Today, Michael and Taylor are discussing Star Wars: Poe Dameron 1, originally released April 6th, 2016.
Michael: Poe Dameron is in Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens just long enough for us to know that he’s cool and that we want to know more about him. There is no denying that Oscar Isaac’s brief (but memorable) role as Poe was a joy to watch. With his charm, wit, and optimism, Poe Dameron was a combination of Luke, Han and Lando. It’s no surprise then that Marvel chose Lando scribe Charles Soule to tackle another smooth talker in Poe Dameron. Does this first issue lay a foundation for further understanding the elusive cool guy Poe? Does this feel like a necessary addition to the strong Star Wars line?
Star Wars: Poe Dameron 1 tells the tale of how Poe found his way to Lor San Tekka on the planet Jakku at the beginning of The Force Awakens. The book opens in medias res with Poe’s X-Wing and fills in the gaps later via flashback (this seems to be an industry standard these days). General Leia has assigned Poe with the task of tracking down her brother Luke by way of Lor San Tekka. Along for the ride are his fellow pilots that make up “Black Squadron” — a couple of familiar faces/races among them, including Greg Grunberg’s character Snap Wexley. After Poe makes his way through the caverns of a planet (?) where Lor San Tekka: “The Explorer” was last sighted, he encounters a group of aliens known as The Crèche. The Crèche wax on about their egg that holds “the savior unborn” — Han Solo would call this a hokey religion for sure. Poe convinces the Crèche that they are somewhat on the same side just in time to realize that the First Order is on the planet.
J.J. Abrams approached The Force Awakens as a new generation learning that the whispers and legends that they always heard were true — Star Wars: Poe Dameron follows that trend. Soule writes Poe with the same attitude and self-assured nature that we expect from the pilot. When he accepts the mission from Leia he is both cocky and confident that he knows what The Resistance is up against. But Leia doesn’t suffer any fools, so she assures Poe that he doesn’t understand the potential for evil that The First Order has. Poe didn’t live through the evils of the Empire like Leia did — she had her home planet blown up, after all. I think that the “next generation learning that legends are history” element is very interesting, mostly because it seems so foreign. The way that we capture every moment from what we’re eating to the latest lie a politician tells makes it hard to believe that our life in 2016 would be almost mythic to the next generation.
If I’m not mistaken, Star Wars: Poe Dameron is billed as an ongoing series — as opposed to many of the other “Star Wars” books that are limited runs. I think that’s only worth noting because Poe’s mission is to find Lor San Tekka — who knows the whereabouts of Luke Skywalker — is basically the same mission we see him completing at the beginning of The Force Awakens. Clearly, Soule has plans for Poe, the Crèche, and The First Order before we get to Lor San Tekka on Jakku, but it’s certainly a curious place to begin a new ongoing Poe Dameron series.
As ever, Phil Noto is no slouch of an artist. I’ve always enjoyed his character depictions, and it was a treat to see him translate real actors and their characters onto the page. That Leia/Poe scene I mentioned is so spot on that I can hear the Oscar Isaac charm as he simultaneously insults and respects Leia. I found myself not liking Noto’s direction of the “X-Wing cavern escape” scene however.
Poe and BB-8 realize that the cavern they’re flying through is “a kill box” and they have to race the X-Wing to escape as the doors ahead of them are rapidly closing. Maybe I’m harping too much on a typical action cliche, but we’ve all seen the “closing door” scene before, so we know that are hero will make it — and since we’re Star Wars fans, we know how. Noto gives some good tension as he rotates perspective from cockpit to ship exterior to doors several times and then…cuts to a flashback with Leia. Look at that last panel: the X-Wing is still horizontal. Unless he’s about to pull some Batman Returns-level Batmobile splitting we know that Poe will make it through the doors by flipping the ship vertically. That foregone conclusion and the flashback transition really bothered me for some reason — it’s still gorgeous artwork but it felt like it was insulting my intelligence.
