By Jesse Schedeen Sept. 14, 2017
Star Wars #36 finally addresses what is easily the series' biggest loose end at the moment. C-3PO has been a captive of the Empire ever since the end of "Last Flight of the Harbinger." At long last, writer Jason Aaron reveals what fate has befallen the poor protocol droid and how the Rebels intend to rescue him. Unfortunately, because Aaron is continuing the series' recent trend of focusing on standalone stories, there's not a great deal of room to explore this conflict in the detail it deserves. The rescue of C-3PO is amusing, but it could have been more.
As the cover suggests, this is actually more of an R2-D2 story than anything. Fittingly, Artoo takes it upon himself to rescue his old buddy in lieu of an entire Rebel strike force. And as quickly becomes apparent, Artoo doesn't need any backup. He's even more a one-droid army in this issue than he was in the heyday of the Clone Wars. I can't help but wonder if Aaron pushed things too far in this issue by depicting Artoo as a superhuman force of nature laying waste to an entire Star Destroyer's worth of Stormtroopers. It's frequently hilarious, but maybe a little excessive in the context of a straightforward, relatively serious Star Wars project like this. It certainly clashes with Artoo's portrayal in the Original Trilogy. While capable and crafty, those movies rarely show him going on the offensive as he does here.
Artoo as a protagonist presents a very interesting challenge for any creative team. How do you convey emotion or motivation out of a character that's basically a walking, beeping trash can? How do you get inside Artoo's mind? Do you attempt some sort of bizarre Hawkeye/Pizza Dog story that hinges on visual symbols? Aaron and Salvador Larroca's solution is elegant and simple. They don't try. Rather, Aaron includes a running series of narrative captions that basically play out as a PR document for the R2 unit. This unseen narrator rambles on about the functionality and limitations of the R2 unit, even as R2-D2 himself defies those limitations in ironic and grandiose fashion. It's a surprisingly effective approach that really highlights how far Artoo has risen above his intended programming.
This issue relative of non-armored human characters is a welcome change of pace given all the problems with Larroca's art style lately. There are still pages marred by Larroca and colorist Edgar Delgado's blatant use of photo-referenced figures and oddly proportion Stormtroopers, but the problem isn't nearly as pronounced as in recent issues. And because of that, Larroca's flair for rendering cinematic action sequences is able to shine. Both Artoo's guerrilla war and the climactic dog-fight stand out as some of the series' better action sequences in recent memory.
Again, the real disappointment with this issue is that the capture of C-3PO amounts to so little. That twist was noteworthy for two reasons - because it put the Rebel Alliance in danger of having its secrets exposed by the galaxy's most talkative droid, and because it hinted at the chance for a reunion between Threepio and his maker. That latter element was especially intriguing. The Prequels beg the question of why Vader never seems to recognize his old droids. Has he buried Anakin Skywalker so completely that he truly doesn't remember them? Does he recognize them and choose to keep the fact hidden? Don't expect an answer here. Nor should you expect Threepio to be anything other than comedic relief. It's a little frustrating that a conflict that could have filled an entire, full-length story arc is instead swiftly dealt with in one issue.
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