In Review: Poe Dameron Annual #1

A quick, little adventure that shows Poe growing as a character.

The covers: Two choices for fans to choose from for this first annual publication. The Regular cover by Dan Mora and Matt Milla has Poe and BB-8 drifting in space among some wreckage. Is he dead? Is his droid dead? There’s only one way to find out — read this book! The characters look fine, but the colors are really too dark for the reader to pick out the debris without really straining his or her eyes. The Variant cover is more to my liking and it’s the image I chose to accompany this review. It’s by Mahmud Asrar and features the title character wearing his pilot’s outfit, turning to his left. His helmet is on and his gun is ready to take on any foe. Behind him is an X-wing blazing lasers and a gigantic symbol of the Rebellion as a star field. The coloring is fantastic, with oranges, reds, whites, and blacks dominating. This is beautiful. Overall grades: Regular C+ and Variant A

The story: Robbie Thompson’s story demonstrates how Poe has grown more responsible as a leader within the Resistance. The issue begins “Before…” with General Organa telling Poe that he’s one of the best pilots the Resistance has but “You were sent on a routine reconnaissance mission — and in the process you started a riot, blew up two First Order transports and barely escaped with needed intel.” He’s too cocky and Organa is afraid that his reckless behavior is going to get him killed. This provides the transition to “Now…” with an unconscious Poe being beeped awake by BB-8. He responds to droid by saying, “Of course I’m alive…” He looks around and sees that he’s floating in space, alongside BB-8, surrounded by the debris of his destroyed X-wing. This is the situation the Regular cover shows, so it’s good to see that it didn’t spoil anything that comes later in the tale. Complicating his situation, if that were possible, is that he and his faithful companion are surrounded by a minefield from the days of the Empire. Thompson takes just the right amount of time for Poe to get out of this predicament and in the process end up somewhere worse. There are several enemies to deal with in this new locale, without anyone to call on, save BB-8. The story is interrupted by another flashback one-on-one with General Organa. It’s interesting to see that he’s a little improved from the opening two pages, but he still has much to learn. The action then resumes in the present, with Poe getting out of peril very slickly, befitting him, and the issue closes with him debriefing with Organa. This is a neat, little adventure with Poe on his own, against seemingly overwhelming odds, but he manages to escape and show that he’s a better person and better contributor to the Resistance. Plus, it ends with a tease for Poe Dameron #16. A solid adventure that shows a character developing. Overall grade: B+

The art: This is Nik Virella’s first time illustrating Poe Dameron and she does a good job. The opening two pages show that she’s not only adept at creating Oscar Isaac’s screen character, but Carrie Fisher’s. The first two panels contain no dialogue for the general and none is needed — any reader will be able to feel her anger. The first panel that contains Poe has him looking like a boy who’s been caught misbehaving by parent: a nervous smile that says “Gotta love me.” When Poe realizes that won’t work, Virella shows him uncomfortable with what he’s done, and it’s some nice emoting. Leia’s mood changes as well, with her having a great second panel on Page 2. These two pages provide the house for the visuals, repeated almost exactly each time Leia appears. This was neat storytelling and a neat way for Virella to have the visuals create a memory for the reader. Page 3 is a four panel sequence that shows Poe waking and it’s done so well that no dialogue is needed to communicate with what’s occurring, though his words do lead in to the surprise on 4 and 5 very well. The cracks in Poe’s visor are a nice tease that all’s not well with him, as is the proximity of BB-8. Pages 4 and 5 are a double-page splash showing Poe and his droid floating among the debris of what was once his ship. Poe’s positioning is great, as is BB-8’s, and the debris around him is good, but it’s too black. Most of 5 is lost to the darkness and the mines are completely lost in the coloring. Placing the light source in a different position would have changed this. Poe’s escape from this situation is well done, with the actions being very cool and BB-8 making a move that elicited cheers and laughter in The Force Awakens. Page 12 has the hero in a new location and it suits the story, but it’s got some really empty spaces, such as on 13. 14 introduces the villains of the issue and their lines are not very neat. These characters’ costumes are always pristine, but they’re really loosely rendered in the their first two panels and in the final the lines waver. This happens often with them, such as 17 and 19. The visuals tell the story finely, but speed bumps do appear: the villains not being too neat and a face disappearing (Page 21). Virella has got the characters emoting well and the layout is solid, it’s just the details need to be a bit more refined. Overall grade: B- 

The colors: To cut to the chase, the book is too dark. This is Star Wars, not (rebooted) Star Trek. Space can be bright. Additionally, this is a comic book, so some fudging of the colors is allowable. The work on this book by Jordan Boyd works fine, but I would have liked to have seen the artwork more clearly. The pages with Leia are the brightest of the book. The highlights put on the faces of the characters here, and elsewhere in the book, is outstanding. Boyd gives the characters quite a bit of visual depth. The hologram that appears on Page 2 is nicely transparent, but aren’t all holograms in the Star Wars universe blue? Pages 4 and 5 are too dark. I didn’t notice the reds used for the mines on my first read and had to go back to check for their presence after they were later mentioned. Page 7 has Boyd cheating with the reality of space outstandingly in the large panel, showing that this could have been done throughout the entire sequence — heck, even Poe’s flight suit could have been brighter. Because of their coloring, the villains stand out on every page they are on, even if the lights are dimmed at their location. The orange sound effects of the issue are a little muted on this black background, especially on 27 and when BB-8 makes his noises. Again, slight fudging could have made them brighter. Overall grade: B-

The letters: Scene settings, dialogue, BB-8 speech, sounds, and a scream are VC’s Joe Caramagna’s contributions to the issue. The font chosen for the scene settings never looks good on Star Wars books, with block letters receiving a white outline that always looks blurry, and the dialogue has always looked weak, even when italicized to show emphasis in a character’s speech. BB-8’s beeps have been done in several Star Wars books, and it’s become a recognizable font. What’s done is readable, but it could be better, not just here, but for the entire line of books. Overall grade: B

The final line: A quick, little adventure that shows Poe growing as a character. This could serve as a good introduction to the character, as well as giving fans some decent action. Will keep rabid fans happy. Overall grade: B

To purchase a digital copy go to https://www.comixology.com/Star-Wars-Poe-Dameron-2016-Annual-1/digital-comic/503515?ref=c2VhcmNoL2luZGV4L2Rlc2t0b3Avc2xpZGVyTGlzdC90b3BSZXN1bHRzU2xpZGVy

To see both covers go to my account on Instagram: 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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