It seems safe to say that Star Wars, The Force Awakens, which currently tops the U.S. box office record, was seen by plenty of folks. If you haven’t seen it, here’s a spoiler that will not at all ruin the movie in any way shape or form. C-3PO, the obnoxiously worrisome sidekick to R2-D2, has a red arm. You couldn’t miss it in the movie, because 3PO goes out of his way to point it out. What we didn’t know until now was why. Star Wars C-3PO is a one off, single issue comic telling the tale of how 3PO acquired his crimson appendage.
Marvel has been doing a bang up job taking over Star Wars comics following their re-acquisition from Dark Horse. They’ve covered Lando, Poe, Leia, Chewbacca, Kanan, Vader, and more. Now we get a one off all about C-3PO. It was actually slated to come out around the time of the release of The Force Awakens, which would have complimented the movie perfectly. Depending on which story you believe, either Lucasfilm took too long to approve of the script for this book, or Marvel sent the script in too late for it to get the okay on time for a release close to the movie. Regardless of the reason for the delay, I’m just happy it’s here now.
Written by James Robinson (Star Man, Airboy), and illustrated by Tony Harris (Star man, Ex Machina), Star Wars: C-3PO throws readers into an unknown setting, with largely an unknown cast, on a very under explained mission, but the book isn’t ultimately about the finer details. It actually ends up providing a closer look at the life of a droid, the motivations, and dare I say, the humanity. That aspect of it, the window into a droid’s psyche or programming, whatever you want to call it, is the real value of the book.
I won’t delve deeply into the plot for fear of spoiling, but I do have some things to say about the book in general. First, it was pretty cool that Robinson re-introduced the Spice Spiders. They were introduced in the Expanded Universe, the Star Wars books, comics, and games which have since been dubbed “Star Wars Legends”. This was a nice way of saying they’re no longer canon. Anytime bits or pieces are cherry picked from that lush body of work, I’m always pleased, as I was a huge fan of that material, and it returns them to official canon status.
The panel layouts were fantastic, there was a lot of atypical presentation, and it spoke to the clear concern for quality the creators of this book had. That being said, Harris’ color palette felt decidedly un-Star Warsy to me. The strong use of pinks and purples, the overall color tones of the pages, didn’t easily fit into the established Star Wars esthetic, and proved to be a bit distracting.
The story was good, though I hesitate to call it great. Droids are a tricky subject to write, they don’t have facial expressions, and only have severely limited gesticulation. Some don’t even speak in discernible words. But again, the plot wasn’t really about the individual droids, the value of the book comes from its study of what it means to be droid, it’s a much more metaphysical evaluation. On that level, this book did well.
Ultimately, the point of the book, the red arm, becomes pretty important in understanding droids. It adds a whole new value to seeing that arm on screen, and understanding why 3PO wears it still, even though he probably has access to a matching replacement.
The story was rushed, which is understandable considering this was a one shot, but the payoff was solid, so I’d give it a 3.5 out of 5 restraining bolts.
The artwork, while wonderfully paneled, was simply too jarring for me to accept. The droids themselves looked great, so all things considered I’d give the visuals 3 out of 5.
When all is said and done, I give this book a 3 out of 5 restraining bolts, but will add that for any completist and fan of The Force Awakens, it’s a must read