The doctor will see you now. Our favorite archeologist from a galaxy far, far away is back with her sixth trade paperback in which she once again manages to piss off half the galaxy, steal some stuff, and nearly get herself killed by many different people, places, and things.
Official Marvel synopsis:
After a year of close shaves, Doctor Chelli Aphra is taking it easy and lying low. Probably herding banthas or something. She’s smart like that, right? No, not really. The galaxy’s shadiest archaeologist is back doing what she does best: busting into alien temples to steal horrifying weapons for huge profit. She just can’t stop herself. But plenty of other people could. Powerful factions are watching closely: Rebel and Empire, familiar and strange – all calculating whether Aphra’s more useful alive…or dead.
What’s the skinny?
Writer Si Spurrier is in the final stretch of his run on Doctor Aphra and he’s cramming in as many sarcastic comments, adventures, mysterious artifacts, and near-death experiences as he can. Along for the ride with one of my favorite foul-mouthed Brits is a small army of illustrators, inkers, and colorists.
Utterly incapable of being able to sit still for more than five minutes without planning a heist or double-cross that’s sure to end in her demise, Aphra is unsurprisingly once again in the crosshairs of both The Rebel Alliance and Galactic Empire.
This time it’s because she went and stole an incredible powerful Jedi artifact and now that the Rebels have caught wind of this, they plan to use it to construct a super weapon. Yeah, sorry Palps, you aren’t the only one who gets to build crazy planet killers. So, no big deal there, of course. Meanwhile, it will come as a surprise to no one that Darth Vader is still SUPER pissed at Aphra for nearly killing him and foiling his mega evil plans. But Sith Lords have busy schedules filled with brooding and long, uncomfortable silences, so he’s sent a bunch of bounty hunters to nab our favorite hacker.
What’s the catch?
This story is sitting smack dab in the middle of the Galactic Civil War, and I think I can speak for most fans when I say that we all enjoy a little intrigue and plots within plots during wartime. And if there’s anyone that knows a little thing about playing both sides for their own gain, it’s Doctor Chelli Aphra. But there’s most definitely a line when it comes to just how complicated double-crosses can get, and Spurrier most assuredly crossed it here.
Now as my good buddy (we aren’t buddies) Frank Herbert famously said, “Knowing that a trap exists is the first step in avoiding it.” But the end of this tale takes that logic and turns it up to eleven. This is like Ocean’s 11 on crack. The last few pages are essentially this: “Aphra’s tricked us! No The Rebel Alliance tricked us! No the Empire tricked us! No it was actually Aphra again! Just kidding, it was really this woman you’ve never met before! Actually it was Vader all along!” And so on and so forth. Dial it back a little bit next time, Si!
Is it good?
Since Doctor Aphra’s inception in the Star Wars: Darth Vader series, her character has been noteworthy for a number of things — perhaps most noticeably on first look is her snark, sarcasm, and colorful dialogue. Spend a little more time with her, however, and you’ll be quickly won over by her charm (even if she is super smug about it) and her trademark unpredictability that has opened the door to so many great adventures.
But what really makes Aphra so unique is that she’s neither a hero nor a villain, often working with both The Empire and The Rebel Alliance, the light side and the dark, and somehow manages to successfully (I guess that’s debatable) navigate the galaxy with a nonexistent moral compass. I don’t think anyone has trouble accepting this part of the galaxy’s most notorious archeologist, in fact I think this is easily what people like most about her. But we’re all so caught up in the fun of his antics that I don’t think we often stop and ask why Aphra is the way that she is.
Wonder no more. Spurrier busts out the way back machine to bring us to the early days of Aphra’s youth to show us how her personality was shaped to approach the many different factions of the galaxy with such a nonaligned approach. This is possibly my favorite part of the story because I love when creators approach Star Wars from a point of view that doesn’t so evenly cut the dark and light side of the Force down the middle. Not much in life is black and white, and the same is true for the characters of this universe. And ultimately I think the Doctor Aphra character is proof that taking this approach to writing a character leads to much more fun and interesting stories.
Some of my favorite characters from Doctor Aphra’s wacky little universe reared their heads again — two of the most notable being Captain Magna Tolvan, Aphra’s complicated love interest and the Wookiee bounty hunter, Black Krrsantan. We’re also introduced to a few other new characters on both sides of the conflict and Spurrier even sprinkles in new Jedi lore. Suffice to say, this book heavily enriches the lore and canon of the Star Wars universe.
Ultimately, the good doctor’s journey was far better than the destination. But that being said, the journey was 95% of the story and made it well worth the time I spent reading it. And I’m not trying to say that the ending was some god awful catastrophe, far from it. How things wrapped was certainly exciting and had me on the edge of my seat wondering at what the twist would be. I simply felt that Spurrier needlessly overcomplicated things. I still want to be best buds and listen to him swear while he talks about Star Wars and John Constantine (text me).
Doctor Aphra remains one of the most exciting and intriguing characters in Star Wars and this story does an excellent job of maintaining her reputation as the franchise’s best new characters of the past decade.
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