.– Slight Spoiler Review –
(This article is written by Chris Wermeskerch and it’s his second post as a contributor for the Manor! Give him your quarter-portions for joining the Star Wars fan-site community over on Twitter: @ChrisWerms)
Marvel’s Star Wars: Journey to The Force Awakens…I mean, Star Wars Special: C-3PO has had a wild ride. One of the earlier one-shots announced for the Marvel line-up of Star Wars comics, this C-3PO issue was promised to come as a part of the lead-up to the premiere of The Force Awakens in theaters. Production delays plagued the issue pushing it from December to March finally to April. The issue is here, so where does it stand?
It’s honestly hard to say. The book was marketed for months as our way to figure out how 3PO ended up getting his red arm. Based on the Visual Dictionary, we already had a pretty good idea: it came from a droid who sacrificed himself. This caused me, and a few others, to lose a lot of interest in the book. It turns out that they were hiding some of the best elements of the book: the characterization of 3PO(!) and an interesting, different, take on droids.
The story follows a ragtag group of droids who, after crash landing on an unknown planet, unhospitable for both droids and humans, must learn how to survive with each other in spite of each other’s attitudes. The droid group, involving a PZ-unit, two protocol droids, a construction droid, a medical droid, and a roller droid, is an interesting bunch. Had this come out before The Force Awakens, this would have been our introduction to the PZ-unit. You might have caught glimpses of the blue humanoid droid PZ-4CO on D’Qar. Still, with her limited screen-time, this issue might serve as our real introduction to the model. Otherwise, we make the acquaintances of the droids through a page of laborious introductions. After a few heavy-laden pages of exposition, the mission finally begins. The droids set out to find a crashed First Order ship so they can signal their position to the Resistance. The adventures bring a sort of fresh spin on the marooned trope because these aren’t humans who can McGuyver their way out of the situation: they are droids bound to their programming.
It’s actually the idea of being bound to their programming that serves as the true catalyst to the book. In a funny twist, the droids have to keep track of a Death Star Droid (think AP-5, seen in “The Forgotten Droid” from Star Wars Rebels), who has information about the location where the First Order is holding Admiral Ackbar hostage. The plot actually plays second fiddle to true theme of the book: what does it mean to be a droid in the Star Wars galaxy? The First Order droid, Omri, is a philosopher, dreaming up philosophies of choosing sides, the nature of being a droid who can have their memories wiped, and sentience in droid life. Each event in the plot serves to make the droids ask new questions and consider new answers to the quandaries of droid life. Without giving too much away, these questions create new and interesting avenues for the Star Wars canon to delve into further down the road. It is in these discussions that we get to know 3PO a little bit better – a feat in and of itself considering we’ve known him for 40 years now!
While the prisoner droid and 3PO are fleshed out well, we don’t meet many of the other droids in any real way. Part of this is due to their speech – one can’t say more than his name and model and another speaks in whirrs and beeps – and part of this is due to the amount of time devoted to 3PO. This isn’t a complaint, more of something I noticed. We also see Poe and BB-8 in the issue, but they serve more to end the story than to play pivotal roles in the book. (Never fear: we can always catch up with them again in their main title!) Most of the side characters may never have a chance to be fleshed out again, but that’s alright. The stars of the book shone brightly enough to let me see past that.
The art wasn’t my usual preference. Some scenes were hard to follow, but I will give them credit for making the book more dynamic than the mainline Star Wars comic can be with Lenil Yu. The creatures we meet in the book had some familiar Star Wars elements mixed with a slight twinge of horror (compare the Spice Spiders in 3PO with the McQuarrie concepts in “The Mystery of Chopper Base” from Star Wars Rebels). Other than that, it was fine and I’m sure some people will appreciate it more than I did.
As mentioned before, the first few pages were heavy on exposition, but that over-exposition lightened up as the book went on. Once the context was set, the dialogue became much better and the pacing was a lot tighter. The end of the book might not come as a surprise, considering we knew the gist for a while, the book almost blatantly tells you how it will end, and those who saw the red arm explanation in the LEGO video already saw how it ended (and already heard a pretty close adaptation of the story!), but the journey to the inevitable conclusion is fun regardless.
This book might have suffered from a light plot because of the time that it was supposed to be released. Looking back, very few of the “Journey to The Force Awakens” novels had much information on the Sequel Trilogy era. This book certainly has few, except that Ackbar was at some point captured by the First Order and interrogated. Because of that, don’t go into this book expecting a wealth of information on the Sequel Trilogy; no, we’re still in a world with very few explorations of that time zone. But do go into this book expecting an interesting new take on C-3PO and some unexpected philosophy!
Chris is Mynock Manor’s Sous Chef. You can follow him on Twitter: @ChrisWerms
CANON COMIC REVIEWS (by Ryan):
C-3PO #1 “The Phantom Limb”
Black Squadron (#1-6)
The Last Padawan (#1-6) | First Blood (#7-12)
Vader (#1-6) | Shadows and Secrets (#7-12) | The Shu-Torun War (#16-19)
Vader Down (crossover of Star Wars and Darth Vader on-goings)
Skywalker Strikes (#1-6) | Old Ben’s Journals | Showdown on the Smuggler’s Moon (#8-12) | Rebel Jail (#16-19)
Obi-Wan & Anakin (mini-series)
Shattered Empire (mini-series)
Princess Leia (mini-series)