– Spoiler Review –
Poe Dameron‘s longest and latest arc, “The Gathering Storm,” reaches its penultimate issue in #12, where the chances our heroes, including Poe, Threepio, BB-8, and all of Black Squadron, have of surviving past issue #13 are looking as slim as they can ever get.
What has really impressed me about Charles Soule’s writing is his ability and wanton desire to put the heroes/main characters into the tightest situations feasible, where the odds of their survival would be like trying to successfully navigating an asteroid field (and yes, I’ll tell you the odds: 3,720 to 1). Even better, these characters have repeatably been ones we know will survive because they star in a movie that takes place chronologically after the events of the comic, but it still seems impossible they’ll make it to their destiny (something he did to amazing effect in one of the top comics of the new canon, Lando). Poe and Black Squadron have been in a few sticky situations before, but nothing quite like what happens here in issue #12, where both BB-8 and Threepio are presumed dead by Poe and the commando droid Nunzix, who are blocked in a cave with Terex and his Rancs bearing down on their backs, while Black Squadron arrives to battle the Ranc fleet assembled in space above the planet Poe’s trapped on, but they are largely outnumbered and facing insurmountable odds. Out of the two droid “deaths,” BB-8’s isn’t so bad since he “dies” off-panel, but Threepio loses a leg to Terex who then adds insult to injury and lobotomizes the protocol droid for the info he’s carrying in his memory banks. While we know a large swath of the heroes will survive, this situation isn’t easy for anyone and it will be loads of fun to see how they manage to wiggle their way out alive to fight another day. The only characters we don’t know their fates yet include Terex, Oddy Muva, Karé, and L’ulo so the stakes are raised even more so for them (especially since we know there will be a funeral in issue #14…), making it even harder to wait to see how this all pans out in the final issue of “The Gathering Storm” arc.
Since this issue is setting up the insane stakes for the final one, the bigger highlights of issue #12 came from the little things here and there. Poe’s characterization is another strong point of Soule’s work, and I loved the image and nobleness of him risking his life to save Threepio by carrying him on his back while under fire from the Ranc fleet. But more interesting was seeing the usually confident and seemingly always in control Poe being flustered, surprised, and feeling like the entire situation is out of his hands; He actually seems to blame himself for the predicament he put his small team in, including the “deaths” of the two droids under his charge, as his confidence and trust in his uncanny skill to escape any situation blinded him to the fact that things actually weren’t going as well as he thought. I enjoy Poe as a character due to his brash confidence and total empathy, so seeing those two important traits to the character come under fire, and eventually be built back up stronger than before when he survives his current predicament, help builds his characterization even more.
Just as Poe is losing his composure, much like he was doing to Terex over the last several arcs/issues, things are reversed and Terex is coolly back to his confident, unhinged self and it’s hard not to enjoy his parts even more than Poe’s this issue. It reminds me of his introduction in issue #2, except this time he’s no longer concerned about upsetting any superiors and wastes no time ruthlessly hunting down Poe and the three droids. He gets some funny little quips, from calling out his men’s shooting abilities (in a bit of a meta-moment) to mocking BB-8’s cleverness before shooting him down, and he even steals Threepio’s thunder when they come face to face. The fact that Terex calls Threepio his equal by way of saying the droid is his competition was the funniest line of the issue for me, as it’s layered with sincerity by Terex and irony from Soule. If there’s anyone I’d love to see more of, and deserves to live past these comics to get an appearance in the films at some point, it would be Terex because I just love to hate him…and sometimes I can’t bring myself to hate him, he’s so entertaining (I mean, his line about echoes is to die for because hey, that’s how I’ve always felt about them too!). Terex is in true form this issue and I’m anxious to see how he’ll deal with the survival of Poe and friends by the end of the next issue.
