Best Shots Review: STAR WARS: C-3PO #1

"Star Wars Special: C-3PO" preview
Credit: Tony Harris (Marvel Comics)
Credit: Tony Harris (Marvel Comics)

Note: Slight spoilers ahead for Star Wars: C-3PO #1.

Star Wars: C-3PO #1
Written by James Robinson
Art by Tony Harris
Lettering by Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Richard Gray
'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10

When the toys and trailers first dropped for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, a question rang out across millions of curious minds. Many dissected and pondered Rey’s parentage, the whereabouts of Luke Skywalker, and the identity of Snoke. Now that the film has been in the public arena for several months, and home copies are now available for infinite repeats, that question still remains. It’s a question that cried out for, or perhaps even demanded, an answer: why was C-3PO’s arm red? At least that is, until now.

With an unceremonious crash, writer James Robinson reintroduces us to the protocol droid that has been a staple of practically every incarnation of Star Wars since 1977. Threepio and a group of droids set out across a hazardous environment to retrieve the whereabouts of Admiral Ackbar, who is a captive of the First Order and a prime candidate for brutal torture. Interestingly enough, much of the story is occupied by Robinson’s droids having existential conversations about the nature of droid allegiances, as one of his companions is a First Order droid that has perhaps outthought his lowly station in life. It’s not quite enough to elevate the issue out of its straightforward plotting and inevitable conclusions, but it does raise some interesting questions about the role of the lowest common denominators in the franchise series.

To date, Marvel’s Star Wars imprint has been part of a cohesive overarching structure, with all of the titles directly tying into the main storylines of the Original Trilogy era narrative. Star Wars: C-3PO sticks out in this regard as being a complete one-shot, and one based in the Journey to the Force Awakens continuity at that. In some ways, much of the drama of the piece is robbed out from under it, as the entire reader base is simply waiting for Threepio to lose an arm. Yet Robinson manages to instil life into the lifeless droids, allowing audiences to invest emotion into hitherto unseen characters. Threepio’s flashes of erased memories, primarily of the beautiful vistas of the prequel trilogy, are just a little bit tearjerking as well.

Robinson re-teams with his Starman partner Tony Harris, and this brings with it some enormous expectations. After all, the art on Marvel’s Star Wars has been impeccable to date, and from the opening pages it is clear that Harris is going for a much darker vibe than his previous work. The trademarked "windowed" panelling that Harris often uses is present for a handful of the earlier pages, before promptly disappearing entirely in favour of more traditional panels. The intentionally heavy inks on the figures muddies some of the detail, and in the frenzy of battle, droid identification becomes a little vexed. For a one-shot that concentrates primarily on the color of Threepio’s arm, Harris’ choice of palette might just be too esoteric for his subject matter.

This special’s subtitle, "The Phantom Limb," is more than likely a tongue-in-cheek reference to The Phantom Menace, but it also refers to the sense of loss droids feel when their memories are wiped and only fragments remain. While Star Wars: C-3PO is undercut by setting itself up to tell the non-story of Threepio’s arm, the underlying themes are the most interesting aspects of the story, and it’s just a shame that more time wasn’t spent contemplating them outside of this limited format.

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