It all comes down to this. The final chapter in a comic book series that began three years ago with what is perhaps the most compelling character to join the Star Wars universe since Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm. I’m talking of course about Chelli Lona Aphra, better known by her friends (wait, she has friends?) and enemies as Doctor Aphra.
Official Marvel Synopsis
After all she’s been through, professional disaster zone Doctor Aphra has found herself once again working for Darth Vader. What insidious use has the dark lord found for Aphra to make him spare the life of his most annoying foe? And how much time does she have to slither out of harm’s way before he decides to finish what he started all those years ago? Plus: Aphra is about to face reunions with her father and her former flame, Captain Magna Tolvan! And a trip to that wretched hive of scum and villainy, Mos Eisley, awaits! But all good things must end — and when Vader stalks Aphra through the shadows of an ancient temple, only one of them will be leaving in one piece.
What’s the skinny?
The last time we saw Doctor Aphra, she had just foiled a plot to kill Emperor Palpatine and in doing so saved herself from a grisly death via lightsaber at the hands of one super pissed off Dark Lord of the Sith, our ole pal Darth Vader. Aphra’s reward for saving Palpatine has landed her right back where we first met her: working for Vader. This time she’s a member of an archeological team aboard the Sith Lord’s personal flagship, the Super Star Destroyer Executor, whose mission is to locate the Rebel Alliance’s new base.
At this point in their relationship, Vader has almost no patience for the good doctor and it isn’t long before Aphra finds herself yet again in imminent danger of being sliced to pieces. So the unexpected reunion with her estranged father and two assassin droids Triple-Zero and BeeTee-One nearly result in the Aphra family bloodline being ended for good. To make matters worse (always worse with Aphra), an unexpected and volatile rendezvous with her on-again-off-again lover/enemy/pseudo-friend Magna Tolvan puts the location of the secret Rebel base in peril.
These events ultimately culminate in one of the galaxy’s most self-centered, manipulative, and egotistical con-artists finding herself confronted with the choice to either save her own skin or try to defeat Darth Vader to save the only people who’ve ever cared about her and almost certainly die in doing so. If it was ANYONE else you’d say this was an easy call. But this is Doctor Aphra we’re talking about here.
What’s the catch?
This is the last volume in the series and we have to wait until April for the relaunch.
I’m just as devastated as you, my friends.
Is it good?
It took 40 issues to get us to this point and we’ve finally arrived. And no, I don’t mean the end of the series. I’m speaking of how for the first time ever Doctor Aphra is doing something truly selfless and good with no regard for her own wants, desires, and personal safety. Our favorite rogue archeologist is quite literally putting her neck on the line and is almost certainly going to get killed by Darth Vader and/or her former assassin droid pals while Vader watches. But wait a minute, Aphra’s risking her life for other people? What?!
From the jump, Aphra has always been a morally gray character and that’s part of what makes her so much fun. You take Indiana Jones’ thirst for knowledge and adventure, combine it with the most sleazy roguish aspect of Han Solo, add in a dash of hacker nonsense, with a dab of childhood trauma, and you get Doctor Aphra. Sounds awesome, right? For us it is, but not so much for those who cross her path.
Yet somehow, despite being a hugely selfish jerk who’s only ever looked out for herself and thus earned countless enemies across the galaxy, the doc has somehow managed to develop several meaningful relationships: she found a lover found amidst a war, reconnected with an estranged parent, and more or less adopted a little sister. These people managed to get past Aphra’s armor, through either sheer luck or careful planning (perhaps impossible to say), and found that under her very difficult-to navigate-exterior, there’s actually a charming, funny, resourceful, and yes, vulnerable person.
That vulnerability is finally out in the open for more than just a fleeting moment. So how did she get there? Facing Aphra’s biggest fear, being killed by Vader, ends up being the best thing that ever happened to her in that it pushes her to a place of her of real personal growth. The resulting outcome is climactic encounter in which she confronts her greatest fear and it’s all for the sake of helping others, not herself. Which is without question how we know that we’re witnessing an Aphra that we’ve never seen before.
In her final confrontation with Vader, Simon Spurrier showcases Aphra’s rolodex of skills that we’ve watched her develop throughout the series to provide a final adventure that feels perfectly suited to her character and the recent growth she’s experienced. There’s also a vitally important yet easily overlooked detail of the story in which Spurrier smoothly ties a piece of these events to a major moment from The Empire Strikes Back.
What a ride this series has been. Spurrier has delivered a perfect finale that cements Doctor Aphra’s importance in the overall franchise and leaves no doubt that she’s easily in contention for being the most compelling and exciting character to come to the franchise since Disney took the reins in 2012, and that’s including the films. I’d be remiss if I didn’t shower some praise upon Caspar Wijngaard, Spurrier’s dance partner through much of the series and a truly outstanding artist who delivered laughs, tears, and the exact dose of emotion the writing called for every time he stepped up to the plate.
Doctor Aphra’s series may have concluded with issue #40, but she will return in a brand new relaunch in April 2020, written by Alyssa Wong and with art by Marika Cresta. Suffice to say, these creators have big shoes to fill, and I can’t wait to see what crazy adventures await our favorite rogue archeologist.