In Review: Poe Dameron #16

An average story brought down by computer enhanced visuals.

The covers: Two different frontpieces for fans to take back to their base. Phil Noto is the artist of the Regular cover and it’s movie quality. A giant head shot of angry Commander Malarus looking to her left is the dominant image. She’s within the logo of the First Order. Running just out of center left of this logo is Poe, holding a blaster and looking determined. Great cover with the characters looking outstanding. The Star Wars 40th Anniversary Variant cover is by Stephanie Hans and features the worst moment in Leia Organa’s life. Shown from outside the Death Star, Leia beats her fists against a window as Alderaan explodes, all the while under the eyes of impassive Darth Vader. This is a cool cover for the change in perspective, shown from the outside. It’s neat to see Leia framed in the web-like structure of the window, with her planet’s destruction reflected in the window. Having Vader behind her makes the scene creepy. That said, the coloring does make it difficult to find a focus. This might have worked better as a panel in a book, rather than a cover. Overall grades: Regular A and Star Wars 40th Anniversary Variant B

The story: This installment begins with no time to catch a breath, as Poe and BB-8 are on the bulk freighter Romary that’s got a bomb and is speeding through an asteroid field. It’s a good thing he’s a good pilot, because it’s gotten through the field okay so far, until a gigantic one tumbles toward him. Luckily, Black Squadron arrives and Karé Kun blasts the rock. She lands her ship next to Poe’s in the ship’s hold, followed by Snap Wexley. Another incoming asteroid is taken out by Jessika Pava, but her X-wing has just run out fuel and is coming in hot. Charles Soule has taken the premise from the movie Speed and made it a decent Star Wars story. Dameron can’t slow the ship or it’ll set the bomb off, however if they continue to accelerate the ship will blow itself up. “Blow up now or blow up later,” says Kun. “I vote blow up later.” Snap seconds it, so the clock is ticking on what they can do to save themselves. How they solve their problem is very clever, and seeing the villains’ reactions to what’s being done is outstanding. Commander Malarus really becomes an antagonist to revile in this issue, with the way she treats Terex, who’s deserving absolutely no sympathy for his past actions, but she is utterly despicable. Terex’s controlled state has had him only capable of providing intel to Malarus and he starts this issue in the same state; however, he might be breaking out free. The heroes have this issue end happily for them, though Terex remains a question mark. Overall grade: B+

The art: Angel Unzueta is the artist for this issue and the visuals are pretty good. Poe and his fellow Black Squadron pilots look particularly good. Unzueta is able to capture their likenesses from several different angles and this makes them believable. The First Order characters don’t fare as well as the Resistance members. The eyebrows on Malarus are so pronounced I thought she was a Romulan. The officer shown in the final four panels on Page 15 comes across as inconsistent, with his first two panels fine, but he seems to lose a few years in that third panel, and then ages considerably in the last panel. Terex fares better, but he’s written to be a one note character until his final panel. The ships are really well done. The Romary looks incredible as it’s streaking through space. The interiors on this ship are also well done, with the first page having an incredible looking command center. The X-wings appear soon after this ship and they are also very strong. With Black Squadron around there’s going to be a space battle and there is one in this issue. It’s short, but well done, though that TIE fighter explosion is really odd looking. There are two elements to the art that don’t work: the asteroids and all the blurred art to connote speed. The asteroids come across as cut and paste due to the texture they have. Every time they appeared they took me out of the reading experience. The blurred scenes, I’ve been told by another artist, is usually done by the colorist. This is being done more often in comics and it looks terrible. I’m including it here in the off chance that Unzueta did it, though I don’t see why since the ships look fantastic. Overall grade: B- 

The colors: Arif Prianto is the colorist for this issue and I’ll start with the negative, which is the blur that was most likely inserted into the visuals when something is supposed to be shown as going quickly. It first appears in the second panel on the first page and it looks awful. It does not fit in with the rest of the visual and looks like bad movie green screen. The next panel has it overdone so much, the asteroids look like clouds. This is just not good. It’s even worse on the panels at the top and bottoms of 2 and 3. There’s also a distortion created for a cloud of dust on Page 18. A drawn cloud would have been much better than this computer creation. Take a lesson from the films: practical effects over computer effects. Now the good, and there is much more of it. The displays on the ships look amazing. The greens on the Romary are beautiful with their colors and the glow they create, as are the reds on the First Order’s ship. The second panel on Page 6 is cinematic with the colors on Poe and BB. The colors on the characters make them look three dimensional, with the blending of colors on the flesh and clothes outstanding. If only things hadn’t been blurred. Overall grade: B-

The letters: Scene settings, BB-8’s sounds, dialogue, transmissions and Terex’s augmented voice, a computer wail, and three sounds are created by VC’s Joe Caramagna. Having Terex’s voice look the same as transmissions means it would sound the same, which seems to be an odd effect for his speech. He should have a unique font for his dialogue. There should also be many more sounds. Deciding what receives sounds and what do not is not Caramagna’s decision, but it’s ridiculous to see that an X-wing’s squealing brakes get a sound, but an X-wing’s guns are silent as they blast away. Overall grade: B-

The final line: An average story brought down by computer enhanced visuals. This series should be concluded before it lessens any further. Overall grade: B-

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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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