In Review: Doctor Aphra #1

A strong opening for the newest anti-hero in the Star Wars universe.

The covers: The Force is strong in you if you can pick up all eighteen different covers for this premiere issue. The Main cover is by Kamome Shirahama. The visuals look great, with the doctor, Black Krrsantan, and the droids looking good, plus the orange computer circutry behind them looking super. There’s just a lot of blank space in the top left that has me feeling that something was supposed to go there and was scrapped at the last minute. The Droids Variant cover is by Rod Reis, which focuses on 0-0-0 reaching out to the helpless reader as BT-1 accompanies him. There’s a lot of black on this cover, which unfortunately masks too much of the characters. Yes, it makes them look threatening, but too much is lost with the pair melding with the background. There’s also a Droids Virgin Variant cover that has just the artwork and none of the cover’s text. My opinion remains the same on this version. Next up is the Story So Far Variant by Salvador Larroca, and this is a strong cover. Aphra stands off to the left, with the droids just behind her. Making up the background are three shots of Aphra’s misadventures, with an ominous image of Darth Vader at the top. Outstanding illustration and coloring. This is one to track down. There’s also a Virgin Variant of this cover and it, too, is one to find. The talented John Tyler Christopher continues to do his Action Figure Variant covers, with Krrsantan getting the treatment this go around. The large image on the fake card isn’t as clear as previous images have been, but the figure is superb. I’ll be looking high and low for this one. Elsa Charretier contributed a Variant cover that looks to be channelling Ian Gibson’s style. Standing dead center on a rocky outcropping is Aphra, standing sassily, mirroring her personality. On either side of her are the droids, while looming behind them in red is a gigantic Vader. Great illustration and super colors. The next Variant comes courtesy of Jamie McKelvie and it’s the image I chose to accompany this review. A bust shot of Aphra is shown as she’s holding her blaster high and ready. In the right foreground is a smaller bust of Krrsantan roaring in fury. To the left are tiny full figure images of the droids. As with other covers, looming behind all of them is a large Vader. This is fantastic. Definetely poster, print, and tee shirt worthy! The Fried Pie Variant by Rafael Albuquerque is also a winner, showing Aphra in looter mode. Her back is against a rocky wall, her blaster in her left hand and a burning torch in her right. The colors are stunning in yellow and green. This is yet another cover I’ll have to find. There are three different Brain Trust Exclusive Variants crated by Ashley Witter. The image is the same, it’s in the coloring where they differ. The image shows Aphra up close in a bust shot, turning to shoot the reader a carefree look, though the blaster she’s leaning over her shoulder shows she’s not a character to take for granted. In the background Krrsantan howls at her. The first variant is in a light blue tint, making the rocky environment otherworldly. The second variant is a the black and white original art version of the first. The third is the same as the first, but the logo is in pink. All are good. The Dark Side Variants come in four editions. Created by Sara Pichelli, Aphra sits on the ledge of structure with her hand to her forhead to keep the glare of sun from blinding her. In the background an elaborate, skeletal building is seen. This is also a strong cover, with the colors really hitting home the power of the sun. There’s a Virgin art variant that’s the same as the first, minus the text, while the next variant of this image is the black and white edition. The final edition is a Dark Side Wraparound Variant, which features the Virgin art cover on the front and on the back is the book’s logo alson with Dark Side’s log, all on a white background. I like the first three more than the wraparound, since it’s not really a true wraparound cover. There’s a Blank Sketch Variant cover for those who’d like to have their favorite artist create their own unique illustration for the front. A good idea, but unless has the time and some extra cash not necessary. Neff Headware also has a Variant cover, created by David Nakayama. It’s only available if one purchases their Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Collector’s Box. This has a satisfied Aphra entering a structure with the droids just behind her; all look to escape the huge yellow sun blazing behind them. This looks great, but $95 for a box of stuff and this book is pricey! Overall grades: Main A-, Droid Variant B, Droid Virgin Variant B, Story So Far Variant A+, Story So Far Virgin Variant A+, Action Figure Variant A-, Charretier Variant A, McKelvie Variant A+, Albuquerque A+, Brain Trust Main Variant B, Brain Trust Black and White Variant B+, Brain Trust Pink Logo Variant B, Dark Side Main Variant A, Dark Side Virgin Variant A, Dark Side Black and White Variant A, Dark Side Wraparound Variant B-, Blank Sketch Variant C+, and Neff Variant B+

