by Michael DeLaney and Mark Mitchell
This article containers SPOILERS. If you have not read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
Michael: Marvel’s Star Wars line of comics were launched on the idea that what happens between the movies behind the scenes are stories worth telling. Surprisingly, many of these stories have been deep, creative chapters in the lives of the characters we know and love, building upon their respective character philosophies. Not every aspect of these characters’ lives shares that amount of depth or insight, however. We spend a lot of our lives sitting around, not doing anything consequential. Unfortunately, the same is true for the heroes of Star Wars: Poe Dameron 26.Following The Battle of Crait, Poe, Finn, and Rey sit around the Millennium Falcon’s trusty “holo-chess” table and do some catching up. It’s kinda/sorta a clip-show episode of Golden Girls in comic book form.
After a brief recap of the opening scenes of The Force Awakens, Poe fills his friends (and us) in on what happened to him after he and Finn crashed their Tie-Fighter on Jakku. After a little desert wandering, Poe hooks up with Naka Iit — a semi-good guy scavenger pal of Rey’s — avoids some bad guy scavengers and manages to make it back to the Resistance base on D’Qar. The issue ends teasing another “what Poe was doing behind the scenes” plot for next issue. And if this issue is any indication, that tale will be equally non-essential.
To be fair, the blame does not entirely lie with Charles Soule. Just as it was when this series began, he can only move the story and its characters so far within the confines of these new Star Wars films — like dancing between raindrops. This series is at its best when it deviates from the Abrams/Johnson films and forges its own path. It’s disappointing to see this issue retread what happened in a movie — events that all of us already know — in lieu of sending Poe and Black Squadron on a new, separate adventure.
After all of that, I am probably going to contradict myself here: visually, the best page in Poe Dameron 26 is the double-page-spread of Poe recapping The Force Awakens. This is what Star Wars comics do so well: they take a montage of familiar/iconic images and events and lay them out on the page as a character’s memory.
Even if I may not like the beat-by-beat recap, the caption boxes are expertly-placed around the silhouette of the Millennium Falcon. My favorite part of the spread is Poe’s blaster bolt — frozen by Kylo Ren’s force grip — launching down the center of the Falcon, redirecting the reader’s eye chronologically back to the left side of the page. Grade A work from artist Angel Unzueta.
Maybe I’m being overly critical here, but this issue just wasn’t for me. I don’t ever find scenes where characters are catching one another up to speed that interesting; if the audience already knows, then those scenes can be — and typically are — cut. And I suppose you could tell me that not everyone knows the background for The Force Awakens, but I kinda doubt those people would be reading a book called Star Wars: Poe Dameron. And Poe’s Jakku B-story didn’t have enough to carry the issue, unfortunately.
Mark, can you make my Grinch heart grow three sizes on this book? Besides that spread, I couldn’t find a whole lot to love about this issue. Do you find any value in these “behind the scenes” plots? Or are Soule and Unzueta merely making the best of a mediocre situation?
Mark: I’m sorry, Michael, but I don’t think I’m going to be of any help in turning your frown upside down. This issue is a complete misfire.
Now, I don’t hate the idea of explaining what happened to Poe during his mysterious absence from the plot of The Force Awakens — after he and Finn crash land on Jakku, Poe goes missing for quite a bit of act two, and the film offers no explanation for how he survived the crash and returned to the Resistance base. It’s a significant chunk of time that Poe’s actions are unaccounted for, so it’s certainly ripe for continued exploration in the expanded Star Wars universe. The problem for me, then, is that what happened during his absence turns out to be completely un-noteworthy: he happens on a friendly Jakku resident who offers him a ride into town, some raiders try to run them down, they escape, end scene.
(The real world explanation for Poe’s absence is easy to explain: at one point the plan was for Poe to die in The Force Awakens, but JJ Abrams changed his mind. This might sound familiar to LOST fans; Abrams [who wrote and directed the pilot for LOST before moving into an executive producer role for the rest of the series] pulled the same move with the character of Jack.)
As far as the film goes, it makes a lot of sense for Poe’s return to the Resistance base to be mundane — if something really cool had happened they would have shown it in the movie, but since it’s dumb, then we’re not missing anything by having it be left out. And Soule and Unzueta are making the “best” out of a bad situation in a sense; they’re just repeating the official account of Poe’s flight off Jakku given by writer Alan Dean Foster in The Force Awakens’ official film novelization.
But if Poe Dameron 26 is not filling in the story gaps with any new information, the questions remains why this story is being told in this medium, in this specific title, right now? Maybe it’s as simple as Soule’s attention being needed more elsewhere, and so this trip down memory lane was assembled from spare parts to ease his workload. And that’d be understandable. But it’s galling that Poe’s rememberances of The Force Awakens are seemingly going to be stretched out across an entire arc of Poe Dameron. What is even the point?
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?