Everyone’s favorite (or second favorite) Droid from the original Star Wars films gets a new one-shot telling the tale of his red arm from The Force Awakens. Be warned, spoilers for both the film and the book follow!
Written by James Robinsons
Illustrated by Tony Harris
Follow everyone’s favorite protocol droid as he Journeys to Star Wars: The Force Awakens, in this special one-shot leading up to his appearance in the film! Just how did Threepio get a red arm, anyway? Find out here as the blockbuster creative team of James Robinson and Tony Harris of DC’s Starman reunite for the first time in nearly two decades! You may be fluent in over six million forms of communication…but this book is a must have in any language!
Marvel’s careful handling of the Star Wars license has, thus far, paid off quite well for the publisher. The stories they’ve been telling have been carefully set in time periods, selected for optimal fan curiosity, and began to fill in some of the blanks of the 30+ years between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. This particular issue was supposed to drop before The Force Awakens, but was delayed for unknown reasons until last week.
At first, I presumed the delay was to avoid spoiling anything that was felt necessary for the film to be presented with as little prior information as possible. After having read the issue, that’s simply not the case. Now, books are delayed all the time, and it makes sense that, perhaps, Tony Harris needed a little extra time to illustrate the book – especially as he penciled, inked, and colored the book himself. Or, perhaps, Harris had to redraw some pages, as Disney/Lucasfilm/Marvel decided that the story needed something new or different to it. We don’t know – but we have the book now, so let’s talk about it.
C-3PO was on a mission to capture a droid, which contains the location of the First Order base where Admiral Ackbar is being held. Their ship crashed, killing all the non-droid passengers, and so the issue is (mainly) C-3PO and co. trying to get someplace where they can signal the Resistance and get Ackbar’s location to them/have a rescue ship sent to get the droids. This is a pretty straight forward story, and the storytelling is similarly straightforward.
The band of droids are a little hard to, initially, get a beat on, in terms of personality. Part of this is Marvel’s insistence of continuing the incredibly frustrating tradition of writing droid names out. The name “C-3PO” is in the title of the book, but it is written inside as “See-Threepio.” I can see when Luke would call him “Artoo” in the novels, but here, when we’ve never met VL-44, why we have to see the name as Vee-El Forty-Four. I know this sounds like a nitpicky little gripe, but it slows down the reading considerably.
James Robinson attempts to give each droid in the party a personality and traits in a short space and, more or less, he succeeds. Of course, a few of the droids speak languages that I don’t, and therefore their traits and personalities are only gleaned through what C-3PO says and how he reacts to their bleeps and bloops. This works well, but one can’t help but think how much better this would work in a setting with audio capabilities.
But the real star of the show is Tony Harris – he and Robinson worked together on “Starman” for DC in the 90s (full disclosure: my favorite comic of all time), and their synergy is felt here, but all the heavy lifting falls to Harris. To be able to elicit emotion and nuance out of the droids is difficult enough, but to do so with a cast that is (almost) entirely new or unknown characters, really says something. His work feels epic, even though the scope of the story is quite small. Sure, there are a few action sequences, but they aren’t exactly the Battle of Yavin 4. But that doesn’t stop Harris from bringing a highly refined visual palette to the book, and his work easily elevates the book out of the category of simple droid story, something Star Wars has almost never gotten right.Continued below
Before we get to the elephant in the room (that red arm), it is important to also discuss how the book feels somewhat rushed, a criticism that needs to be said, but really cannot be blamed on anyone. The reality of this issue is that it was always going to be a one-shot, and so in the space of a single issue, you have to introduce drama, conflict, and resolution, all while shoehorning in a few The Force Awakens characters and telling a story that, frankly, didn’t need to be told. The red arm was a curiosity, but no one left the theater saying “I know I just saw Han Solo get killed by his son, but I want to know more about C-3PO’s red arm!”
The red arm comes from Omri, a First Order droid that contains the aforementioned information that is needed to find Admiral Ackbar. Omri and C-3PO have philosophical discussions on the nature of being a droid, on memory wipes, and phantom limbs. Their relationship is, again, rushed from antagonists to begrudging travelers to, as Omri says, friends. This all feels a little silly, but it gets the story to where it needs to be – after Omri sacrifices himself to save C-3PO, his red arm is co-opted by our favorite protocol droid as both a practical solution and a tribute to his fallen friend.
When thinking about how to grade this issue, it becomes clear that usual criteria isn’t all that helpful. This is a totally unnecessary story, told well, by brilliant creators who probably had their hands tied more than they’d have liked. So how is it judged? On one hand, the creators told the story asked of them better than many, many others could have, but the story they’re telling isn’t one that anyone was clamoring for, nor one that really does anything to further an overarching tale, either in comic or film form.
But what it does do is give the reader an opportunity to spend some time with a beloved character, and to reveal a small (nearly microscopic) piece of a very large mosaic, that both feels apiece to what came before, as well as hinting at potential stories to come.
Final Verdict: 7.2 – A beautiful, well crafted, but ultimately hollow, side story