Even without films on the foreseeable horizon, Star Wars fans have a healthy dose of comics, novels, and television programing to keep them engaged and amused. One of the best characters from this current crop of titles from Marvel is Doctor Aphra, written by Alyssa Wong. In this, the second collected edition of the character’s current monthly book (assembling issues #6-10), Wong continues to develop one of the most engaging characters in the contemporary Star Wars mythos.
Doctor Aphra, the archeologist-adventurer in our galaxy far, far away, finds herself increasingly over her head as a league of bounty hunters pursues her, including an ex by the name of Sana Starros. While trying to stay ahead of the bounty on her dome, she reluctantly works at the behest of the formidable Domina Tagge, an engaging figure Wong breathes relevance into during this run. Much like previous Aphra narratives, our ostensible hero is on the search for rare and mysterious artifacts that may help her escape her pursuers and secure a place for her in the galaxy. This short adventure, that acts as a prequel to the War of the Bounty Hunters event, provides ample adventure and character engagement for fans and was generally an enjoyable frisk through the current era of the Star Wars universe.
The strongest aspects of this trade are the voices given to his starring cast, wielded with love by Wong. Much of current Star Wars content relies too tightly on nostalgia or well-worn tropes. The reason Aphra is the best current Star Wars property is because she can be something different than the stock Jedi or rogue that we have come to expect from this property. Adding to that, Wong knows that these defining character dissimilarities allows for fresh explorations of the Star Wars universe that we have not yet seen.
The book is strongest when it focuses on characters like Aphra, Domina and Sana and the way their interlocking narratives mingle and crash. The first issue is the strongest in this run, with a great deal of table setting and character introductions done effectively and with an enchanting pace. It’s when the characters must engage with the same old Star Wars tropes that it loses its voice. This feels especially true with the last portions of this trade, which feel like they are forcing these characters into an editorially-directed plot path.
The art is fine throughout, with the strongest work also appearing in the first issue thanks to Ray-Anthony Height and Robert Gill’s pencils. Issues #7-9 work perfectly well at keeping the book’s tone, but lack the detail and vibrancy of those initial pages.
Doctor Aphra is one of the best new characters to come out of the Star Wars universe, and when given competent direction from a writer like Alyssa Wong, the humor and adventure in this book is infectious. We can only hope that the character will continue to be placed under the guidance of master storytellers, willing to take us to new narrative corners of a series that often falls back into nostalgic tropes at the expense of progress.