Poe Dameron didn’t get very much attention in The Force Awakens despite being one of its “faces”. Until Poe fans get to see more of him in the upcoming movies, however, there are some media that are trying to fill the empty space. Such as comics.
Poe Dameron is an ongoing comic series published by Marvel. It started coming out in 2016 and has been continuing until now. The first two story arcs (Black Squadron and The Gathering Storm) have been compiled and published as collected volumes (The Gathering Storm on 21st June 2017) also in digital form. Illustrated by Phil Noto and written by Charles Soule (who is also the author of Lando comic series, and has been writing also other comics for Marvel recently, such as She-Hulk or Daredevil), it offers a peek at what the best pilot in the Resistance has been up to before Episode VII.
Poe Dameron starts off a bit reluctantly. The story – as we learn immediately – directly predates The Force Awakens and the main plot revolves around Poe’s search for Lor San Tekka. That is the old guy played by Max von Sydow whom Poe meets in the opening scene of The Force Awakens.
This overarching plot gives the story a clear direction, preventing it from becoming only a series of random events connected to the main character. While reading the first chapter, I was somewhat uncertain about where this was going (if anywhere), but eventually, my feelings that I was reading “yet another lazy piece” were overcome. The story’s plot is in no way original, but altogether makes a well-balanced mixture.
What I have said about the story goes also for the characters. As soon as you make it a bit further into the comic, you’ll see the characterisation is very good and, when it comes to characters appearing in the films (basically Poe, BB-8, C-3PO, old Leia and Phasma), spot on. The only sad thing is that the characterisation doesn’t proceed beyond what we already know from the films (even Poe’s relationship with BB-8 is basically on the same “yes, acknowledged”-level we see in the one scene in the movie. I feel like a big chance was missed here).
What most fans should appreciate is that the comics focuses quite a bit on the Black Squadron, i.e. the group of pilots under Poe’s command. “Old school” fans might reminisce about Rogue Squadron, because the Blacks maintain quite the same atmosphere. I should also point out that one of the pilots, Snap Wexley, is an important character in Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath trilogy.
The antagonists are represented by The First Order and specifically agent Terex, who is Poe’s chief adversary. Whereas he is in many ways a “classic villain”, he has his own story and you might even like him (if you don’t mind classic villains). My personal opinion of him is that he’s nothing very original, but it certainly could have been worse. Sufficient to say, he is a worthy adversary for Poe, if nothing else, and the dynamic between them is entertaining enough.
Even though both the chief protagonist and the antagonist are male, what we have here is no “boys’ club”. There are important female characters, aside from Leia (who serves more like the “quest-giver” here), Poe’s colleagues in the Black Squadron like Jessika Pava (known also from the movies) or Karé Kun; another impressive character is Poe’s old friend Suralinda Javos. Another of the characters I enjoyed very much (even though she appears mostly in the background) was Captain Phasma. She is at the same time so intimidating and so stuck-up that it is hilarious. Quite in line with her portrayal in the movie.
No Great Revelations
Regretfully, the comics has not shown anything at all on the front of surprising revelations. Poe Dameron isn’t the kind of story that would expand your knowledge beyond what you are already familiar with from the movies; it is rather the kind of thing you can read recreationally to follow a story of your favourite character. In that respect, Disney has a bit of lazy writing on its hands.
The visual art itself is also (however I do not claim to be an expert in that field) not so amazing that the book would be worth getting just because of it. It is decent, however. Phil Noto’s pencil work has certainly managed to capture Oscar Isaac’s portrayal of Poe.
There are some moments which really work, however. In one of the later stories, there is a scene of special significance, a ceremony of sorts, where Poe Dameron is having a long speech. Not only is the scene superbly written – something that would emotionally overwhelm you on a big screen, and without the awful pathos usually reserved for big speeches. Its visual depiction also has many small details which bring it to life: such as characters’ expressions conveying their emotions, or Poe having his beard cleanly shaven for the occasion (you can tell that it is fresh – now this is what I call successful painting).
It is a pity there are not more of such moments. Even more’s the pity that, like I said, the comic doesn’t actually bring in anything new. Who knows – maybe the story’s finale will bring us something more; I, however, somehow doubt it. If you are a Poe Dameron fan, however, I am sure you are going to enjoy his adventures in the comics form.