off in his second on-screen appearance (not like that didn't happen to another Dark Side leader or anything...), but if the subversive and cyclical nature of The Last Jedi is your jam, then this is a strong recommendation.