There’s been a lot of debate over Rian Johnson‘s creative choices in The Last Jedi, mostly boiling down to one issue: Things didn’t go the way people expected. Instead of being a wise old heroic mentor, Luke Skywalker was bitter and traumatized by his past mistakes. The movie ignored all those fan theories about Snoke’s role and Rey’s parents, and focused on stories where the heroes make bad choices or fail outright.
For now, I want to talk about Poe Dameron. Some fans thought The Last Jedi did Poe a disservice, portraying him as brash and volatile instead of the charming hero we saw in The Force Awakens. If you’re one of those disgruntled Poe fans, I recommend reading Marvel‘s Poe Dameron comic. It’s one of the best Star Wars tie-ins, and on top of being a pitch-perfect adventure story about Poe and the Resistance, it gives a helpful through-line for his arc in the movies.
Poe Dameron takes place before The Force Awakens, covering Poe’s search for Lor San Tekka and the map to Luke. Written by Charles Soule and primarily drawn by Phil Noto (a creative team with extensive Star Wars experience), Poe’s personality immediately leaps off the page. He’s everything we loved in The Force Awakens: a fast-talking flyboy who specializes in swashbuckling adventures, with an unshakeable loyalty to Leia and the Resistance. He’s straightforwardly open about his emotions, bantering with his friends in Black Squadron and generally acting like a wholesome, affectionate antidote to James Bond. His main flaw is a lack of strategic foresight, something that was abundantly clear from issue #1 in April 2016 and the central theme of his story in The Last Jedi.
I make the 007 comparison because, for much of this comic, that’s kind of Poe Dameron’s role. He’s not a skilled espionage agent like Cassian Andor in Rogue One, but he’s very good at Having Adventures. He survives an entertaining string of escapades, ranging from a prison break to a bank heist to a spaceship version of the movie Speed, illustrating why Poe is such a great asset to the Resistance – and why his allies sometimes find him frustrating.
Poe’s friends semi-jokingly complain that no one else could survive the stunts he pulls, which is both a blessing and a curse. Despite numerous setbacks and deadly showdowns with his dastardly nemesis Agent Terex (so dastardly he even has a pencil mustache), Poe doesn’t fully understand what it means to fail.
The most direct piece of foreshadowing came in issue #14, after Poe suffers a loss during a mission. Leia grounds him until he learns an important lesson about his role in the Resistance, in a direct precursor to his conflicts with Leia and Holdo in The Last Jedi.
So, Poe’s characterization is completely consistent across both movies and the comic. If The Last Jedi felt like a big change, that’s because he didn’t really have a character arc in The Force Awakens. Rey and Finn went through major life changes and learned from their experiences, whereas Poe arrived fully formed as a Resistance hero. That role provided the starting point for his arc in The Last Jedi.
The Force Awakens portrayed Poe as friendly, courageous, and great at thinking on his feet. But is he good at being patient and planning for the future? Not so much. Leia is well aware of that problem, and in the comic (and later in The Last Jedi), she urges him to be more thoughtful. She knows he could be a great leader, but only if he considers big-picture issues instead of running headlong into the fight. Even Poe’s physicality plays into this dynamic, with Oscar Isaac playing him as boundlessly energetic. That energy serves him well during action scenes, but when he’s trapped and helpless on the escape ship to Crait, there’s a flip side: He literally can’t keep still, running from window to window so he can follow the action outside.
There’s an ongoing implication in the comic that Leia’s days are numbered, which explains why she’s so keen for Poe to shape up as her potential replacement. She walks with a stick in The Last Jedi and generally seems more infirm than you’d expect for a woman in her 50s. This might have foreshadowed an element of her planned role in Star Wars IX, although with Carrie Fisher’s death, that story will now go unrealized.
Poe Dameron is now on its 22nd issue, wrapping up its current arc in March. After setting up the last movie so neatly, what comes next? Possibly a deeper dive into Poe’s backstory, because with Star Wars IX still in its early stages, there isn’t much room for a direct continuation of The Last Jedi.