Best Shots Advance Review: STAR WARS: POE DAMERON #1

Star Wars: Poe Dameron #1
Star Wars: Poe Dameron #1
Credit: Marvel Comics
Credit: Marvel Comics

Star Wars: Poe Dameron #1
Written by Charles Soule
Art by Phil Noto
Lettering by Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10

Much of the appeal behind Star Wars: The Force Awakens was not just the return of fan-favorite characters like Han Solo or Princess Leia Organa, but the arrival of a new generation of post-Empire heroes and villains — yet while characters such as Rey, Finn and Kylo Ren were all firmly established, there was one new addition that was almost willfully mysterious. Meet Poe Dameron, the finest pilot in the Resistance, a character who really shouldn’t have been a success — not only did he disappear from half the movie, but he originally was supposed to die in early drafts of the script — but instead charmed viewers thanks to Oscar Isaac’s charisma and chemistry with John Boyega. But without Isaac’s charm and sex appeal, can Charles Soule and Phil Noto really do the leader of Black Squadron justice? Right now, the answer remains to be seen — while Soule does channel a bit of Isaac’s voice and Noto’s artwork is as striking as ever, the actual plot of this story feels pretty by-the-numbers.

Given that Poe Dameron has had probably an hour or less to really latch onto viewers’ imaginations, it’s perhaps not surprising that Soule doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel in terms of adding anything to the character — indeed, those sorts of spoilerific beans aren’t going to get spilled in the pages of a tie-in funnybook. Instead, Soule takes a page out of his Lando playbook and builds up Dameron’s supporting cast, the ace fighter pilots of Black Squadron — unfortunately, though, unlike in Lando, this first issue keeps most of these cast members at arms’ length, focusing instead on Dameron’s search for Max Von Sydow’s Lor San Tekka. Involving a collapsing cave and a group of egg-worshipping recluses, this part of the script doesn’t really evoke the wonder of the rest of the Star Wars universe — there’s really no danger or tension here until Soule artificially gooses the story just in time for the cliffhanger. We already know this is a religious sect rather than a group of violent zealots, and we already know Dameron finds his man at the end. So what kind of angle can Soule find here, to make this story worthwhile?

There’s a lot to Charles Soule’s script that seems promising, however — in particular, Dameron’s sarcastic, wisecracking nature. “All right, all right!” Poe smiles as he sees the Black Squadron for the first time. “Look at you guys. Looking good. Looking tough!” While he’s trying to disarm his enemies (including the critics) with his personable banter, though, a lot gets lost in translation without the actual voice and mannerisms of Oscar Isaac himself — Phil Noto, laying on some particularly thick inking with this series, does a great job with likenesses, but that’s no substitute for actual flesh-and-blood acting. Unfortunately, though, Soule’s other big gambit — namely, showing off how great Poe is as a pilot — is the other thing that doesn’t gel well with Noto’s style. Noto is great with showing expressions and a master of using color, but his style is static basically by definition — he’s not the guy who knocks a high-speed chase out of the park, because his spaceships always look like they’re standing stock-still, even when an entire cave is collapsing around Poe and BB-8.

Ultimately, though, Soule and Noto have big enough followings — and it’s not like Star Wars: The Force Awakens is some small indie film, either — that many people will likely forgive them for any sins they might find in Star Wars: Poe Dameron #1. This is the franchise that won’t quit, and it’s a shrewd move on Marvel’s part to hook people in with the least-developed character of the new film, where there are the least amount of expectations for people to get hung up on. That said, this particular critic does feel like there’s a little bit of a disconnect between the artist and the subject matter, not to mention that a deeper angle could have been found to really make this not just a must-read book, but a want-to-read book, instead.

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