In Review: Poe Dameron #19

An outstanding conclusion that features strong story and art. The best Black Squadron tale yet!

The covers: Black Squadron is back to back, surrounded by hostiles in silhouette. Phil Noto continually shows himself to be a master of layout and delivery with his Regular covers for this series. Everyone in the squad looks great, with Poe being front and center as the book’s draw. What’s also cool about this image is that it’s in a partial circle, with the bottom of the shape actually providing the border to a space setting. At the bottom center of the circle is a Y-wing, one of the most underused ships in the franchise. Noto gave a terrific olive color to the characters’ setting, allowing the space setting to make it pop. The second and final cover is the Star Wars 40th Anniversary Variant is by Chris Samnee and it’s one of the most iconic scenes from A New Hope: Luke and Leia’s swing in the chasm of the Death Star. The pair look behind them to make sure the stormtroopers can’t pursue them, with Luke looking more nervous than his sister (SPOILER!). The background is perfect, giving a tremendous sense of depth to the illustration. I do wish this were a little more centered, as there’s a lot of empty space on the left side. Overall grades: Regular A+ and Variant B+

The story: Charles Soule has all of Black Squadron in deep trouble. Aboard the First Order cruiser Enshado, Poe and Snap have been captured and Malarus can’t help but gloat. Dameron is unaware that the others have also been captured, prompting the antagonist to say, “Poe, you poor dear. We captured Jess Pava and Karé Kun, too. We’re headed to collect them now. And once we’ve got you all in one place…it’s torture time.” With that pair locked away, Malaurs turns her attentions to the “one loose end” — Oddy Muva. He’s still in the interrogation center. She orders Terex to kill him. With the computer interface still lodged in his head, he obeys, allowing his master to exit with a smile on her face. Meanwhile, on the planet Spalex, Jess, Karé, and Suralinda are tied together on the ground, surrounded by stormtroopers. Suralinda and Karé are bickering over the blue skinned woman’s decision, while Jess is having some horrible flashbacks. Suralinda tells the other two to run when she gives the word. Jess says that will get them killed, but the reporter has an ace up her sleeve. “You know how I gave the First Order access to the camera drone I had recording everything they did in this village? Wasn’t my only drone. No self-respecting journalist deploys just one. I’ve got more. A lot more. And they’re still up there.” How these tiny bots will help remains to be seen, but Soule uses them outstandingly in one of the book’s climatic sequences. Page 5 is when things begin to go Black Squadron’s way with an unexpected ally making an move. 11 increases the scale of everyone’s escape, as the villains can only watch the chaos. The ending of this story had some excellent drama as one member doesn’t escape unscathed. The dialogue between the characters is energizing, fun, and perfect. The final page is the perfect conclusion as one member of Black Squadron reminds everyone how to win a war. This was the best Black Squadron adventure yet! Overall grade: A

The art: Angel Unzueta creates some truly fantastic looking characters for this book. Those from the films resemble their counterparts outstandingly, while the original characters blend in with the actors and are just as strong. For example, Malarus gets a lot to do in this issue, with her being absolutely evil on the first two pages. The smile she flashes in the final panels of both pages is shudder inducing. Later in the book, when things don’t go her way, she is an emotional mess as she realizes she’ll have to explain her failure to her superiors. Terex is also a great character. Under the effects of the implant, he’s been a zombie with zero emotions, but something happens to create a slight change, leading to the best panel of the book which occurs on 19; that panel made me smile immensely because it foreshadows big changes in future issues. Jess, Karé, and Suralinda also look terrific. They’re photorealistic with their emotions: anger, sadness, shock, and joy. I especially like Suralinda, whose alien features make her a visual stand out among her teammates. There’s also a lot of work with many different styles of ships in this issue, with them flying, fighting, and crashing. A sign of a strong artist is their ability to create ships that are as highly detailed as their characters. The crafts must be shown from a variety of angles, and when they blow up they’re not just covered in an explosive cloud. Unzueta succeeds wildly here. If the entire issue were to be a dogfight, I would be completely satisfied. Unzueta has made this issue a visual treat. Overall grade: A 

The colors: Star Wars comics should be big and bright, using dark colors sparingly and without them making the art a blot of colors. Arif Prianto does a superior job on this book in every possible way. The first panel’s introduction of the two ships has the vessels just crossing into the light of the sun, allowing for parts of their surface to be clearly seen. However, Prianto is wise enough to allow even those areas still in darkness to be discernible to the reader. The highlights on the characters’ faces is terrific, making them look incredibly realistic. I love the highlights on Malarus’s face. The settings within First Order vessels are dark, as they should be, but, again, the reader can still see every detail of the art. The planet Spalex has soft reds for the surface and plant life, while the sky is a soft green. This gives the world a visually alien feel, while allowing the characters to capture the reader’s eye instantly. There are several panels that show a monitor’s view of the situation and each captures the feel of Star Wars with their cool blues and grays. Prianto is crushing it on this book. Overall grade: A+

The letters: VC’s Joe Caramagna creates the scene settings, dialogue, sounds, transmissions, and yells. The sounds on this book are terrific, with them punching up the visuals considerably. I know it’s not Caramagna’s call, but there are spectacular sounds for everything in this issue except blaster fire from starships. This ain’t Firefly, Marvel! C’mon! Put those Academy Award winning sound effects in the comics. Caramagna demonstrates in this issue he can do superb sounds. He also creates several different yells, visually cluing the reader in to the stress level of each utterance. I’m remaining a crank when it comes to the dialogue in this book, which is too wispy to command any strength in the characters’ words. There’s no way that the First Order sounds threatening with their dialogue looking like this. Outside this continual complaint, I’m very happy with Caramagna’s contributions. Overall grade: A-

The final line: An outstanding conclusion that features strong story and art. The best Black Squadron tale yet! This is the type of comic that gets me even more excited for the upcoming film. Recommended. Overall grade: A

To order a digital copy go to https://www.comixology.com/Star-Wars-Poe-Dameron-2016-19/digital-comic/543387?ref=c2VhcmNoL2luZGV4L2Rlc2t0b3Avc2xpZGVyTGlzdC90b3BSZXN1bHRzU2xpZGVy

To see the covers visit my Instagram account: patrickhayesscifipulse

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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