Picking up right where issue one left off (though not without a familiar text crawl for the uninitiated), issue 2 of Poe Dameron introduces us immediately to Agent Terex, a higher-up of the First Order who seems to find his love of the hunt for Resistance fighters only a bit more enrapturing than his love of himself. Painted like a classic British adventure novel villain, Terex is equal parts smooth talker and old-fashioned conquistador. A man who believes his path is just, and is more than happy to spare a few seconds to inspire his troops.
As Terex makes his move on the worshippers of last issue’s Cosmic Egg McGuffin, we’re sent back and forth through time to gain a better understanding of this man and his motives: a once-soldier of the Empire, yearning for the glory days of his fallen former allegiance, against the warnings of his superior Captain Phasma, who is not impressed with Terex’s smugness, though also not overly stern in giving him orders. (Phasma also takes this opportunity to make brief mention of a new Republic senator an author’s note implores us to learn about in the tie-in novel, Before The Awakening.)
Through this dialogue and through the actions of Poe’s squadron, still airborne, as well as the actions of Terex’s TIE troopers that control a vital landing platform, we see how the First Order and Resistance define themselves as unique from their respective former lives; Phasma calls the First Order purer, less corrupt than the Empire. While Terex dotes on the slaves he kept, Phasma’s protest appears to indicate a First Order that does not condone slavery.
The Resistance shows surprising discipline, the more we get to understand them. Gone are the days of hot guns and hotter heads, with reckless execution of plans and makeshift success; the squad take their orders not to fire upon First Order troops unless first fired upon very seriously, and when tasked with removing the TIE squadron from the critical point they hold, are first tasked with finding a way to lure the First Order fighters into shooting first. A comical fly-by of an A-Wing near two TIE Pilots is met with uninterested dismissal, indicating that, for how imposing and powerful they are, the First Order troops are also under orders not to fire unless fired upon. An eventual bending of the rules by the most veteran pilot and intentionally inaccurate firing of a few volleys of cannon fire send the black-clad troops scrambling into their fighters, officially beginning the fight for aerial dominance.
What’s more, Poe’s squadron seem hesitant to begin this fight, even if they wanted to, bemoaning the superior speed of TIE fighters, particularly the Special Forces models. Apparently the new X-Wings the Resistance take their most iconic flights and battles in are disadvantaged by comparison, though it’s noted that A-Wings still have the speed to be competitive. In a science fiction universe with an array of vehicles and devices as vast as Star Wars, it’s good to see new works take the same care to lay out some of the basic features, providing additional context for vehicular combat.
On the ground, Terex’s intimidation of the peaceful guardians of the Egg goads Poe out of hiding, and begins a battle of wits between the two: Poe confidently expresses his assurance that his squadron above have made short work of the TIEs that awaited, and suggested Terex surrender. In classic Star Wars “You are DOOMED!” fashion, Terex rebuts Poe’s cockiness by letting it slip that a Maxima-A Class Heavy Cruiser (read: a big scary Star Destroyer variant) lies in orbit, and we see a cloud of additional TIEs swarm from an opening in the cruiser’s lower region, crowding the sky with the familiar black H-shape and green laser fire (and presumably screaming engines) we’ve come to know so well.
Adding to the tension as Terex delivers his verbal “Checkmate,” as it were, is the continual barrage of flamethrower fire onto the cosmic egg. Urgent becomes urgent-er, and we’re given a well-placed “To be continued…”
I admit I expected more spectacle than substance from this umpteenth new Star Wars spin-off to fill in seemingly innocuous details the movies didn’t get around to filling in, but with each issue I’m pleasantly surprised at the care and detail spent crafting these new tales. Fascinating characters, informative dialogue, and wonderfully detailed world-building that rivals some of my favourite aspects of the classic Expanded Universe content.
The dynamic duo of Charles Soule and Phil Noto have given us a thoroughly exciting new adventure set in the Star Wars universe, perfect for new readers and Wookiepedia editors alike, and Poe Dameron #2 will likely rival issue one as one of the comics I most recommend to just about everybody.