Meet the Damerons: Why You Must Read Shattered Empire

Image: Disney / Lucasfilm

Image: Disney / Lucasfilm

Poe Dameron’s been on my mind.

Maybe it started when I saw Alex Garland’s Ex Machina, a haunting near-future exploration of artificial intelligence in which Oscar Isaac steals virtually every scene he’s in with his portrayal of an eccentric, booze-loving billionaire tech mogul. During early press events like Celebration 2015, where Isaac declared his character to be “the best frickin’ pilot in the galaxy,” I didn’t really question why Lucasfilm would hire an actor of his extraordinary caliber to play a clean-cut X-wing pilot whose last name is a new addition to the saga. It just seemed like a good call.

In the months since, things have gotten a little more interesting. The final full-length trailer for The Force Awakens offers a glimpse of Dameron in agony, on his knees, while a masked Kylo Ren holds out a splayed hand in front of Dameron’s face. I suspect this to be a torture scene involving use of the Force. Now, one can only speculate when it comes to the process of casting a film, but it’s worth noting that Adam Driver, who plays Kylo, shared the screen with Isaac for a handful of memorable scenes in the Coen brothers’ drama Inside Llewyn Davis in 2013. The duo play session musicians who live together briefly and cut a record called “Please, Mr. Kennedy,” an amusing song about a reluctant astronaut. Driver spends most of the song contributing backing vocals (“Uh-oh! / Please don’t shoot me into outer space . . . Outer! Space! / Outer! Space!”), while Isaac and Justin Timberlake take the lead. Isaac’s performance in the film is perhaps one of the best of this decade, though Driver’s is understated and mostly unremarkable. If the names Joel and Ethan Coen mean nothing to you, or if you simply haven’t been bothered, see the film. If there’s one definitive Oscar Isaac role, it’s the charming but tragic folksinger Llewyn Davis.

Image: CBS Films

Image: CBS Films

I won’t bore you with my willy-nilly theory about the Knights of Ren—what I know of the various Buddhist sects and their teachings has me thinking they’ll play a specific and very significant new role in the Star Wars mythos, neither Jedi nor Sith—but if we take into account (1) the imperiled Dameron seen in the final Force Awakens trailer, (2) the haunted billionaire recluse from Ex Machina, and (3) the ambitious but down-on-his-luck musician from Inside Llewyn Davis, a complicated picture of Poe Dameron begins to form. Publicity stills we saw almost a year ago are a far cry from the tormented Dameron we see sharing the frame with Kylo Ren, after all, and there’s still so much we don’t know about the film that awaits us come December. But I’m afraid for our new friend, Poe, and it doesn’t help matters that he appears to be named after the father of the contemporary horror story.

The purpose of this article isn’t to spoil Greg Rucka’s Star Wars: Shattered Empire, nor is it to gesture toward some unknowable endgame within the Star Wars sequel trilogy, but it is meant to generate discussion about the Dameron family, some of what Poe’s destiny might entail, and to convince you to read Shattered Empire, the first canonical, Story Group–approved comic book from Marvel to take place after 1983’s Return of the Jedi.

Rucka’s comic has all the obligatory fun and tension you’d expect from the immediate aftermath of the Death Star’s destruction and the death of Emperor Palpatine, and Marco Checchetto’s pencils are among the absolute best to come out of the new Marvel line of Star Wars books—but there are also some genuine surprises in the four-part storyline: Leia fighting to save the planet Naboo from mass destruction; political intrigue on the Imperial side of things, including hints of the protocols Palpatine put in place to continue steering the Empire in the event of his death; one of the best Luke Skywalker scenes in all of Star Wars . . .

Image: Marvel Comics

Image: Marvel Comics

And yet, ultimately, it’s the story of Poe’s parents: pilot Shara Bey and soldier Kes Dameron. During the Battle of Endor, Shara plays an instrumental role in escorting Lando Calrissian and the Millennium Falcon to the Death Star’s reactor core, flying an A-wing interceptor inside the station’s superstructure alongside her fellow members of Green Squadron. Meantime, her husband, Kes, is planetside with a strike team led by Han Solo, charged with deactivating the Death Star’s shield generators.

Kes doesn’t seem terribly important past the first issue, when he and Shara get to celebrate the Death Star’s end with the rest of the Alliance heroes on Endor, but Shara is a tremendously well-drawn character throughout the four-issue arc. She distinguishes herself most memorably in a moment of Star Wars–scale heroism that takes place in orbit above Naboo, when she leads a three-woman squadron of dusty old Naboo starfighters to fend off Imperial attackers sent to wipe out Naboo’s population using methods that feel all too plausible, even in our universe. The other two pilots in her command? Princess Leia Organa and Queen Sosha Soruna.

Image: Marvel Comics

Image: Marvel Comics

The Skywalker family touches the lives of many in the course of Palpatine’s galaxy-spanning wars, and in the story of Shattered Empire, we see exactly how the Damerons serve the Alliance at Endor, how the Force entwines their fates with those of Anakin Skywalker’s children, and how their son, Poe, becomes indebted to both the Rebellion and the Skywalkers; whatever life Poe gets to share with his mother and father in relative peacetime (i.e., between Shattered Empire and The Force Awakens) is thanks, in part, to both Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa.

Of special interest to those hunting for clues about The Force Awakens, Poe Dameron’s relationship to the Force, and how he might one day earn the title of “best frickin’ pilot in the galaxy,” Shattered Empire is a can’t-miss addition to the Marvel Star Wars canon, and one that ties directly into the events of Episode VII.