Graphic Novel Review: Black Squadron (Star Wars: Poe Dameron vol.1)

Synopsis:

Poe Dameron, former Republic flyer turned Resistance fighter, is the best pilot in the galaxy. Hand-picked for the resistance by General Leia Organa to lead a squadron on a top-secret and vital mission, Poe sets off to investigate sites of historical importance to the Force — revealing backstory leading directly into The Force Awakens! Follow Poe and his X-Wing squadron on covert missions against the First Order, brought to you by writer Charles Soule (STAR WARS: LANDO, DAREDEVIL) and artist Phil Noto (STAR WARS: CHEWBACCA, BLACK WIDOW)!

Collecting issues 1–6 from the ongoing series

First Thought:

In the last two movies I have absolutely loved Poe Dameron! I have found his character to be quite charming and hilarious—I wanted to learn more about this rough, roguish flyboy. But, I was a little afraid to jump into his comic series when it first came out. At the time I was just getting into comics and I was 100% sold on the character, not enough to warrant buying into the series. However, after The Last Jedi and the whole General Hugs scene I decided it was about time to get into the comic series, and thank goodness my partner has been keeping up with the series because I just borrowed his!

Overall Thoughts and Opinions:

I haven’t read very many Star Wars stories yet, and I certainly haven’t read any of the work done by either the artist or the writer, but I felt like this story was pretty entertaining. I start off by saying this because I read a handful of the reviews for the first part of this series and they’re not that stellar. Most of them are rather unexplained bouts of “Soule can’t write to save his life” and “this was boring”, while a few were long diatribes that pretty much said the same thing. In this case I’d have to disagree. I’ve read enough comics, in general, now to understand for myself what is and isn’t good writing. I’m not saying that Soule is the greatest of all time, but I noticed that his writing style for this series is a bit soft-spoken. When I read Doctor Aphra the story telling was very flashy and exciting, always going for the big BOOM! But Poe Dameron seems to be taking a different approach, some of the key plot points in this story were revealed in off-handed remarks that some readers might miss. Not everything is on display for the whole world to pick up in one glance, some things are hidden in plain sight and can be found through thorough reading.

I actually found this story to be quite interesting and entertaining. Since seeing The Force Awakens, I was curious about the old man in the village on Jakku that I now know as Lor San Tekka. Now I may be able to learn more about the old explorer, how he came upon the location of Luke, and how Poe and BB8 got involved. By the looks of this first trade, the journey to finding Tekka is going to be a long bumpy ride full of encounters with the First Order. I’m not sure how I feel about the villain, Agent Terex, he seems to be a surviving soul of the Empire who made himself useful to the First Order, but isn’t completely sold on the First Order agenda. But, the story doesn’t revolve around the villain. Instead, Terex is just the necessary evil that Poe needs to create urgency for his quest to find Tekka, I just hope the agent gets more depth than that as the story continues!

I really enjoyed reading about Poe’s Black Squadron. So far they seem like an interesting group of individuals that are really loyal to Poe, and it’s neat to see some familiar faces from the movies, like Jessika and Snap. I’m also a huge fan of meeting the astromechs behind the piolets, because it makes BB8 less of an oddity and more normal. The astromechs were also an interesting way to add humor to otherwise hair-raising situations, and I rather enjoyed how the writer was able to communicate what they were saying without using actual words. It was a nice team-up between writer and artist to make those characters easy to understand.

Ratings:

Art: 4

The art isn’t the greatest that I’ve ever seen, but I still appreciated it. Noto did a fantastic job of sticking to what we knew of the movies in terms of various character, alien, and ship designs. I enjoyed spotting the aliens that I recognized from the previous movies and the ones that I’d never seen before, like an interesting game of Where’s Waldo. My one complaint was that at first it appeared that Noto was putting too much emphases on the faces, giving them details that while accurate didn’t really seem to translate well for me on the page. It seemed like he withdrew some from that in the later chapters, but for a little while there seemed to be an imbalance of detail in the characters’ faces—some hade more than others. But I actually really enjoyed most of his design work, especially when it was used subtly to throw in some symbolism. The coloring was also very pleasing, a nice mix between light and dark tones matching the moods and the action of the sequences. The shading work was also fantastic, I have a problem with most hard shadows because they just look off-putting, but the shadows in this are very gradual and match the lighting quite beautifully. They also do a wonderful job using the shadows to add depth to the characters’ designs.

Story: 3

Soule’s writing style appears to me to be very subtle, maybe a little too subtle for some people. Read carefully when you read Poe Dameron, because some important information is either mentioned briefly or as a forethought. Their writing isn’t very flashy, so the action scenes may come off a bit dull for some people, but honestly I found them to be quite enjoyable. I really only have two major complaints about his writing so far. One, in the first chapter they make reference to another Poe Dameron story from one of the media-tie in novels, which is fine but I feel like a great writer can loosely relay the important information to the reader without forcing them to go elsewhere for the information. Two, I felt like Poe’s personality from the movies is a bit watered down in this story so far.  I understand that this is a prequel story to The Force Awakens and that there is plenty of time to see that Poe develop. However, I had to laugh when Jessika made mention that Poe could charm the pants off a Hutt because I had yet to really see that charming Poe yet, but there’s still hope!

Overall: 3.5

It’s a nice read that I would recommend to anyone who is a big Poe fan and needs something to tie themselves over until Episode IX. It also provides some good development for his team, the members of which don’t get a whole lot of dialogue let alone screen time! And overall, it looks like a fun action/adventure race against time sort of space quest that should provide some entertainment. I know it made my morning rather fun!

Details:

Title: Black Squadron (Star Wars: Poe Dameron)

Volume: 1

Issue(s): 1-6

Publisher: Marvel

Writer(s): Charles Soule

Illustrator: Phil Noto

Colors: Phil Noto

Letters: VC’s Joe Caramgna

Released Date: December 13, 2016

Pages: 144

Genre(s): Space Opera, Science-Fiction, Young Adult, Action/Adventure

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