The character of C-3PO has been featured in all seven ‘Star Wars’ feature films but you’d be hard pressed to find any fan of the blockbuster series that would place him towards the top of his/her list of favorites. It’s not the performance of Anthony Daniels, who brilliantly continues to bring the persnickety golden-armored protocol droid to indelible life. Whether arguing with a far more clued in R2-D2, being worshipped by the Ewoks, stumbling into a full-blown arena Jedi/droid battle, or driving Han Solo crazy, 3PO always seems to be involved in slight comic relief and/or serving as an unwitting participant in the proceedings on screen. But like Chewbacca before them, writer James Robinson and artist Tony Harris see something more in this somewhat maligned but ultimately loved (OK, maybe tolerated) fixture in the Star Wars Universe.
The mystery of C-3PO’s red arm first popped up in production stills from the filming of ‘The Force Awakens’ and was further teased when all promotional material and merchandising featured the crimson-hued appendage. Reflecting the nature of a Star Wars film series that regularly teases side stories of the various denizens fleetingly shown, it became an element of intrigue that was not answered outright in the movie itself upon its’ release last December. Comic book fans immersed in Marvel’s brilliantly re-vitalized funny books, considered canon (with Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm, Dark Horse Comics was forced to rescind it’s status as home to the expanded universe offerings, therefore 20+ years of comics are now disavowed), knew that the story was coming in comic book form, an over-sized one-shot set for release in January 2016. The release date came and went, but as of last week, the comic was released and it is worth the wait.
The story concocted by Robinson and Harris places the titular character, now ‘Droid Communication Chief for the Resistance’ (whatever that is supposed to mean), in a dire circumstance that actually puts his protocol skills to the test in heroic ways. His ship crashes on a hostile planet populated by ravenous creatures, harsh terrain, and acidic weather. The captain of the ship has perished in the crash, leaving 3PO and a cadre of various model droids (construction, security, etc.) to navigate through their precarious situation. They are joined by Omri, another protocol droid they were holding in the hull of the ship, a prisoner who served the First Order and may or may not have important information on the whereabouts of a captive Admiral Ackbar.
To say anymore about the plot is to ruin a story that sees 3PO and company debating allegiances, lamenting their stations in electronic ‘life’, and the very nature of a sentience that can be manipulated through data wipe. These topics and the interactions of 3PO, here separated from his familiar and stalwart counterpart, reveal layers of a character that has remained mostly one-dimensional for the duration of the series thus far. The writing is spot-on and engaging; the art by Harris is all heavy lines and deep colors, making for a fitting throw-back to the style of 1970’s/early ’80’s comics, the time period for the original Marvel run of Star Wars tie-ins. In fact, more-so than any of the other ongoing and mini-series’ which feature top modern comic book storytellers, this one-shot feels like an homage to the tone and art of the contained stories of the past, a fitting, poignant episode in the life of this character, forever ingrained in the Star Wars collective consciousness . . .