In Review: Poe Dameron #1

The two stories are fun and have exceptional visuals. Recommended.

The covers: If you’re a real fan, you’re going to want to track down all 15 covers. From this large a number, you should find something you like. The Regular cover is by interior artist Phil Noto. It’s a great close-up of Poe in the cockpit of his X-wing. Flying above him are four more of the same flyers and one A-wing. It’s a beautiful shot of this pilot and the ships look great. The coloring is also really good, capturing the look of the film. The first Variant is a textless version of the Regular cover. It, too, is good, and if one wishes to get the visuals unmarred by the text, this is the way to go. The next variant is a Sketch Variant which employs the same image, but is in black and white and includes the logo and its accompanying text. This is great cover to get to see Noto’s work before colors are added. I like this. The Action Figure Variant Cover is by John Tyler Christopher and features an action figure of the title character on a vintage Kenner Star Wars card. Christopher has been doing an outstanding job on these Variant covers through all of Marvel’s Star Wars titles and this is a worthy addition. I especially like the art used showing the image from film. There’s also an Action Figure Sketch Variant cover, which features the same art as the other book, though without any colors. Nice, but it looks really cool with the colors. Next up is the BB-8 Variant cover by Joe Quinones which has Poe in front of this X-wing, with Nien Nunb speaking with one of the female pilots, while, in the bottom half of the image, BB-8 is racing forward. It’s cute, but this book is about Poe, not his droid. A Blank Sketch cover is also available, sporting only the books title at the top, so that one can get their favorite artist to draw an image on this. John Cassaday did a real cool Variant, with Poe striking a heroic pose, with his helmet cradled in his right hand as he turns in the same direction. He’s atop a symbol of the Rebellion, which is filled with stars, and above are four X-wings flying upwards in formation. This is outstanding! A John Cassaday Sketch Variant is also available, featuring the linework of the previous cover, sans colors. This also is really good. A Design Variant cover by Phil Noto that capitalizes on other companies’ design covers. Three images of Poe (a full body shot, an image from the waist up, and a bust shot with his helmet on) have been superimposed upon a blue lined grid background. It’s good, but doesn’t look like an actual pencils, given the lack of blue lines on the figures. The Emerald City Comic Con Variant, from Mike Deodato, Jr., is really sweet! Poe’s head is in three-quarter view in the upper left. He’s gazing upon several ships in his squadron streaking away from a planet as several explosions go off around them. Great layout and the colors make this work. The cover to track down is the Fried Pie Variant by Joe Quinones. This is a terrific image of Poe kneeling down so he can be more eye-to-eye with BB-8. He’s giving his droid a smile and a thumbs up, and the BB unit responds in kind, sticking out his service arm with a flame ignited to give the appearance of a thumb, just as he did to Finn in The Force Awakens. The Jaxxon Party Variant by David Nakayama features a close-up of Poe’s ship with the canopy down, revealing only a silhouette of the pilot (You know who…), while a clear image of BB-8 is shown in the droid’s position. There’s some sort of background behind the image, but it’s incredibly blurry and looks as though it’s bad computer insertion. This cover is reused for a Jaxxon Party Sketch Variant, which features the same image without colors, though BB-8 remains fully colored. It’s okay, but I want to see Poe on my Poe comic book. The Movie Variant is also a cover to track down: it’s a great photo of Oscar Isaac is his pilot gear, on one knee before his X-wing. It’s beautiful, and it had to be the one I used in this review. Overall grades: Regular A, Textless Variant A, Sketch Variant A, Action Figure Variant A+, Action Figure Sketch Variant A, BB-8 Variant A-, Blank Sketch C, Cassaday Variant A+, Cassaday Sketch Variant A, Design Variant B-, Emerald City Comic Con Variant A, Fried Pie Variant A+, Jaxxon Party Variant C-, Jaxxon Party Sketch Variant D+, and Movie Variant A+

