Doctor Aphra has always been an intriguing character for a variety of reasons, not least of which is her ability to do an immoral thing one minute and the right thing the next. Deep down she’s a good person, but she’s also a scoundrel — as you kind of have to be when you live in the Star Wars universe. In the fifth trade paperback now out in comic shops, Aphra moralizes quite a bit as millions look on, and unbeknownst to her, find inspiration.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Doctor Aphra – worst among equals! On the run from the law in a massive alien metropolis, Aphra has ten hours to cross the hostile megacity before the bomb implanted in her throat explodes. And don’t forget the pack of bounty hunters and crazed cops that are on her tail. No big deal, right? But there’s one more wrinkle – Aphra can’t stray more than a few paces from her companion without activating the bomb’s proximity alert and blowing both of them up. And that companion is Triple-Zero, a sadistic murderous droid who’s more interested in Aphra’s death than in playing nice… Tune in for a brand-new manic misadventure starring the galaxy’s foremost amoral archaeologist!
Why does this matter?
Doctor Aphra is one of the most compelling new Star Wars characters. Set prior to Empire Strikes Back, this series reveals a different side of the Star Wars universe via Aphra’s proclivity for archeological finds and her dealings with murderous robots who also serve as sidekicks of a kind.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
This is a slightly lengthier trade at 168 pages, because it contains the Annual #2 issue, which directly ties into the main narrative of the story arc. Thanks to Si Spurrier’s annual issue, we meet two monster hunters which further separates this series, revealing even more colorful corners of the universe. The annual opens the issue and features the two monster hunters, who are also married, as they follow Aphra’s orders to capture a giant beast. Like Raiders of the Lost Ark there are traps for them to avoid and secrets aplenty. It’s a good introduction to the characters Winloss and Nokk who are lovable, kind and have a code of ethics not usually found in the universe. This opening issue also comes with some great twists and while it doesn’t feature Aphra too much it does reveal who she is and how she’s capable of screwing over others for her own gain.
And that aspect of Aphra plays well into the rest of the narrative. Aphra is tied to the hip with Triple-Zero as they both have bombs in their heads that will go off if they separate from each other. We soon learn the planet they are stranded on, Milvayne, is all about rules and regulations and it keeps the people subjugated to better control them. As the story pushes forward, and Aphra and Triple-Zero dodge blaster fire aplenty, and the two argue over trust vs. betrayal when it comes to survival. Spurrier does a great job slowly tugging at Triple-Zero’s morality and revealing the monstrous torture device may have a heart after all. The series always has a good cliffhanger or twist to end each chapter to keep your interest up. There’s also a clever narrative element used, as everything Triple-Zero sees, so too do the bastards who put the bomb in the characters. Later this is used quite well to help the people of Milvayne see the truth and acts as a means to make Aphra a rebel hero. If that all sounds good, don’t even get me started on the genius idea of giving the Empire an evil PR firm that floats around the galaxy forcing their agenda on innocent people!
The art throughout is superb from the great Caspar Wijngaard, on the opening annual issue to penciler Emilio Laiso and color artist Rachelle Rosenberg on issues #26 through #31. The setting seems to change quite a bit in the main story, from a colorful super-city to the gas dumps where the poorest live on the planet and the art never skips a beat. You’ll feel for Aphra to thanks to the art that captures the conflicted feelings from fear, to guilt, to cheery delight. Wijngaard makes you relate to Winloss and Nokk, and thanks to his work, these characters feel like they’ve been with us for years.
It can’t be perfect, can it?
The narrative integrates a certain iconic Star Wars character that will get you excited, but they end up not playing much of a role past their cameo. It even seems a bit forced at the moment, and only appears to be in the issue to connect these newer characters to a character we know and love.
As far as action adventures go, this has your standard resolutions that are convenient and well timed. It’s the kind of thing you won’t notice right away, but looking back it takes the wind out of the sails of the story when so much buildup leads to a quick and convenient resolution.
Is it good?
I had a blast with this collection and have once again kicked myself for not reading it in the single issue format. Aphra is absolutely one of the best creations Marvel Comics has introduced in their new era of Star Wars comics, and this volume is a shining testament to that.