Let’s face it, there aren’t a lot of contenders. Star Wars, at its best, is more fun than funny.
Han Solo is pretty funny, and he makes a good comedy team with Chewbacca. R2D2 and C3PO are also a decent comedy coupling, at least in the original trilogy. In The Force Awakens, former stormtrooper Finn provides many laughs. Everything in the awful prequel trilogy is a little funny—unintentionally. The Emperor is an especially campy delight, thanks to the ultra-arch acting of Ian McDiarmid. I’ll never understand why “Talk Like the Emperor Day” isn’t a thing.
Of course, there’s a lot more to Star Wars than the movies. I’m oblivious to the old expanded universe of novels and what have you, but I’m a careful scholar of recent comics, which have led me to a conclusion as inescapable as a tractor beam: the funniest Star Wars character is Triple Zero from the current Darth Vader series. Even a nerf-herder would have to agree this that murderous protocol droid is a hoot, and I pray to the force he someday makes it into a movie.
Before getting to this diabolical droid, I should mention that I’m not proud of myself for reading Star Wars comics. I’d much rather support creator-owned comics, including gems such as Saga, Southern Bastards, Powers, The Sheriff of Babylon, The Fix, and Grizzly Shark. I don’t want to give my money to Marvel, much less a Marvel licensed comic.
But you never know where you’ll find something great. Believe it or not, the most visually creative comic of recent years was Transformers vs. G.I. Joe. You’d never expect the collision of two corporate toy franchises to produce a next-level Kirby-esque art book, but that’s exactly what’s happened thanks to Tom Scioli and John Barber. Similarly, ever since Marvel got the Star Wars property back, all their Star Wars comics have been good to great, but Darth Vader has been a gem.
The comic—written by Kieron Gillen and illustrated by Salvador Larroca—takes place between Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back. Vader is being blamed for the destruction of the Death Star, since everyone else who could be blamed went kaboom. The Dark Lord of the Sith is in a bit of a professional pickle, as he’s been demoted and finds himself mired in the galactic empire’s middle management, taking orders from British prigs and competing with other possible apprentices to the Emperor. On top of all that, he finds out that the pilot who blew up the Death Star is his son. So this comic is the story of Vader trying to find Luke and marshaling his own forces so he and sonny boy can take over the galaxy themselves.
While marshaling said forces, Vader enlists a rogue archeologist named Dr. Aphra who has a penchant for reactivating droids who were deactivated for very good reasons. This is where Triple Zero, a literally dark version of C3PO, comes in. His first words are quite honest: “I’m a protocol droid, specialized in etiquette, customs, translation, and torture, ma’am. Charmed to meet you, I’m sure.” Not since Hannibal Lecter has a bloodthirsty monster been such a stickler for manners, and much like Dr. Lecter, Triple Zero is a walking clash-of-context sketch who brings buckets of black humor. He and Beetee (an evil version of R2D2 whose head conceals a zillion blasters) serve Vader while looking for people to murder, torture, and dismember. Oh, Triple Zero is also a holo-chess enthusiast. This is a droid with layers.
The peak of Triple Zero’s villainy/comedy is a little plan than makes even Darth Vader shudder. Triple Zero, as a droid, is very appreciative of other droids, but realistic about their limitations: “We are less fragile than organics. We are quicker. We are mass produced with ease. So… Why do droids not rule? The problem: The force is… indifferent to us.”
Triple Zero lays out his elegant but icky solution with the enthusiasm of a fringe Presidential candidate: “We drain human blood and use it to drive an engine of my own design. I have the technology. It’s a relatively simple battlefield modification. Plus ingenious extra features! They can refuel on the battlefield from injured opponents—or generous allies—by inserting a probe into an artery…” During these lines, Triple Zero helpfully extends a needle, in case the blood-sucking horror of his proposal wasn’t clear.
Darth Vader has a simple response, which you should imagine in James Earl Jones’ wonderful voice: “No.” The subtext is “Hell no. I am cinema’s greatest villain, and even I have the willies right now.”
Aside from Gillen’s smart dialogue and plotting, Larroca’s art is consistently gorgeous throughout this series, giving you the feeling that you’re looking at stills from a lost movie. Or maybe a future movie?
I realize that suggesting a movie based on a comic book is crazy talk, but if the current owners of Walt Disney’s sacred, frozen head are reading, I have one small request: make a movie based on the Gillen and Larroca Darth Vader comic, for the love of Greedo. Disney’s already planning to release a new Star Wars movie every year, which would drain wallets as efficiently as my favorite droid would like to drain blood. I reckon I’d give blood and money to see Triple Zero, Beetee, Dr. Aphra, and the rest of Darth Vader’s wacky gang on the big screen.
Hey, it’s just been confirmed that Darth Vader will be appearing in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, so let Vader have his own movie and droids—and let me have Triple Zero, the only droid in sci-fi who could inquire, “As there’s no one here to murder, presently, how may I be of assistance?”