“I see flashes–for just a moment… Places. Rocks…. A factory of droids… An arena, in the middle of a battle… My body not my own… A green world with hills… Underwater cities… A single city spread far as my optical sensors could see… A temple on fire… Smoky mountains of magma and fire. Suffereing. Yes… I have memories too… And yes. Sometimes I allow myself to wonder about them.” – C-3PO
C-3PO: The Phantom Limb is a single standalone comic book issue that tells the story of how C-3PO got his red arm that he has in The Force Awakens. Originally intended to be released as part of the “Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens” series of stories, the comic got delayed over and over again until it was finally released on April 13, 2016, four months after The Force Awakens premiered in theaters.
The comic was written by James Robinson, with artwork by Tony Harris. Upon opening the book, the first thing that stuck out to my was Harris’ art. This is a very unique art style that I almost want to say feels like the middle ground between the art in Marvel’s original Star Wars comic series from the ’70s, and Marvel’s new Star Wars series from last year. It’s hard to describe, but I really like the art style. It’s dark, with lots of heavy black shadows. It’s definitely something different, at least in my limited experience with Star Wars comic books. I’m a fan.
Since this is only a single issue, it’s hard to get too into detail about the story without giving everything away. Basically, C-3PO and a group of other droids are on board a ship that crash lands on a strange planet, and the droids have to work together to find a way to contact the Resistance for help. Along the way, Threepio loses his arm, and by the end of the story he receives his red one. Very brief summary, but I can’t say much else. That’s basically already the entire story.
Having C-3PO in the lead role just feels like classic Star Wars to me. Threepio and Artoo were basically main characters in the original Star Wars movie. The movie opens with them, and they’re central to the plot and story for the entire movie, while in all other Star Wars movies since the droids have been reduced to secondary roles. Having Threepio take center stage again just feels right, and I like that.
Something the movies don’t let us do is get into the heads of these droids. In Star Wars literature, we realize that C-3PO is actually very thoughtful. Too much so, to the point of overthinking everything and driving himself into a state of panic all the time. In comics like this one, and in the novels, we have the chance to get inside C-3PO’s electronic brain and learn that he’s a lot more than just the worrisome, annoying gold droid we see on screen. There’s a lot going on inside this droid’s head, and it’s always fun to see what he’s thinking.
The one little thing I found fascinating about this story was that it is revealed that although Threepio’s mind was wiped at the end of Revenge of the Sith, his mind apparently wasn’t completely wiped. He still has flashbacks of his past life during prequel-era Star Wars. He remembers bits and pieces of Geonosis, of Coruscant, of Naboo, and of Mustafar. He doesn’t remember details, but this could prove to set up for some very interesting stories in the future, if C-3PO is somehow able to either regain his memories or make sense of the little bits of information he still has in his computer head.
For what it is, I like it. You can’t expect a whole lot from one-shot comics like this. They’re quick, short stories, and you can’t go into it hoping for something huge and immersive. The comic is written well. The art is great. It’s a fun, easy read and a neat little piece of backstory that explains why C-3PO looks different in The Force Awakens. I wish there was more to it, but honestly there doesn’t need to be. It tells the story it needs to tell, and I can’t think of anything else that could have been added to it.
Now, if we can just get an explanation as to why Threepio has his gold arm back at the end of The Force Awakens, that would be great. His arm suddenly being gold again at the end of the movie feels like a completely unnecessary continuity error that bugs me every time I see it.