In Review: C-3PO #1

An outstanding self-contained issue, though I’d prefer to be paying a dollar less.

The covers: The A cover is a stunner. Interior artist Tony Harris has created a bust shot of the world’s most famous protocol droid, next to an almost complete body shot of the character. Threepio must be an incredibly difficult character to illustrate given the precise shapes of his components and the amount of shine and glare his body generates. Harris makes the job look incredibly easy given the perfection of what he’s done. The light shining off the title character is beautiful. I also like the paint swirls at the bottom and top of the piece, propelling this into “fine art” in my mind. Just sensational. There are six Variant covers with the first being an Action Figure cover by John Tyler Christopher. This is a created cover a fictional Kenner action figure of Threepio sporting his red arm. I’m completely taken by these covers by Christopher and it’s one to get. The next is the Blank Variant cover, the C, featuring only the logo and credits at the top of the book. A collector could take this to any artist to get an original illustration on it. Nice, but not for me. The D cover is the Incentive Movie Photo cover. This has a full image from The Force Awakens showing the title droid in all his glory, complete with red arm. I’m a fan of photo covers, so I’ll have to track this down as well. The F is a illustrated cover showing all the droids, making their way across the planet, though some things have just appeared to impeded their journey. Good teaser of things to find within this issue. This cover was created by Reilly Brown. Todd Nauck is the artist of the G cover. The droids are making their way across a desert, though the sands and the sky are colored in differing shades of violet. Pretty, and pretty cool. The final cover is the Incentive Tony Harris Red Arm Spotlight cover. That’s a pretty complicated name for a cover that’s exactly the same as the A cover, except it’s in black and white, save the red arm that’s the mystery of this book. Nice, but I prefer this image with Harris’s colors. Overall grades: A A+, B A+, C C, D A+, E B+, F B, and G B-

The story: This tale, by James Robinson, explains how Threepio got his red left arm that he was sporting in The Force Awakens. C-3PO and five other droids are the sole survivors of a ship crash. With the humans dead, the droids have to decide what to do. Naturally, the yellow chatterbox begins making suggestions and is quickly harranged by a security droid named VL-44, whose speech is an indecipherable collection of sounds to the reader. Thankfully, Threepio, through Robinson’s writing, easily translates for all. Also in the group is PZ-99, a military class four security droid, C-034, a construction droid, 2MED2, a medical droid, and the reason for the story, Omri, a First Order protocol droid who was being taken to the Resistance forces because he contains information that can reveal where a key character is being held for interrogation and execution. Omri’s personality mirrors his programmer’s and he starts to sow seeds of distrust in the others. In addition to his sinister suggestions, there are several obstacles for this group to overcome, with some of the best being on Pages 9 and 10 (WOW!), 17 and 18, and 21 and 22. It was neat to see this odd collection of characters become a cohesive crew as they made their way to safety. I didn’t think it was possible, but Page 27 is very emotional, allowing the coda on 30 to be particularly striking. Too often See-Threepio is written as a punch line or a walking encyclopedia, but this is different – he had to make several decisions as a serious leader. This brought considerable gravitas to him that’s sorely been missing. It’s been too long since any publisher has had him in the thick of things and this was undeniably fun to read. Overall grade: A

The art: My initial reaction to the visuals of Tony Harris was not positive: no Star Wars book published by Marvel since they’ve reacquired the franchise has looked like this. The book has some of the heaviest line work of all the titles. This was such a shock it left me unsettled. However, by Page 4 I was impressed. Harris has got a very specific look for this book and it’s fantastic: it’s uniqueness from all else that’s gone before it is what makes this such a visual treat. The top panel on Page 4 is a sensational side by side shot of all the characters, and the close ups that follow are excellent. The layout of the pages is a fantastic, especially the slick curved, droid-like panels, such as on 5 and 7. Harris also does a great job with the settings, and they are incredibly varied: the mountains on 5 echo the style of Moebius, while the water work that begins on 16 is terrific. There are also several new creatures in this book and they are designed so well I wish they could appear on the big screen; such as the outstanding throng that appears on 9 and 10 which is a major “Wow!” and the brief, though superior, fly by on 20 and 21. 28 is a really superior page because there’s no text, so Harris has to communicate a tremendous amount of emotion from a character that lacks facial movements. Granted, he’s gotten a strong lead in from Robinson’s script, but what Harris does with this page is fantastic. The colors of this book are also done by Harris and his contributions make his line work very alien: the gorgeous pinks of the mountains, the sensational darkening of colors on 9 and 10 to create a larger mass, the cool blues and purples of the swamp, and the sickly yellows of the rain. The coloring of all the droids is also strong, with Threepio being a standout for his bright yellows, but PZ is also impressive, as is the familiar dark silver on Omri. This issue has me craving more of Harris’s work on other Star Wars books. Overall grade: A

The letters: Sounds, droid dialogue, human dialogue, and the book’s closing two words are created by VC’s Joe Caramagna. Because of the absence of human dialogue until the penultimate page, my usual dislike of the dialogue fonts in Star Wars books doesn’t occur: the majority of communication is done through a specific italicized font to show that droids are speaking and it looks fine. Additionally, Caramagna is required to do several sound effects in this book, and not just for not Standard speaking mechanicals. These sounds are excellent, though PZ and VL are my favorites of Caramagna’s contributions, giving the characters as much of a personality as does the artwork. Overall grade: A

The final line: This is the second Star Wars title in a week to come out at $4.99. I enjoyed this, but my wallet is starting to feel a tremor in the Force. An outstanding self-contained issue, though I’d prefer to be paying a dollar less. Overall grade: A

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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