September was exciting for Star Wars fans, particularly those who have sought more details about the elusive Knights of Ren, briefly introduced in The Force Awakens, only to be missing from The Last Jedi. Writer Charles Soule recently opened up about his upcoming Marvel Comics series, The Rise of Kylo Ren, sharing a dramatic, inked sketch of Kylo and the Knights in a flying wedge formation. Another great treat was the illustrated poster/Advent calendar of The Rise of Skywalker, which shows four of the six Knights in great detail, as well as the Empire close-up of the other four.
The Knights of Ren costumes clearly riff on Kylo Ren's Dark Lord vibe, along with varying degrees of cyberpunk and Mad Max influences. However, some of the replies to the tweet that shared a First Order cover for the latest issue of Star Wars Insider have been a little negative about their lack of lightsabers, with some fans claiming that they should have lightsabers or they'll be "no match" for Rey, implying that there was the general expectation that they would carry them.
The popular assumption, deduced from Luke's words about Ben Solo killing some of his students but sparing others, has so far been that the Knights were former padawans learning at the same temple as Ben under the Jedi Master. Ben Solo had a lightsaber; ergo the other students must have been learning how to use one too. Adding fuel to this theory, the depictions of the Knights in The Art of the Force Awakens and The Art of The Last Jedi showed some of them with lightsabers at their waist on top of their weapons -- although that might have been because the Knights' appearance was born from discarded design proposals for the "Jedi Killer," the first conceptual iteration of the character that would later become Kylo Ren.
Their lack of lightsabers makes them seem less like stray Force-users and more like a rough-and-ready rabble of mercenaries that may not even have any Force sensitivity; a group Kylo Ren could have met outside of Luke's school during or after his breaking bad. Although Charles Soule has confirmed that he will be telling the story of how Ben Solo burned down the Jedi Temple and how he became the master of the Knights of Ren, the first issue is not coming out until December, so until then, we can keep speculating.
Because the former pupils theory has become so widely accepted, few have paused to even consider the alternative. Just as easily as they could be former Jedi-in-training, the Knights of Ren could just as easily be a band of well-trained scavengers that "adopted" Kylo after he turned dark, offering him a certain degree of protection, camouflage and their surname. (Though it raises the question of what happened to the students that Kylo Ren didn't kill.)
That might explain their mismatched looks, weapons and fighting styles (from arm cannons to what looks like a massive sickle). Star Wars could have already planted a clue about this potential origin in the movie Solo, where we see someone wielding the same ax with Death Star window indentations as one of the Knights of Ren.
The Knights of Ren could be an off-shoot of Crimson Dawn, a criminal organization that was led by none other than Darth Maul, and with whom Han Solo and his erstwhile partner Q'ira came in contact with over and over; not a bad narrative solution for a story involving Han Solo's son turning to the dark side of the Force.
However, there's also another explanation for the Knights' alternative weapon choices. Sticking with the former pupils theory, their apparent lack of lightsabers could be justified because there simply weren't enough lightsabers or spare Kyber crystals to go around, or because they were much younger than Ben Solo and Luke was still training them with props instead of the real thing, like a fencing master training small children with foam swords.
Another possibility is that their lightsabers were destroyed in the temple fire (a little unlikely, but we don't yet know the nature of the fire) or that the Knights of Ren failed to create their own red lightsabers from their Jedi ones, breaking their Kyber crystals entirely instead of just cracking and bleeding them as Kylo Ren did.
Or, there's the very plausible scenario that Snoke might have taken their lightsabers away once Kylo Ren became his exclusive pupil, for fear that they might rebel: in The Last Jedi we saw the damage that only two lightsabers could do against a room full of highly-trained, almost immune Praetorian guards, and despite Snoke's terrible oversight of basic security precautions, he doesn't seem like the kind of leader that would be comfortable keeping around a bunch of lightsaber-armed Force-sensitives.
In any case, one thing has been made clear: although lightsabers are formidable weapons, there are other melée options in the Galaxy that can counteract or even neutralize their effects. The First Order had not only the Praetorian guard, but also electric batons that regular stormtroopers used, so the lack of a laser sword shouldn't be an impediment to be a terrifying opponent for any of the heroes of The Rise of Skywalker, no matter if the person holding it is a Sith warrior or a Force-insensitive scoundrel.