The stories: There are actually two stories in this introductory issue. The first is by Charles Soule. The first part of “Black Squadron” begins as Poe with BB-8 are aboard his X-wing, flying into a cave. Once in, metal reinforcements appear, showing that someone has set this location up, as well as a signal that the droid has picked up. Poe says they’ve got bigger problems, “like flying home and telling General Organa we couldn’t complete the mission because we got scared of a cave.” Just as the droid calms down, the ceiling explodes: proximity mines have been planted above. He and the little droid go speeding to the only exit, and that’s when Soule smartly transitions to “Earlier…” when the General gave him his orders. Those orders have a very strong tie-in to events from The Force Awakens, with one mysterious character being the focus. Additionally, this issue reveals why Black Squadron was formed. I was very pleased to see the members of this team named and to see them in action before the climax of the most recent Star Wars movie. However, before they’re shown in action, Soule returns to where Poe was last scene and things are changing for him quickly, such as the surprise on Page 14. The dialogue on this book is really strong, with Soule doing an outstanding job on Poe, with 15 – 17 being really funny, and the situation he gets into on 19 great, ending in a fantastic one word conclusion on 20. I liked Poe in the film, but I’m liking him even more in this tale. The final eight pages of the book contains the story “SaBBotage” by Chris Eliopoulos. I admit to being very upset that this book was a dollar more than usual, with an eight page story I didn’t want. I read this story and was instantly smitten with it. It focuses on BB-8’s involvement with a new pilot and it’s magic. This is so much more than a sly wink at, yet again, the Beastie Boys, and captures the little droid’s personality fantastically. If Marvel should feel the need to give Eliopoulos the opportunity to write and draw more tales like this, they’ll get my money in a heartbeat. Overall grades: Both A

The art: The main story is drawn and colored by Phil Noto, who recently illustrated the Chewbacca limited series. This book is gorgeous. Poe and all the other familiar characters from the film are dead ringers for the actors who portray them. Though she’s only on three pages, this book was worth the cover price for Noto’s rendering of Leia. She looks aged, but strong. Page 10 is going to be around for a long time since it’s the first image that shows Black Squadron assembled. Poe’s reaction at the bottom of the page to seeing this group together is great. There’s a great full paged splash on 12 that shows the location that Poe has flown into. It’s new to the Star Wars universe but looks as though it’s always existed. The top panel on 14 was my favorite work because it was a great collection of characters and a great surprise; the emotion he gets out of these characters is terrific. The spokesperson for this group has a great design and when she makes an accusation it’s incredibly strong. The angles that Noto creates in his panels are great, with the fourth on 20 sticking in my mind the most, since readers had to see the gesture Poe makes, and that’s exactly the angle from which it should be shown. The final page is the perfect “Uh oh” cliffhanger, which has me thinking there will be no easy escape for our heroes. And I’ve got to give a big “Hooray!” to what a character is wearing in the final panel: that is going to make several long term fans very happy. Chris Eliopoulos illustrates the story he wrote and it’s terrific. The lead character has a very Calvin and Hobbes’s look, which perfectly suits the sweet nature of the story. BB-8 emotes wonderfully, considering he doesn’t have a face, with the last panel on Page 25 being awesome. I can’t go into any more detail than this in regards to what Eliopoulos has done, except to rave. Overall grades: Both A+

The colors: Phil Noto colors his own work and he does an equally impressive with this element as he does with the art. I never thought I’d be writing about how impressive a colorist’s work is on rocks, but darned if Noto doesn’t make this cave look so layered because of his coloring. BB-8’s noises are wonderfully bright orange, separating his utterances from all other sounds in this book. There’s also some great work with oranges within explosions. The different shades he uses to color faces is also incredible, with Poe, Leia, and the rest of Black Squadron looking great. The object that becomes Poe’s focus in the last half of the book looks great with its luminescent coloring. Jordie Bellaire is the colorist for “SaBBotage” Because it’s not set within a cave, Bellaire can use brighter colors and, like the story and art, hit every emotional note spectacularly, with the color pink on the last two pages making my heart sore; I’m getting the warm fuzzies just looking again at that color on those pages. Should I be getting a feeling like this from a Star Wars book? Yes. Why? It’s simply perfection. Overall grades: Both A+

The letters: Dialogue, sounds, scene settings, character identification, and the tease for next issue (all three are the same font), and transmissions are created by VC’s Joe Caramagna. The dialogue on this book didn’t seem as frail as it’s been in other Star Wars titles and I had to get another Star Wars book to see if Caramagna had changed something. He hasn’t. What’s different in this book is that the characters speak with stress more often, giving Caramagna the opportunity to place their words in italics. This gave the characters the strength I’ve been looking for in other books. Either other writers need to employ more stress in their characters’ speech or Caramagna needs to change things up on his own. One thing is for certain, the sound effects on this book are great, with every noise from BB-8 being spot on. Chris Eliopoulos does the lettering for his story and like everything else about that tale, it’s solid. Again, BB-8 steals all his scenes due in no small part to the fonts used for his vocalizations. Overall grade: A

The final line: I really did not like paying $4.99, thinking that this would set a precedent for Marvel to charge more for their Star Wars books. I can say with no hesitation, this book is worth the cover price. The two stories are fun and have exceptional visuals. Recommended. Overall grade: A

 

 

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer’s Guide for several years with “It’s Bound to Happen!” and he’s reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He’s taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.

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