Today, Michael and Mark are discussing Star Wars: Poe Dameron 10, originally released January 11th, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
Michael: In the beginning there was Star Wars and it was good. Then came The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi and eventually what would be known as “The Expanded Universe.” The original Star Wars films are classic stories of good vs. evil that served as the groundwork for the countless novels, comic books and video games that The Expanded Universe built on. Marvel has made it very clear that EU no longer exists within their Star Wars realm. But the current Poe Dameron arc “The Gathering Storm” has a lot of that EU spirit – specifically in the series’ antagonist, Agent Terex.
I will admit that I wasn’t very impressed by Agent Terex in the opening chapters of Star Wars: Poe Dameron – he just seemed like another evil prick trying to thwart the heroes in the Star Wars galaxy. In the past few issues, however, Charles Soule has peeled back the layers to reveal a man who faced an existential crisis in the wake of the Empire’s destruction. Terex went from loyal soldier of the Empire to criminal warlord to agent of The First Order, and in Star Wars Poe Dameron 10 he is something of a combination of all of those things.
Soule depicts Terex as a man who has gone through a loss of a faith, a crushed idealism. In the flashbacks we see him clinging on to one last chance to bring back the glory of The Empire. Once he learns that his companions don’t share his vision he realizes that goal of Imperial restoration might be impossible. We all have a particular vision of how the world works and often times that worldview – idealistic or cynical – can be disproven and come crashing down. It could be something simple as a child learning that there is no Santa Claus or an adult learning that his or her friends aren’t who they thought they were. It looks like Terex has gone through two such moments of crisis: after the fall of The Empire and after re-assembling his gang “The Rancs.”
I’m not an Expanded Universe expert, but I like the idea of it. The battle between good and evil presented in the Star Wars films is a compelling one – but at it’s a core, a very simple one. Like the Expanded Universe, Star Wars: Poe Dameron is taking that simplistic battle of good vs evil and making it a little more complicated. The Force Awakens is an entertaining movie, but it suffers from an overwhelming lack of specifics. We don’t really get the sense of what makes The First Order drastically different from The Empire; like Kylo Ren, The First Order seems like a bunch of Empire fanboys.
Though not explicit, we get a better understanding of the inner-workings of evil in the Star Wars galaxy through Terex’s perspective. After Terex accepts that the Empire is truly gone he becomes a criminal. After he joins up with The First Order he soon learns that they’re not the Empire Part II. After he has his little epiphany there’s a telling line of dialogue from Terex to one of his lieutenants:
Star Wars is simplistic in the struggle between good and evil but there are still varying shades of evil. There’s always been a division among The Empire/First Order, the Sith/Force users and criminals. They all want similar goals but there are certain things about one another’s philosophies that they don’t respect. Terex is a criminal in the eyes of The First Order but if he can give them and “that freak Kylo Ren” the end of the Resistance then it’s a win for all the baddies.
Mark I feel like Poe Dameron has finally found a compelling story that doesn’t rely so much on the plot of The Force Awakens – what do you think? I’m also a big fan of C-3PO being in charge of his “network of operatives.” Do you like seeing him in a more active role? And is Oddy the First Order spy or is that too obvious?
Mark: Writing in the OG Expanded Universe (now called Legends) must have been incredibly liberating after a while. As the Star Wars universe kept expanding and the original trilogy retreated further and further into the background of the EU, creators had great leeway in telling their stories without fear of upsetting established canon. Charles Soule and other creators working in the current, rebooted Star Wars EU are constrained to much tighter parameters— parameters that are tied much closer to the films. It has to be an often difficult line to tow; there’s a lot of freedom when writing Momaw Nadon, for example, that isn’t afforded when writing Han Solo.
Much of Poe Dameron 10 is devoted to Agent Terex, and Terex’s characterization and motivations hit that sweet spot of enriching the world of Star Wars without feeling like a retread of what we’ve seen in the films. Terex is, frankly, a much more compelling character to follow at the moment than Poe Dameron. Dameron was pretty ill-defined in The Force Awakens outside of “Ace Pilot #1,” but a lot of his thin characterization was forgiven thanks to the force of personality of Oscar Isaac. Without that charisma, the Dameron of the comics is harder to love. The Poe Dameron book hasn’t done much to deepen our understanding of Dameron, and when he’s backgrounded for the majority of the issue you don’t really notice that he barely features in his own comic.
You can tell Soule has more fun writing for a stronger voice like C-3PO. It has to be hard when writing a well established character like C-3PO to not have the comic version feel like a simulacrum of the real thing. What C-3PO sounds like is so engrained in my brain that it’s easy for me to come up with my own head canon about what is “right” or “wrong” for C-3PO to do and say (for better and for worse), and trying to write a C-3PO that agrees with every fan’s individual version of the character is a thankless task. But, for my money, Soule does a good job of capturing the idealized C-3PO voice here. Watching C-3PO command his network of droids was a new feat, but one that still feels in-character.
Like I’ve mentioned in the past, Poe Dameron and all of the other Star Wars books are at their best the further they get away from the movies. Striking the right balance between telling an original story and strict fidelity to the source material is difficult when dealing closely with the films, and, honestly, the payoff is rarely worth the effort. Poe Dameron 10 shows the potential of a story based around a new character, with secondary appearances by established film heroes to pay the bills.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?