Story: Charles Soule, Chris Eliopoulos
Art: Phil Noto, Chris Eliopoulos
Colors: Jordie Bellaire
Letters: Joe Caramagna
Star Wars created by George Lucas.
(Spoiler Warning for Star Wars: The Force Awakens)
Depending on a fan’s perspective, one of the coolest or most annoying things about Star Wars: The Force Awakens is how much world-building was left to ancillary materials. There was a lot left unsaid about how the collapse of the Galactic Empire and the establishment of a New Republic led to a covert war being waged between the First Order and the Resistance. This was a stylistic choice aimed to recreate the in media res storytelling of the 1977 film. The audience is thrown into the middle of the action with little explanation. The big difference however is the massive publicity push that accompanied TFA, which included a neverending stream of media tie-ins from Disney and Marvel to answer every single question and explore every topic raised by the film.
One of the more intriguing characters of TFA, X-Wing pilot Poe Dameron, has already had some of his backstory revealed in novel form and in the comic Shattered Empire. Played on screen with tremendous charisma by Oscar Isaac, his limited interactions with the equally engaging John Boyega were enough to launch a thousand Finn/Poe shipper fanfics. Poe has quickly become the 2nd greatest X-Wing pilot of all time (Sorry folks, the top honor still belongs to the venerable Wedge Antilles). He’s certainly the sexiest X-Wing pilot around. So is it any surprise that he now has his own comic book series?
Plot-wise, the comic is set shortly before the events of TFA. Poe and Black Squadron have been assigned by General Leia Organa the mission of finding the enigmatic Lor San Tekka, the person played by Max Von Sydow seen at the beginning of the film handing the map to Luke Skywalker to Poe. Writer Charles Soule tells a simple adventure story that sticks closely to the contours of the TFA universe. There’s a bit of daredevil flying that hints at Poe’s later heroism on Starkiller Base, and Poe meets a strange cult who seem to be one possible source for the Force-based religion observed by Lor and the massacred villagers on Jakku. Future installments promise to delve deeper into this mystery. Fans who enjoyed TFA will be interested to follow this comic.
If that’s a little too boring and conventional, there’s alo a cute backup story about BB-8 playing matchmaker drawn in a more humorous vein by Chris Eliopoulos.
Star Wars Special: C-3PO #1
Story: James Robinson
Art: Tony Harris
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Did anyone care when C-3PO started brandishing a red left arm in TFA? It looked weird, but the only odd thing about it was the mismatched color. Otherwise, what’s so unusual when a droid has to have a body part replaced, especially an older droid? And The Phantom Menace did establish that Threepio would have been a very old droid who saw three generations come and go by the time Poe joined the Resistance. The rest of the cast didn’t seem to care, occupied at the time by the recent actions of the First Order. And Threepio is known to drone on about the smallest matters. But in this case, the droid hinted that the arm was more than just a run-of-the-mill replacement. It was kind of a big deal to Threepio and now the reader knows why.
The story in itself isn’t necessarily all that remarkable. Basically, Threepio loses the old arm during a dangerous mission which wipes out the human crew and strands a miscellaneous collection of Resistance droids and one First Order protocol droid named Omri on a hostile alien world. Threepio assumes leadership of the ragtag group and succeeds in completing the mission, but not before suffering heavy casualties and the loss of an arm. The red arm is a kind of personal tribute to those fallen comrades.
But James Robinson and Tony Harris color slightly outside the lines of the Star Wars cinematic universe. Harris draws in a dark, inky style that seems more suited to horror-fantasy than futuristic sci-fi, but this works to heighten Robinson’s tale of existential dread. The heart of the story is an ongoing conversation between Threepio and Omri. Despite being a captive enemy combatant, Omri isn’t really on anyone’s side. The droid questions the nature of droid programming, and the war between the two factions, which inevitably leads to uncomfortable questions about the concept of good and evil, not to mention free will.
Then there’s the usually glossed-over reality that droids in the Star Wars universe are often treated as second-class citizens. Omri notes that protocol droids are granted a level of self-awareness not accorded other models. But when the discussion gets around to the way people have no problem repeatably wiping a droid’s memory in order to reprogram them, the implications of this behavior are horrifying, not to mention inhumane. As older droids, both Threepio and Omri have already experienced several lives, only to have those experiences torn away from them by repeated memory wipes. This reframes every droid death that takes place in the comic as brutal, needless, and even heartbreakingly tragic in their sacrifice.
As unexpectedly poignant this happens to be for a Star Wars comic starring Threepio, it’s still a Star Wars comic. In the end, there’s no droid uprising in sight. And anyway, The final shot of Threepio in TFA has his golden arm restored. So there’s a slight disconnect between the comic and the film. Or did the droid have the arm repainted?