In Review: Doctor Aphra Annual #1

A "Must Buy" Star Wars comic that features the backstory of Black Krrsantan.

The covers: David Nakayama creates a fantastic Regular cover for this book, featuring a full image of the good doctor on top of a roaring Black Krrsantan. Aphra looks great with a pistol held ready and the Wookiee is sensational. Even the coloring on this is spectacular. I would purchase this cover as a print. The Variant cover is by Phil Noto and features a very somber image of Aphra looking at the reader, while Krrsantan is holding sword and shield behind her. I like the figures, but the colors are too dark. The violet and green work well, it’s just that they’re too dark, making the details of both characters difficult to discern. This is a rare misstep from Noto. Overall grades: Regular A+ and Variant B-

The story: This is a triumphant origin story for Black Krrsantan. Aphra is a minor character in this tale, and it’s no detriment to this spectacular story by Kieron Gillen. Krrsantan has appeared in several issues of the doctor’s book and nothing has been said about his past until now. The first six pages of this epic thirty page tale are a flashback set on the Wookiee homeworld of Kashyyk, where a band of Trandoshan slavers have landed to capture future pit warriors. They come upon one Wookiee, “…unconscious. Bound. Left to bleed out.” Their first capture seems too easy, and he is, for soon they’re under fire. They’re picked off one by one, until only one remains breathing. Krrsantan, the Wookiee they came upon, rears up before the Trandoshan and asks it a very important question. What this question is becomes the focus for this tale, which moves to the present where two reporters, Dixnet Dat and Domthro Rus, are seeking out the Wookiee for an interview. Why they want to interview him is very interesting and serves as an excellent way to have the character reminisce on his past, and his memories are most definitely not pleasant. Before the reporters get to the Wookie, they are greeted by his agent Sulan Do (wink, wink) and her two droids, BeeTee-One and Triple Zero. Those two names should make a reader’s hackles rise because when they appear bad things happen. The origin of Krrsantan is epic, as he follows in the mold, somewhat, of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Conan the Barbarian. The fighting is incredible and the way in which the Wookiee receives upgrades is creepy. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough to keep up with all the revelations and action. How the Wookiee gets his infamy is great on Page 25. How the reporters are used is also very cool, with them being key components to the story currently running in the monthly Aphra series. The final page shouldn’t have made me smile, but it did. I absolutely loved this story. Overall grade: A+

The art: To paraphrase myself, I absolutely loved the art on this issue. Marc Laming is responsible for the art, with Will Sliney doing Pages 21 – 25. The book is incredibly detailed looking. Right out of the gate, when the ship opens on the first page to reveal the Trasndoshans, a reader knows this book will look incredible. I liked how their race is instantly identifiable to Star Wars fans, yet there’s plenty of differentiation among them so that they’re not cookie cutter clones of one another. When these aliens come under fire the action is frantic, just as an ambush would be, with bodies flying everywhere. When Krrsantan appears before the one survivor, he looks monstrous, dominating the panel as he looks down on the wounded lizard. When the story moves to the present, the reporters are speaking with a contact in a cantina and the occupants of this establishment are cool and varied. I especially liked the two in the background in the fifth panel on 7. The design of the reporters’ ship is awesome and I hope to see more of it in future books. The pair of aliens that keep the Wookiee in check on 12 look fierce, with terrific body armor and cool identification on their faces. Throughout all of Krrsantan’s journey he encounters large, familiar aliens from several Star Wars films, including The Force Awakens. The detail done on the protagonist is great, with every strand of his hair fantastic, but look at the detail on the design that’s on his belt. Did it need to look like that? Not all, but by including it the reality of this book stronger, because it would be that detailed in a film. Sliney’s five pages are good, as they feature a lot of action and a key moment for the character. They do look different from Laming’s work, but not negatively. The final page features a large panel that made me laugh out loud before I read the text. This book looks amazing. Overall grade: A

The colors: Also doing an exceptional job is Jordan Boyd on colors. I always get a little anxious when a story is set in a dark environment because I’ve seen colorists go so dark that the art becomes difficult to discern. Boyd has no problems creating the evening on Kashyyyk, with different shades of blue used to create darkness. She also does a strong job on the Trasndoshans, with them having distinct colors, but dimmed by the night. When the aliens use technology their devices are given a bright orange or light blue which look very neat. The firefight that breaks out is full of bright colors as characters go down. Krrsantan’s opening dialogue is given a stark red to show him as dangerous and it works. Within the cantina on Page 7 the colors are nicely dimmed for intimate conversations, though the trio of characters that deserve focus are given complete colors, drawing the reader to them instantly. Colors draw the reader’s focus throughout this issue, from Sulan Do’s red on her jacket to the orange of the angry Wookiee’s eyes on 18. Oranges also appear on 21 – 25 for some flames and the lights of the last page, echoing the battle on that five page sequence. Boyd always delivers strong work. Overall grade: A

The letters: VC’s Joe Caramagna creates this issue’s scene settings, dialogue, a sound, Krrsantan’s speech, BeeTee’s sounds, and a transmission and Triple Zero’s speech (the same font). One of my complaints about the lettering for Marvel’s Star Wars books is that sounds aren’t employed enough. One of the joys of the films are their iconic sounds. This book does have a sound, but is oddly silent when blasters are used. It’s unintentionally humorous that the only sound in the book is a neck being broken, which is a completely unnecessary plot point, while blaster fire and warrior training is silent. I did enjoy Krrsantan’s speech and BeeTee’s bleeps, which are big and bold. Problems with dialogue persist, especially when characters yell because the font holds no strength. Case in point, read the first two dialogue balloons on Page 4. It’s not different from dialogue in any way and creates no stress from the characters yelling. Overall grade: B

The final line: A “Must Buy” Star Wars comic that features the backstory of Black Krrsantan. The story is fun, showing an aspect of the Star Wars Universe not often explored, and the visuals are incredibly lush. I would repurchase this in hardcover in a heartbeat. Overall grade: A-

To order a digital copy go to https://www.comixology.com/Star-Wars-Doctor-Aphra-2016-Annual-1/digital-comic/529910?ref=c2VhcmNoL2luZGV4L2Rlc2t0b3Avc2xpZGVyTGlzdC90b3BSZXN1bHRzU2xpZGVy

To see both covers visit my Instagram account: patrickhayesscifipulse

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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