This Week in Marvel Comics: C-3PO – Why Is His Arm Red?

Ever wondered why C-3PO’s arm is red in Star Wars: The Force Awakens? Marvel Comics reveals the answer in this canonical tale of the droid’s adventures while on a mission for the Resistance.  Having crash landed on a planet while making their way back to the Resistance base, C-3PO and a group of droids are the only survivors of the disaster.  One of those droids is a prisoner, having been suspected of harboring vital information about the location of Admiral Ackbar who is being held by the First Order and will soon be sentenced to death.  Determined to find a way to accomplish their mission, C-3PO attempts to lead this band of varied droids to a homing beacon located far from the crash site – but their only hope to reconnect to the Resistance.

The cover artwork for C-3PO
The cover artwork for C-3PO

Writer James Robinson crafts a deeply thoughtful and thought-provoking tale about what it means to be a droid, what it means to be a second-class citizen, and how arbitrary it is to be on opposite sides of a conflict.  He does this through the dialogue primarily between C-3PO and Omri (who looks a LOT like the Death Star Droid from A New Hope and in some ways is implied it could be him).  Omri is the captured droid they are escorting to the Resistance.  He claims not to have knowledge of Admiral Ackbar’s whereabouts, but C-3PO has doubts.

C-3PO discusses some philosophical thoughts with Omri
C-3PO discusses some philosophical thoughts with Omri

As they make their way to the homing beacon, Omri brings up some thoughts that have been troubling him.  He reflects that all of them could at one time have been on the same side of the conflict – whether First Order or Resistance – but because droids often have their memories wiped it’s impossible to tell.  Instead they blindly follow orders without even knowing why they are following them.  Most of the droids don’t have a problem with that as they are programmed differently, but because protocol droids require more sentient thought, they have a higher degree of consciousness.  In fact, Threepio does have flashes of memory from prior wipes and wonders about them but has accepted it as the way it is.

The droids who accompanied Threepio on his journey with Omri
The droids who accompanied Threepio on his journey with Omri

Should we blindly accept orders?  Should we simply accept our “lot in life” as Threepio puts it?  Robinson challenges us to think for ourselves, to come up with answers on our own and make choices accordingly.  He also challenges us to consider what it means to be sentient.  At what point do we treat “objects” or lifeforms with equal respect?  Are there really different levels of sentience or is that an artificial construct we make up?

Rarely does so much thought-provoking material get so expertly woven into one story.  When I heard they were making a one-shot story to explain Threepio’s red arm, I figured it would be cute, or action-packed, or funny.  I didn’t expect to find a story with this much impact.  Especially not from C-3PO, but it really fits his more subdued nature post Endor.  Tony Harris’ art is stark and bold.  Normally not the style of art I prefer, but really fits well with the story.  Definitely a worthwhile read!

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