by Patrick Ehlers
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
When I was a kid, I hated C-3PO. Hated him. I thought his bumbling antics severely hurt the movies I loved. But something strange happened on my first viewing of The Phantom Menace: I was relieved to see him. Hell, I was excited to see proto-Threepio in Anakin’s bedroom. He was an island of familiarity in a sea of characters that were significantly more annoying. That’s largely how the newest Star Wars movies have been treating Threepio — as a sort of elder statesman of the franchise, commanding respect. Sure, he’s still annoying, but that all stems from his hoity toity affectations. Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca’s Star Wars 47 reminds us that C-3PO sucks, not just superficially, but deep down to his core.
The set-up is this: Leia, Luke and Han have kidnapped an Imperial Moff to use his biological signature to break a Mon Calamari King out of space prison. To avoid suspicion, our heroes have employed the shapeshifter Tunga Arpagion to impersonate this Moff at a public event — a Mon Calamri aqua-ballet-opera. Y’know, like in Revenge of the Sith:
Tunga needs a little bit of coaching to get through this event, so the self-proclaimed etiquette and protocol droid, C-3PO, stays behind to translate the opera and give the imposter context for all the people he’s going to meet at this thing. Gillen is setting Threepio up for success — this is maybe the first time a Star Wars story has actually steered into scenario where Threepio’s strengths are actually useful.
Okay, but here’s the punchline: C-3PO even sucks at the things he’s good at.
He’s stressed out translating something, bemoaning the fact that he’s going to miss some of the nuance of the language. By his own description, Threepio is “fluent in over six million forms of communication” but, here he is complaining about having to do the only thing he’s supposed to be good at.
During the intermission, Tunga-as-Moff makes small talk with the imperials that approach him. Again, this is an opportunity to Threepio to demonstrate his value, right? Nope! Turns out that Tunga’s improvisational conversation style is so much more useful than Threepio’s knowledge about people’s ranks or the annual yield from the mollusk harvest.
I love the way Larroca stages this page: we never see the people to whom Tunga is talking. The scene is about C-3PO obliviously failing over and over again, while his partner in this heist stays turned away from him the whole scene… except to turn around to tell him that he doesn’t care.
It’s weirdly comforting. Gillen and Larroca are tapping into the nostalgia centers of my brain not by celebrating C-3PO, but by celebrating my decades-long grudge against him.
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?