Review by Jamie McNeil
Charles Soules’ run on Poe Dameron hasn’t been a poor one, the writer working some real magic with his cast to keep the series entertaining. All respect to the man because it’s hard to build a compelling story around a character that is a well meaning yet arrogant tool. By the end of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Poe’s actions had some catastrophic results, The Spark and the Fire continuing almost immediately after the Battle of Crait. An unusually reflective Poe Dameron is on board the Millenium Falcon catching up with his friends Rey and Finn. The massive loss of life weighs heavily on him as does the revelation that his compatriots in the Black Squadron are missing from their last mission, the reason why they did not feature in the film.
The Spark and the Fire looks back over the course of the series, and to facilitate this Soule has C3-P0 hand Poe a message sent by Black Squadron. Only Poe doesn’t know if they survived as the message is corrupted. The story is then revealed in flashback, telling events from the Squadron members’ perspective. In doing this Soule gets to tie up a number of loose threads across the saga including the films. Not only does it explain why Snap Wexley, Kare Kun and Jess Pava were absent from The Last Jedi, the reader also gets to witness the attack run on the Starkiller Base from the pilot’s seat. We also learn how Poe escaped after crash landing with Finn on Jakku. It’s a suspenseful plot with Soule very inventive in how he delivers the narrative perspectives. He leads you to believe that Poe is the central narrator only to subvert that. Could it be Rey or Finn? The reveal is both satisfying and genius, coming way out of left field and well worth the read for that alone.
Angel Unzueta’s artwork has been inconsistent over the series with only flashes of brilliance. For The Spark and the Fire he demonstrates his skill, letting loose with some fabulous art. It’s so good it begs the question- why the hell was he holding back?! Initially you can see improvement, the cast likenesses better though still lacking convincing emotion, but suddenly it changes and his work finds a balance previously missing, Unzueta and Soule working in glorious unison to play the emotions like a violin to a magnificent finale!
The Spark and the Fire should really just end at that point, but a story written by Jody Houser and illustrated by Andrea Broccardo needs to fit in. Set before The Force Awakens, Poe and company have to acquire an artefact from a Kudon trader named Mek Nu’Tiv before the First Order get it, Han Solo and Chewbacca making a guest appearance. Houser revels in her fan credentials, right down to the fine details of the star fighter each individual pilot uses. Broccardo’s cartoony style isn’t ideal for human characters, their faces out of focus, but really suits the droid and alienoid cast. It’s obviously squeezed in here to complete the run but it’s an affecting and sweet storyline, produced by a fan and for the fans.
It’s often said that it’s not how you start but how you finish that counts. Poe Dameron has been an average if consistent series until here, the varying artwork the primary culprit. The Spark and the Fire changes that. There are highs, lows, surprises and plenty of action- everything that makes Star Wars. The only thing truly missing is John Williams’ stirring closing theme.