– Spoiler Review –
The oft-delayed, and much maligned for it, C-3PO one shot, “The Phantom Limb,” is finally out in comic shops everywhere, defying expectations for it to become the first “Phantom Comic” of Marvel’s run. Originally scheduled to release before The Force Awakens, as part of the “Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens” line, C-3PO reveals the story behind the always nervous droid’s mysterious red arm seen on him (and heard constantly mentioning about) for the majority of the film. Written by James Robinson, with the art handled by Tony Harris, is the issue any good (even if you ignore the delays and expectations)?
With all the delays stacked against this one-shot, especially considering it’s about a minuscule detail in TFA that disappears at the end of movie without explanation, I was having a hard time ever believing C-3PO “The Phantom Limb,” could be anything but a disappointment. Take those preconceived notions about the issue out and you’ll find a beautifully decorated issue with a simple story hiding a deeper than imagined theme regarding droids and sentience in the GFFA. And even with a mostly negative mindset going into the issue, I found myself pleasantly surprised by its subject matter and the bizarre but wonderfully unique art direction, while the overall story met my ho-hum expectations.
Crash landing on a mysterious planet, a Resistance ship quickly explodes, leaving only a handful of the droid crew alive, including Threepio and Omri, a captured First Order protocol droid. Threepio rallys the troops to get off the planet with Omri, who might be holding data regarding the whereabouts of Admiral Ackbar, who is currently a captive of the First Order and scheduled for execution. The planet hides many dangers, including spiders and acid rain, and quickly the droid survivors dwindle as they make a valiant attempt to fulfill their mission. Of course we know Threepio survives, and the how of it is mostly exciting, but it’s the why which truly makes this issue worthwhile.
Most recently seen in BB-8, and more memorably shown in Artoo’s extended career of saving the Skywalkers with a little help from Threepio, droids can be unwavering in their loyalty to a cause and people. But examine those quirks next to the question of a droid’s sentience and what it all means given programming restrictions and general treatment towards droids, like memory wipes, and there’s some heady and philosophical discourse to be had. Omri starts the debate when he mentions to all the droids that, due to memory wipes, it’s quite possible they’ve served different sides of the same war at one point, having possibly been reprogrammed to fight for the opposing side once captured/wiped. Every droid besides Threepio shows concern about being a traitor to his friends/the cause, while the others, made up of non-protocol droids, don’t really question their orders. Omri and Threepio find a mutual understanding spring up between them, as Omri’s questions cause Threepio to reflect on fragments of memories (whoa!) he still has of his time before the memory wipe at the end of Revenge of the Sith.
Once the others perish due to the perils of the planet, and Threepio escapes despite losing an arm, he and Omri find their understanding blossoming into friendship as they continue discussing what it means to have memories despite being a programmed individual. Omri compares memory wipes to the phenomenon of phantom limb, where organics feel like a limb is still there despite losing it. It’s a haunting point of view to considering, since we so often hear, in other stories, about how droid’s memories are wiped without a second thought, sometimes even for the most mundane reasons. Occasionally denizens of the galaxy grow attached to their droids and their personalities, like think Anakin Skywalker with Artoo, so while it’s not all bad, it sends chills down my spin just imagining knowing someone could so easily restart me and that my past existence might haunt me somewhere in the shadows of my mind. I never thought so deeply before regarding a droid’s sentience, but if there’s one thing C-3PO does well, it makes the question ring around in your mind long after the issue closes (to the point you almost wish you could have that particular thought wiped from your memory!).
In the end, Omri transfers Ackbar’s location to Threepio and then sacrifices himself to the acid rain to help his new-found friend live and complete the mission. All that’s left of Omri is his arm, revealed to be red due to the acid melting off the black primer, which Threepio takes and wears as a memory to his fallen comrades. It’s a sort of sweet moment, but since the red arm is so inconsequential, and so easily forgotten next to all the amazing events within TFA, this all ends up feeling a little too late to the party.
I’ve never seen Tony Harris’ art before, but everything from the panel layouts and the color palette, which I thought looked off-putting in preview pages, really looks wonderful for the issue. It’s a bizarre world with bizarre events happening on it with even more bizarre creatures, and the alien look of the art matches well with the alien feel of the adventure. The full spread of the salt spiders attacking the droids caused me to shiver as it felt like they were alive and their multiple limbs threatened to crawl off the page and onto my arms (yuck). I don’t know how I’d feel about it for an entire series run, but overall Harris’ art is worth buying this for alone.
Here are a few other things:
- Don’t forget to check out Chris’ review of the issue, as he delves a little more into what the issue does for Threepio characterization and mentions the LEGO video which basically already spoiled the issue.
- At one point, Threepio even has brief flashbacks of Naboo and Obi-Wan and Anakin’s battle on Mustafar, making me wonder if he’ll one day soon regain those memories and share them, unless Artoo already did.
- It seems the original delay from this issue’s release date of December 2 was caused due to Lucasfilm’s hesitance to approve the story. Why it continued to be delayed…we may never know. But it’s here, finally, so at least there’s that.
- In case you don’t pick this up, I bet you’ll pick up LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens and it’ll have a level devoted to the story of Threepio’s red arm as well!
- The other droids were PZ-99, a security droid outfitted with flamethrowers (and a different model was scene first in YA novel The Weapon of the Jedi); VL-44 is a odd looking combat droid as well; CO-34 is a terrible conversationalist but fantastic construction droid; and 2MED2, a 2-1B medical droid.
- Poe and BB-8 arrive to pick up Threepio and it looks like he’s flying a repurposed First Order troop transport (as seen in the FO’s assault on the Jakku village).
- The official site has some preview pages, with dialogue, so you can check out the art and see if it interests you.
- Totally unrelated to the issue, but both The Shins and Alice in Chains have great songs titled “Phantom Limb.”
Having deep questions after reading about Threepio is totally unexpected, but definitely welcomed, while the art really makes C-3PO #1 “The Phantom Limb” a feast for collectors, Threepio fans, or comic fans. However, the delays are stacked against it to a point, making one appreciate the effort, but question the reasoning for it these few months later.
+ Threepio having flashbacks
+ The question of droid sentience/treatment
+ Unigue and intriquing layout style/art
– Despite the strengths, the delays add up and learning this tale so long after TFA makes this seem too little, too late
CANON COMIC REVIEWS:
C-3PO #1 “The Phantom Limb” by Chris
Black Squadron (#1-3) | Lockdown (#4-6)
The Last Padawan (#1-6) | First Blood (#7-12)
Vader (#1-6) | Shadows and Secrets (#7-12) | The Shu-Torun War (#16-19) | End of Games (#20-25) | Annual: #1
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) | The Last Flight of the Harbinger (#21-25)
Han Solo (mini-series)
Obi-Wan & Anakin (mini-series)
Shattered Empire (mini-series)
Princess Leia (mini-series)