Speaking of Threepio, he gets to have a heroic and quite funny moment here, using his
six seven million forms of communication to good use for once. That he offers to sacrifice himself, only because he knows he can be rebuilt but Poe can’t, is classic Threepio. We even get a little time with Oddy Muva, the reluctant Black Squadron spy, who reveals that not only is his wife being used as blackmail for him to give up Resistance secrets (though I’m still puzzled about how Terex didn’t get him to reveal the base’s location), but all of Terex’s servants are slaves being kept for similar purposes (hence why I love to hate Terex mostly). I have a funny feeling Oddy’s role in the coming battle will be an important and surprising one, for both sides, turning the tide in the Resistance’s favor. I do wish we had spent a little more time with Oddy and clarified a couple more things, but it might manage to fit into the next issue before he dies (that’s my predicted casualty and not actually guaranteed to happen).
Phil Noto, folks. Do I really need to say more? His art constantly makes this one of my favorite drawn series to date, as his attention to detail and framing really accentuate everything Soule is attempting to do with the story.
Here are a few other things:
- Nunzix might be a jerk, but he always seems to have a point!
- This is nothing against the issue itself, but it was a little odd for its opening crawl (which won’t be included with the trade paperback collection) to reference Terex’s decision to go after Poe as a way to find and attack the Resistance base catches, “…the ire of First Order leader Kylo Ren,” and then not feature him at all. Last issue Captain Phasma did warn Terex his actions would anger the higher echelon of the First Order, so it’s understandable the easily angered Kylo would be angry, but does this mean we’ll actually see him appear and teach Terex a lesson in case Poe and Black Squadron don’t do so? Or could an appearance from Kylo include him bringing part of the FO fleet, thus giving Black Squadron the cover of the resulting chaos between the Rancs and FO to escape? It’s quite possible he won’t show up though (the April solicitations include the blurb for issue #13 and there’s no mention of Kylo or the FO showing up, but that could equally mean they aren’t mentioning it to keep it a surprise), but either way it would be strange the issue mentions him and never follows up i.e. don’t set up the expectation if you aren’t going to deliver!
- Soule is far from done working on Marvel’s Star Wars line, as he’s adding a fourth series under his belt! I don’t blame Marvel for sticking with him because he’s been a solid writer so far and really seems to get, understand, and be able to bring to life all the movie characters at the center of each of his series, contributing to their characterization while keeping it in tact. The big surprise though is the new series: another Darth Vader comic! The original series was set between Ep. IV and V, but this one, titled Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith, picks up mere seconds after the end of Revenge of the Sith, detailing the freshly minted Vader’s first steps into becoming the Sith Lord we all crap our pants in front of when he appears. We’ll see how Vader gets his Sith saber, the formation of the Inquisitors (first seen in Star Wars Rebels), and Soule gets to write his favorite character Palpatine again and boy, can he write a truly mean Palpatine. As much as I absolutely loved the first series, which has gone down as one of the best Star Wars comics of all time and gave us the wonderful Doctor Aphra (and her wickedly fun series), I’m still excited to see this much less covered era of the Dark Lord’s past. In my 2016 comics year-in-review I was hoping for either another new/original comic character to get a series, a Qui-Gon focused one, or even a backstory series for Rebels character à la Kanan, so going back to Vader again is a little disappointing.
Poe Dameron issue #12 raises the tension and stakes, making the anticipation for the final issue of the current arc that much harder to wait for!
+ How in the name of Snoke will they manage to get out of this one??!?
+ The little things
+ Great example of entertaining and well-masked set up
CANON COMIC REVIEWS:
Black Squadron: #1 | #2 | #3 | Lockdown: #4 | #5 | #6 | The Gathering Storm: #7 | #8 | #9 | #10 | #11 | #13
The Last Padawan (#1-6) | First Blood (#7-12)
Vader (#1-6) | Shadows and Secrets (#7-12) | The Shu-Torun War (#16-19) | End of Games (#20-25) | Annual: #1
Vader Down (crossover of Star Wars and Darth Vader on-goings)
Skywalker Strikes (#1-6) | Old Ben’s Journals | Showdown on the Smuggler’s Moon (#8-12) | Rebel Jail (#16-19) | The Last Flight of the Harbinger (#21-25) | Yoda’s Secret War (#26-30) | Annual: #1 / #2
Darth Maul (mini-series)
Han Solo (mini-series)
Obi-Wan & Anakin (mini-series)
Shattered Empire (mini-series)
Princess Leia (mini-series)