Marvel continues to expand its Star Wars line by finally giving fans what they’ve wanted since last December: a comic grounded firmly in the timeline of The Force Awakens. The movie delivered a trio of new, compelling leads in Rey, Finn, and Poe; Oscar Isaac’s performance ensured that anyone with two eyes and a heart fell for the best pilot in the Resistance, and now we have Star Wars: Poe Dameron #1.
People have been buzzing about this book ever since Phil Noto’s preview pages were published; his photo-realistic style is well suited to books grounded in a cinematic universe. It makes readers comfortable to recognize Oscar Isaac and Carrie Fisher on the page. Noto’s art is far and away the strongest aspect of this first issue. The facial performances of the characters on the page lifts up the dialogue, while the cramped X-Wing cockpits trap us in a cave right alongside our hero. The settings are rich, and it’s especially rewarding to have non-humanoid aliens among the cast so Noto can play around with weird appendages and non-standard faces. How does a Duros convey frustration and relief? Now we know!
Charles Soule script fits the voices of the characters, but is more devoted to servicing the plot. There’s a lot of yelling orders back and forth, though the standout exchange comes from Poe and…let’s call her a cult leader? They’re standing around a glowing McGuffin, and while everything is deadly serious, Poe can’t help but be a bit of a smart mouth. Soule clearly enjoyed the character’s first meeting with Kylo Ren in the movie (like most of us) and it’s a great laugh moment.
The issue is good enough to make me want another, but it suffers from a lack of any deep hook beyond “Poe Dameron is super charming and likable and BB-8 is the actual best”. There was much more emotional resonance in Chris Eliopolous’s back up feature, a comic where BB-8 notices two humans have crushes and decides to do something about it, because BB-8 is the actual best. To an extent, the lack of pizzazz comes from the fact that half the action sequences are X-Wing based, and X-Wing space fights are not nearly as compelling on the page as they are on a screen, at least as presented here.
Good news though: not every comic has to be brain-shakingly brilliant. Sometimes it’s okay for it to be a fun story about the handsome Space Hero you’ve been swooning over for 5 months. Hopefully the story will spend more time on the rest of Black Squadron in the coming issues, as Jessica Pava and L’ulo in particular appear to be a wealth of backstory and character meat. As an Official Lucasfilm/Disney/Marvel product, I don’t expect we’ll get any of the queer subtext of movie-Poe, but then, if anyone is up to the challenge of rendering Oscar Isaac’s lip bite, I bet it’s Phil Noto.