The story: Two stories in this issue, both written by Kieron Gillen. The first story is a twenty pager titled “Aphra.” It opens “Beneath the Cosmatanic Steppes” in the Outer Rim. An armored character is attempting to procure an ancient artifact. The first four pages are fairly textless, with the unknown character having one word commentary on what’s occurring. This individual escapes the dangers of the location in a fashion that would make Indiana Jones jealous (Note to Marvel: get Gillen to write an Indiana Jones comic book — PLEASE!) Once free of the dangerous underworld, the character encounters an invidual and things take a very surprising turn on Page 5. The story then moves to Fulan Ro, on the Cosmatanic Steeps, where Aphra’s supporting characters are introduced. A new antagonist is introduced on 9, and he and his goons are sensational. Aphra is one step away from harm constantly in this story and that makes her exploits unbelievably fun. How she evades this trio is creative and cool, and the actions of an individual on 15 were shocking, yet completely in character; I was so happy to get this character’s motivation. Pages 18 and 19 place Aphra in another predicament that her smooth talking can’t get her out of. That’s when Gillen introduces another character who could be a bigger threat that the one introduced on 9. The second story is a ten pager that’s set “Years Ago” and gives some backstory to the good doctor. Where she is and what she does is terrific. It establishes her character’s past and gives some insight as to why she’s turned out to be the anti-hero she is. I won’t spoil any of the story, but, believe me, it’s great! Both tales flesh out Aphra and have me raring for more adventures. Overall grade: A+

The art: Kev Walker is the artist of “Aphra” and he begins the issue in excellent style. The first four pages have him creating an ancient, yet futuristic locale, suitable for any archeologist or looter to run about. His design for the vehicle that the opening character rides is gorgeous and the top of Page 4 is beautiful, which is remarkable given the amount of destruction going on; it reminds me of Moebius’s style. In fact, these first four pages look like something out of Heavy Metal. The villains’ first appearance on 9 is great: it’s impossible not to love that hat, and the goons look great. From this point on, the visuals resemble some of the look that Cam Kennedy created for Dark Horse Comics’ iconic Dark Empire series. The action sequence on 13 is okay, but I would have preferred to see all of the characters, rather than close ups or silhouettes. The final page has a character whose design instantly identifies him and separates him from the title character. The second tale is illustrated by Salvador Larroca, who co-created Aphra with Gillen. Without spoiling anyting, the settings are terrific and the antagonist that’s causing the doctor consternation is outstanding. The majority of this tale is laid out like Larroca’s work on Darth Vader: horizontal panels. When this layout is changed it’s for dramatic purposes, such as the tall panel on Page 3 or the reveal on 4. Larroca continues to cement himself as a Star Wars star. Overall grades: both A

The colors: Two colorists on this issue to match the number of artists, with Antonio Fabela doing the first story and Edgar Delgado the second. The opening action sequence shows Fabela deftly assisting the artwork to create setting and mood. Starting on Page 6, Fabela colors the backgrounds and characters in deep or dark colors, such as blue, to have the title character stand out on the panels she’s in. This is a slick way to have the reader always focus on her. I was glad to see Fabela employ a rust color for the droids’ background, that way they stand out, which is necessary given their ebony colors. The final setting has a great antiseptic blue that makes the environment seem too clean for Aphra. Delgado is also a master with colors starting with some great light blues for holographic projections, but it’s a luminescent orange that steals the book’s visuals because they project just the right amount of threat. Overall grades: both A+

The letters: Marvel’s Star Wars letterer, VC’s Joe Caramagna, worked on both stories. He creates scene settings, dialogue, sounds, Triple Zero’s dialogue, a wookie’s utterances, and the tease for next issue. I’ve never been happy with the look of the dialogue characters, as it’s a tad too frail for me, but I’m very happy with all the other contributions that Caramagna does for this book. Overall grade: B+

The final line: A strong opening for the newest anti-hero in the Star Wars universe. This looks like the beginning of a long, beautiful reading relationship. More please. Overall grade: A

To order a digital copy of this comic go to https://comicstore.marvel.com/Star-Wars-Doctor-Aphra-2016-1/digital-comic/43389

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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