In "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," filmgoers were introduced to Oscar Isaac's Poe Dameron, a resourceful and charismatic X-Wing pilot with a flair for getting into and out of tight scrapes. Poe's affinity for trouble served the heroic Resistance well in the movie, helping them score a number of key victories in their struggle against the tyrannical First Order.
Defying the odds is something he and his pilot colleagues in the elite Black Squadron have been doing for quite some time, of course. And in Marvel's "Poe Dameron" series, writer Charles Soule and artist Phil Noto have taken readers back to a time before "The Force Awakens" to chronicle the dangerous missions Poe and Co. undertook before his movie debut. The current arc places them in a maximum security prison planet from which they must extract themselves and a Hutt crime lord in order to keep vital intelligence from falling into the First Order's hands.
â€¨CBR News spoke with Soule about the series latest arc, how they're "crossing over" with Jason Aaron's ongoing "Star Wars" series, which is set decades earlier, and how the larger story he's telling will ultimately connect to "The Force Awakens."
CBR News: The last time we spoke, you mentioned that you think of the series as a bunch of different genre movies stacked one on top of another. Is the search for Lor San Tekka the framework that will connect these tales? And can you talk about how long this larger mission will continue? Was the beginning of the "Force Awakens," where we see Poe interact with Max Von Sydow's Lor San Tekka, the end of Black Squadron's search?
Charles Soule: I would say that you aren't too far off, but the Lor San Tekka search isn't the only thing going on in the series. As you'll see, that's where we started, but the search itself spins out another crisis that Poe & Co. (I'll never get tired of typing that phrase) have to deal with before we get to "Force Awakens" territory.
I'm writing "Poe Dameron" more or less the same way I write a lot of my ongoing stories, with smaller arcs that connect to a larger tale, with each moving things forward in its own way. So, they'll all have their own flavor, but when it's all said and done, you'll see the thread connecting everything.
What inspired the creation of Megalox Beta, the prison world setting of this latest arc?
I just think prisons are a rich environment for drama and action, and they're a bit under-used in science fiction, especially in "Star Wars." We've seen detention centers with a few small cells, that sort of thing, but not much as far as a big, operating prison where ne'er-do-wells are supposed to be kept for a long time. That's Megalox Beta. It's a maximum security prison for some really bad dudes, some of whom sport pretty familiar faces from other parts of "Star Wars" storytelling, including Jason Aaron's "Star Wars" series and my own "Lando" book with Alex Maleev and Paul Mounts.
Before you sent Black Squadron to Megalox Beta, you gave readers a chance to spend time with them on the Resistance's home base. There, we got to see some of the relationships that bind them, and the problems they're wrestling with. Will we see more of that as the prison arc moves forward?
Yes -- Jess Pava gets a nice moment in issue 6, and there are beats for the rest of them, too. BB-8 has a storyline in 5 and 6 that's one of my favorite things I've done with the little guy. It's an action book, though, so character beats have to be woven in where appropriate. We learn who these people are by what they do.
Upon arriving on the prison world, Black Squadron becomes embroiled in the dealings of a character that might be familiar to readers of Jason Aaron's "Star Wars" series: Grakkus the Hutt.
Yes, He's a Jason Aaron/Stuart Immonen creation -- he was a collector of Jedi artifacts during the era of the Galactic Empire. At the end of that story, he ended up in prison, and it seems like either he's stayed there all this time, or he got out, got in more trouble, and went directly back to jail. Grakkus sees himself as a sophisticate -- and for a Hutt, he probably is. But you know those slimy slugs -- some of them are just plain rotten to the core, and Grakkus is absolutely one of those.
Storywise, "Poe Dameron" takes place several decades after Grakkus' "Star Wars" comic debut. What was it like updating the character's look with your artist, Phil Noto?
Phil and I had a lot of discussions about how to update Grakkus' look -- he's several decades older, and he's been in prison for a lot of that time, which certainly aged him as well. Grakkus used to be very buff and strong -- he had the Hutt equivalent of a six-pack. Now, though, he's pretty worn down. He has to sit in that gross sludge bath to relax after a long day of working as a prison boss in Megalox Beta. As with all designs from Phil, it was pretty much perfect on the first try. He's wonderful.
Agent Terex of the First Order Security Bureau is also involved in Grakkus' scheme. Unlike Poe, however, he appears to be alone, without the backing of any troops to help him on the planet. Does that make him less or more dangerous?
Terex's history is complex. He wasn't always part of the First Order -- not even close. He used to be a Stormtrooper in the Empire, as we saw him reference in "Poe Dameron" #2. It's the years between the Battle of Jakku (where the Empire fell) and where we see him now that are important, though -- Terex is known and feared across the galaxy, and the things he did in those missing decades are the reason.
It's true that he doesn't have his normal crew with him, but he doesn't need them. A maximum security space prison filled with monstrous criminals suits him perfectly.
The end of issue #4 suggested that this is a story that's both an escape/heist style tale and a race, since Terex and Black Squadron will be competing to spring Grakkus.
Yup, it's a race to the finish line to see who can break Grakkus out first. Poe came to Megalox Beta with a plan -- but so did Terex. We'll just have to see who's better! Or worse, as the case may be.
What can you tell us about the adventure that follows the prison arc?
There's a special story that will hit in "Poe Dameron" #7 that will see Poe getting involved with a lady from his past, a journalist looking for a very particular story. Also, when I say "lady from his past," don't make any assumptions -- they served together in the New Republic Navy for a while, and now she's in a jam and needs his help. That should be fun -- just a cool, done-in-one story set in a cool, new location, with these really neat ships called stormsailers that are used for something like podracing, but in the atmosphere of a gas giant. Can't wait to see those drawn.
After that, we embark on the next part of the over-story, which runs through issues 8-10. I don't want to give too many hints, but the genre is basically "spy story," and our favorite golden protocol droid has a big role. It's also where we fill in the gaps on those lost decades for Terex -- pretty interesting stuff.
I have some cool beats planned for Snap, especially for fans of the "Aftermath" books.
Phil and I have been so pleased by the reception for this book -- it's really been embraced by the fans, and we're happy we get to live in the "Star Wars" Universe for a while with such cool characters. Stick around -- it just gets deeper and better from here.â€¨