by Patrick Ehlers
This article containers SPOILERS. If you have not read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
This arc in Star Wars Poe Dameron has been all about telling war stories: who does it, and why they do it. The answers thus far have been pretty straightforward. Poe tells Rey and Finn what he was up to during The Force Awakens so they can bond over their differing perspectives on a shared experience. It brings them closer together. And Artoo and Beebee honor their fallen droid brothers by recounting the serial number of every robot lost in the attack on Starkiller Base. These are noble war stories, and that’s weirdly consistent with the tone of the original trilogy. For as much as Star Wars was about Vietnam, Lucas perhaps didn’t have the historical perspective to capture the tone or cadence of war stories from that conflict. With Poe Dameron 29, writer Charles Soule taps into a sense of hopeless, confusion and pointlessness, rounding out his list of reasons to tell war stories with one of the hardest explanation out there: because they happened.
The issue starts by testing Poe’s capacity to even hear Jessika’s story in the first place. He pauses the playback and appeals to Threepio “tell me I’m not watching Jess’ last words here.” It’s a valid concern, and also not one that Threepio is able to assuage. We’re already seeing a different effect of storytelling here — instead of stories bonding characters, or letting them remember their fallen friends, this one threatens to do psychological damage to our hero. Poe wrestles with this for a moment, before resigning himself to his duty and hearing out the rest of the story. Luckily, Jess demonstrates that she’s just as good a bringing Poe joy as she is at crushing his spirit.
I love this moment because it’s the last time the issue reminds the reader that there is an audience for this story. Poe’s reaction is a simple “heh,” but it’s a perfect character beat, showing both his ego and his affection for his friend’s gentle ribbing.
From that point on, though, Soule and artist Angel Unzueta stick to the content of Jessika’s story, which is messy. Black Squadron knows they’re being tricked, and essentially allow themselves to be used by a not-so-benevolent bug-king. This isn’t a story that makes us laugh, or that makes us fondly remember acts of heroism. But it’s also not really helpful in any tactical way — only teaching a lesson that cannot be universally applied. The moral seems to be “sometimes, people will take advantage of you.” Which is horrifying, and the messy, non-heroic, non-romantic version of war is finally present in Star Wars.
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