In Review: Poe Dameron #18

Black Squadron is under attack from different foes in this exciting and fun issue.

The covers: A pair to find for this issue and both look good. The Regular cover is by the always outstanding Phil Noto. This is a bust shot of Poe in his X-wing uniform, holding his helmet under his left arm. Behind him, coming out of two suns, are two X-wings flying forward. Everything looks great and the the coloring makes this outstanding, especially with all the sensational reds and oranges. The other cover is the Star Wars 40th Anniversary Variant cover and it comes courtesy of Tradd Moore and Matthew Wilson. This is the famous garbage compactor scene, with Leia and Han trying to use a metal bar to keep the walls from moving, while Luke is screaming at Threepio on his comlink to shut down all the compactors. Lots of neat details in this image with all the pieces of trash, plus the dianoga can be spied across from Luke. Leia’s left arm looks a little wonky and Luke looks extremely feminine, but the rest of this looks good. Overall grades: Regular A and Star Wars 40th Anniversary Variant B

The story: A squadron of First Order troopers and their commander have arrived on a planet that they believe has a large vein of Thorilide crystals. The issue opens with the commander standing over the smoking body of a local he’s just shot. “Now this is really all just a misunderstanding,” He says. “To be more specific: none of you…understand me.” He wants to know the location of the vein and promises to reward the natives. One steps forward to say they never told the Empire of their crystals because those worlds that did eventual saw their planets ravaged and their children in chains. When the local says they will not succeed because they are just like the Empire, this angers the commander, who says they will succeed because no one is watching. Three someones are watching: Jessika Pava, Karé Kun, and Suralinda Javos. The two members of Black Squadron want to help, but Suralinda doesn’t want to, instead wishing to record what’s transpiring so she can deliver a story, since she’s a reporter. Meanwhile, Poe and Snap are speaking with Oddy Muva’s spouse to find out if their friend has gone rogue. What they learn ease their suspicions slightly, but they still need to track him down. Writer Charles Soule shows what’s happening with Oddy and it’s the strongest part of the issue, with the Abednedo face-to-face with his captor and things are not going well for the hero. I’ve really enjoyed seeing Oddy’s arc in this series, since his fate is already established in The Force Awakens. The big action of the issue occurs with the trio who do get involved with stopping the First Order’s incursion with the natives. It’s quick, it’s exciting, and it’s a good cliffhanger. Making things worse is the involvement of Malarus in the final pages, who has had her greatest wish come true. Enjoyable action and some solid cliffhangers. I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next. Overall grade: A

The art: I’m also liking the art on this issue from Angel Unzueta. One of the big draws to science fiction comics are the alien worlds and their inhabitants. Unzueta does a great job with the insect race of this world and the village. The creatures have hair, in ponytails or beards, and it’s a neat touch to place on insect people to have them stand apart from others like them shown in the past. Jess and Karé are practically photo realistic in their appearances and look fantastic. I’m not as keen on the design of Suralinda, who’s too similar to the aliens of James Cameron’s Avatar. Also photo realistic are Poe and Snap, and both Abednedos get some great emotional scenes. The action is the visual high point of the issue, with Pages 12 – 16 being really cool. It’s always cool to see stormtroopers in action and these troopers get a lot of action. I never get tired of seeing them train their guns on prey and they look incredibly awesome under Unzueta’s pencils. The last page is a full-paged splash of Malarus relishing her position and it uses too much of a blur, with the heroes being fuzzy looking. I don’t know if this was Unzueta’s doing or the colorist, but if the characters had been more defined it would have worked better. Overall grade: A- 

The colors: Arif Prianto’s colors are stunning on the alien world. I’m always looking for something different on an alien world and the colors that Prianto uses on this world are fantastic. Intense orange-reds dominate this world, with its denizens being a soft orange. It makes the location seem instantly hostile, as if only insects could survive there, but there is foliage, though in the same intense hues. The sky for this world is a soft green, that darkens when the point of view goes higher. It’s a terrific color to mate with the oranges. I love the colors of this world. The women of Black Squadron are in black uniforms, so they sharply contrast with the setting. Suralinda is too Avatar for me, and she’s unfortunately receiving much of the hate I have for that film due to her coloring. The electricity that comes into play during Oddy’s scenes looks gloriously strong, as do the laser blasts that appear when the First Order comes under attack. Excellent coloring is in this book. Overall grade: A

The letters: Dialogue, transmissions and one character’s speech font, laughter, and one sound are brought to life by VC’s Joe Caramagna. I understand why the transmissions and the character’s speech look the same, but it makes the character sound too mechanical. The sole sound in the book is needed, but is so small as to draw attention to the absence of blaster fire that should have been created for the firefight. My issues still remain with the wispy font for the dialogue: it makes every character’s speech sound frail. Overall grade: B

The final line: Black Squadron is under attack from different foes in this exciting and fun issue. The story and visuals are strong, but the letters have got to change to make this series truly stellar. Overall grade: A-

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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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