STAR WARS: DROIDS UNPLUGGED #1 by Chris Eliopoulos and Jordie Bellaire
STAR WARS: DROIDS UNPLUGGED #1 is a deceptive story. Bearing the name STAR WARS elicits thoughts of deep, intricate characters and storylines. This story, however, is a light-hearted romp through the binary lives of our favorite droids. This fun factor makes for a strong comic strip, but it may not be right for every reader.
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A Nostalgic Road Trip
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With their various lines of STAR WARS comics, Marvel has inspired a new entry point for fans of the pop culture giant. So much new lore and depth have been infused into the already rich world. The fantastic storytelling in the recent titles seemingly has no end, and it is a great time to be a fan of the galaxy far, far away. With that in mind, I jumped into STAR WARS: DROIDS UNPLUGGED #1 with a heart yearning for the epic space battles and potent characterization. I expected to learn more about the inspiration behind the Separatist’s droid army, or glimpse a unique take on R2-D2’s origins.

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STAR WARS: DROIDS UNPLUGGED #1 is none of that, though R2-D2 does make an appearance in the second short story of this issue. STAR WARS: DROIDS UNPLUGGED #1 is written and drawn by cartoonist Chris Eliopoulos, with coloring done by Jordie Bellaire. Known for his work on PET AVENGERS and FRANKLIN RICHARDS, Chris Eliopoulos is an artist inspired by classic comic strips like CALVIN AND HOBBES and PEANUTS. His art and writing style also mimics both of these landmark stories and squeezes its way onto the pages of STAR WARS: DROIDS UNPLUGGED #1. With all this in mind, I have to ask: can a STAR WARS story be told in a very un-STAR WARS fashion?

Cute and Clunky: The Loveable Droids of the STAR WARS Universe

Courtesy of Marvel Comics

Opening STAR WARS: DROIDS UNPLUGGED #1, I was hugely surprised by the cute, blocky art style. I was expecting something akin to Stuart Immonen’s run on STAR WARS or Salvador LaRocca’s DARTH VADER. However, those expectations are swiftly dispelled as the reader breaks into the first of the three short stories.

“Probe Droid Problem” follows a probe droid after it lands on Tatooine. After rescuing a fellow droid from a sand pit, the probe droid can’t shake the attention of the rescued robot. This attention, though, eventually saves the probe droid after Jawa scavengers capture it for parts. The rescued saves the rescuer from the Jawas with a fiery explosion and leads the probe back to its ship.

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“Droid Dilemma” and “SaBBotage” feature fan-favorite droids R2-D2 and BB-8 respectively. The prior follows R2-D2 as he attempts to complete preparations on Luke’s X-Wing, but quite literally bumps into every droid on the premises. “SaBBotage” follows THE FORCE AWAKENS’ loveable soccer ball as he attempts to bring an X-Wing pilot and technician together by ripping apart the pilot’s ship.

Enough “Fun” for the Value

Courtesy of Marvel Comics

These stories aren’t literary gold. Eliopoulos doesn’t explore any deep themes in the pages of STAR WARS: DROIDS UNPLUGGED #1. He doesn’t introduce anything new into the STAR WARS mythos. However, does it really need to be groundbreaking?

STAR WARS: DROIDS UNPLUGGED #1 succeeded for what it was. Had it not carried the STAR WARS label, I would have been readily absorbed into the cute, fun atmosphere. Most of my complaints come from my own expectations of the source material. This looks like a STAR WARS story, but it never quite feels that way, which is okay. I enjoyed STAR WARS: DROIDS UNPLUGGED #1. With so many speechless characters, this was a lightning-quick read, and it leaned on Eliopoulos and Bellaire’s art to push the plot.

More importantly, it was fun. I wasn’t laughing out loud, but the story kept me smiling. There is something heartwrenching about “Probe Droid Problem” and the trapped droid’s loneliness. It seems goofy and over the top, but as a comic strip, these are compliments. Eliopoulos experiments with the comic strip style, and it works surprisingly well despite the initial surprise. “SaBBotage” also fleshed out the personality of the ever-loveable BB-8. This trickster goes far out of its way to bring two soldiers together, and it is bright and heartwarming.

The only story that I felt needed work was “Droid Dilemma.” Here, the writing broke down, leading to several panels where I questioned what was happening. R2-D2’s journey through the Rebel base has no weight. I had to flip through the story twice to understand why, at one point, R2-D2 electrocutes a fellow droid. More importantly, it felt like it didn’t pay homage to R2-D2, whose sole role is clumsily screaming at other droids.

Nostalgic Feedback: Final Thoughts on STAR WARS: DROIDS UNPLUGGED #1

Courtesy of Marvel Comics

The art style in STAR WARS: DROIDS UNPLUGGED #1 mirrors classic comic strips like CALVIN AND HOBBES, meaning that the blocky and simple character forms are beautifully nostalgic. Eliopoulos does a great job building wonder and merriment in these short stories. I never thought you could find those descriptors in a STAR WARS review, but it works surprisingly well. More than that, Jordie Bellaire’s textured and bright coloring helps to flesh out this already strong set of stories. The visuals presented look like those found in old newspaper copy, and it is incredibly endearing.

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What really makes STAR WARS: DROIDS UNPLUGGED #1 stand out is its all-ages focus. While much of the STAR WARS canon is kid friendly, it is also incredibly dense. STAR WARS: DROIDS UNPLUGGED #1 gives an entry point into the franchise by dropping in recognizable characters. However, it doesn’t focus on the complex history that turns fans away.

Should you buy these stories? That depends on a number of factors. Do you have kids? Definitely buy this first issue. I could give STAR WARS: DROIDS UNPLUGGED #1 to my sci-fi loving nephews with no qualms for content. More than anything else, it would act as a gateway into the greater franchise as a whole. Are you looking for a quick, fun read to pass a few minutes of your day? Do you also love CALVIN AND HOBBES or PEANUTS? Then these might be the stories for you. However, if you are looking for a complex plot and deep characterization, you may want to find something else.

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