Marvel's Star Wars comics have been pretty damn good so far. But the creators on these titles have had it easy: they have been working with characters who have been popular and well-loved for decades. The team doing this week's Poe Dameron comic has a tougher job: keeping the momentum going from one of the biggest movies of all time.
Out tomorrow from writer Charles Soule and artists Phil Noto and Joe Caramagna, Star Wars: Poe Dameron #1 is the debut of an ongoing series. This first issue happens before the events of The Force Awakens. General Leia tasks Poe with a mission to track down someone who may have information on Luke Skywalker's whereabouts. The hotshot pilot assembles a squadron of fliers to travel across the galaxy with him, including some of the X-Wing jockeys seen in Episode VII. Once Poe reaches his destination, he lands on a mysterious planet harbouring a cosmic secret that might be the salvation of the galaxy.
This issue does a fair bit of work to help flesh out backstory that Force Awakens only teased at. Poe's mission is to find Lor San Tekka, the old man executed at the beginning of the most recent Star Wars film. Issue #1 explains who he is and why both the First Order and the Resistance are so hot to find him. The book also devotes pages to showing General Leia as a focused leader, a welcome balance to the movie scenes centred on the maternal side of the character.
Soule's scripting here is closer to the enjoyable arc of his work on Lando, much better than the bland angst seen in Obi-Wan and Anakin. Noto's linework recreates all the things that make Isaacs' face handsome. The puppy dog eyes, wry smirks and intense squints are all there. Soule, Noto and company manage to capture the improvisatory charisma and smoky cool of Oscar Isaacs' onscreen performance, giving readers a Poe who is confident but not cocky. He's a smooth operator who's not an arsehole. His patter with BB-8 is fun, too, and it reinforces the idea that dude and droid have been road buddies who've seen their fair share of close calls.
The new civilisation shown in Poe Dameron #1 presents the most tantalising element in this issue. Creators have introduced new characters and concepts to Star Wars lore for more than three decades, and part of the fun of engaging with them is in guessing what will actually count as canon. It's easier to figure out the odds for stories that happen before Episode VII. That Hutt who helped Luke learn about the Force in the Star Wars comic never showed up anywhere else. It's a safe bet that his narrative lifespan won't extend beyond the one story that used him. But, in the modern era where new Star Wars canon is being built, each new idea could be part of a reinvigorated framework that can spin off in exciting new directions. Poe Dameron himself is one such creation, a mix of new and familiar beats that won fans over. It would be fitting if his series became a place where Star Wars fans could journey into the new horizons of the Force-centric fictional universe.