Now that I think about it the “X-Wing cavern escape” scene is pretty indicative of what a prequel is. The problems with prequels are legion but key among them are that we as the audience already know how things end up; the trick is making the journey to those foregone conclusions interesting. Star Wars: Poe Dameron 1 isn’t as thrilling or charming as Poe Dameron is, but at least it’s pretty.
Taylor! What say you? Have you ever been irked by the direction of an action scene like that or am I just insane? Did you have any particular thoughts on The Crèche? I wasn’t all that interested if you couldn’t tell. Also, feel free to comment on the Calvin and Hobbes-y BB-8 story at the end. Is it just me, or do we as a pop culture “Calvin and Hobbes” a lot of things these days?
Taylor: Ugh, that story at the end of the issue is kind of gross. Aside from the “Calvin and Hobbes” styling, I was really irked by the story itself. The entire premise of the story boils down to BB-8 helping two pilot-nerds fall in love. It’s just so over-the-top quaint and I can’t stand how the comic feels like it’s cashing in on the the cuteness of everyone’s new favorite droid. Let BB-8 be cute in the movie and leave it that. I don’t want more stories about BB-8 being cute because that’s the narrative equivalent of eating too many sugary snacks. In this case though, it’s my soul that would rot instead of my teeth.
Luckily I have a much better opinion about the actual Poe Dameron portion of this issue. As much as I like seeing Poe in action in this issue, I think it’s Leia who really steals the show. Soule writes General Organa perfectly in the one scene she appears in. She’s tough and grizzled, but also inspiring and fair. These qualities of the General are best on display when Poe questions her about his mission.
Her answer to the question of what Poe should do if he doesn’t find Lor is terse but also complimentary. By refusing to dictate everything thing that Poe should do, Leia places trust in the man who is her subordinate. I’m by no means an expert on workplace management skills, but it’s clear from this exchange that Leia knows how to get the best out of her troops. I appreciate how this depiction of Leia picks up right where The Force Awakens left off. Further, it shows me more why Leia is now the general in charge of fighting the New Order. It’s not because she is a princess or even simply because she was in the original trilogy. Rather, she’s just a damn capable leader. Obviously this is something we’ve suspected about Leia for a long time, but it’s wonderful actually seeing that on display here.
Leia’s faith in Poe proves to be well founded because it turns out that Lor indeed is not where Leia thought he would be. I’m with you, Michael — I feel nothing for the Crèche. They’re basically just another humanoid “alien” spices that are different from regular humans because they have blue painted on their forehead. While they’re boring, I love the way Poe plays off of their latent hostility. After he learns they aren’t going to tell him where Lor is right away, things get a little heated.
Just as with Leia, I feel that Soule has really caught the voice of Poe in this instance. His hot-headed response to not being given what he wants rings true of Poe, from what little I know of him. More, the way he smoothes over this outburst (after a gun is pulled on him) seems typical of this character. What I like most about this is that it shows us who Poe is. On the outside he’s a sarcastic wise-ass, but it’s clear that beneath the surface there lies a man who is passionate and believes in the ideals of something bigger than himself. This is a similar character trait to Han Solo, and it goes a long way towards explaining why everyone likes Poe so much. He’s a ragamuffin with a heart of gold.
On the visual front, I’m also pretty pleased with Noto’s work here, not that that should come as a surprise to anyone. One thing I noticed Noto doing a lot of in this issue is having Poe spill over in a lot of the panels he’s in. In some cases, this even happens twice on one page!
While that’s not the case on every page, it’s pretty ubiquitous throughout the issue. This technique continuously stresses that Poe is at the center of this issue and the star attraction. Obviously I don’t need that reminder on every page, but I actually appreciate how this reinforces Poe’s centrality to this issue as a whole. Noto spaces each page quite well so none of these overlaps ever feel like they’re intruding upon another panel. Instead they feel organic and remind me which guy in an orange jumpsuit is the most important in this issue.
As for the action in the issue, it is a bit confusing and sure, it makes it look like Poe is going to crash his X-Wing into the door panels. However, a part of me actually believed he might do that. Maybe I’m a sucker, but also maybe Poe is just that dynamic.
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