In Review: Doctor Aphra #14

You don't know Star Wars unless you know Doctor Aphra.

The covers: The title character smiles at the reader, showing that she’s not in a situation where she’s worried. Her hands dangle over the guns at her hips, but how could they deliver enough firepower to take out all the stormtroopers and Magna Tolvan behind her? Great Regular cover by Ashley Witter that has Aphra looking every bit the rouge, surrounded by too many menaces. The personality of the character is perfectly captured in this image. The Star Wars 30th Anniversary Variant by Mark Brooks is a stunner. The bottom of the image shows Vader’s TIE fighter with his two flanking fighters making their way down the Death Star trench, their blasters firing at their foes. The top shows Vader in close-up, flanked by two TIE fighter pilots. This is flat out awesome. This has to be a print. Overall grades: Both A+

The story: Kieron Gillen and Si Spurrier are the writers of “Remastered” Part I. On Someilk, in the Outer Rim, Lieutenant Magna Tolvar is relieved by Captain Punfor (GREAT name!), who rubs in her face, before the other officers, that she’s been demoted for botching things on Yavin and with Aphra. She walks away with what she can of her pride to go outside and contemplate how her career has gone so badly. She looks at an image of her mentor, Thanoth, to find motivation to continue when something streaks from the sky. The Imperial base is under attack by some characters new to the Star Wars universe and one of them is quite the stand out. Her name is Rexa and I’m sure that the cosplayers are going to go for her in a big way. Tolvar is ready to take aim on this individual until she sees someone else: Aphra. What follows is extremely engaging conversation between two conflicting characters where some surprising things are revealed. Had the issue just been the pair sitting and talking, I would have been more than happy, but Gillen and Spurrier have a comment in the second panel on Page 14 tease something that results in the conversation ending. Aprha shows herself to be a scoundrel, but not a killer, though others are more than willing to show that trait. The book’s ending is a WOW moment, with a visual reveal that left me screaming. This moment was eluded to in earlier issues, but now that it’s finally occurred, I’m reeling. This is the greatest ending and tease of things to come in this young series’ history. This is a perfectly written Aphra outing. Overall grade: A+

The art: The first two pages nicely show Tolvar at her new assignment, with her standing strongly in a leadership position. When Punfor begins to go after her, I really like how Emilio Laiso keeps her strong from every angle. Her response to her superior has him reacting in a really neat way in the third panel on Page 2. His cocky stance as she leaves has him looking every bit the jerk. I like how two characters watch her exit in silence in the final panel on that page. The use of the fence on the third page is a great bit of physical imagery to show how she’s trapped in her position, only to have the streak in the sky pull her from the barrier. The next two pages have some excellent action, with Rexa’s entrance at the top of 5 great. This exterior setting is large, filled with several characters, but Laiso easily shows the reader where Tolvar is during the fighting, setting up Aphra’s entrance wonderfully. The final panel on 6 is terrific. The location for Aphra and Tolvar’s dialogue is undeniably confining, but Laiso moves the reader around this location in every panel, making their conversation visually entertaining. The cramped space allows him to give the characters some great up close emotions, with both having highs and lows — the first two panels on 14 are the best. The last three pages show Aphra in an emotional state that’s new for the long term reader and are a wonderful build for the final page, which is a full-paged splash. The hand on the penultimate page started my squirming, with the final page leaving me screaming. Wow! Overall grade: A+

The colors: Excellent colors on this book are by Rachelle Rosenberg. I’m always impressed when a colorist is able to color an Imperial interior setting with the expected grays and metallic colors, but still have the characters, in their equally dark colors, stand out. The colors for characters’ flesh are also well done, with the shading giving them a slick sense of depth. The color used for the sky on Page 3 was unexpected, but brought some good emotion to the scene. When the action breaks out oranges and yellows are used. Aphra’s introduction comes with a sunny yellow, creating a different tone from the strong orange of battle. The final three pages of the book employ dingy colors for the dank location, but also provide a sensational lead in for the finale, which features a very darkly colored character. Outstanding. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Scene settings, dialogue, droid speak, and the sound of a trigger comprise this issue’s text by VC’s Joe Caramagna. I’m surprised the trigger gets a sound, but all the blaster fire and explosions rate nary a word. Very sad decision by the powers that be at Marvel. The scene settings’ design makes them difficult to read with their white borders and the dialogue is so thin it commands no power, even when characters yell. This element of the book, of this franchise of comics, continues to disappoint. Because it’s only this one element, I cannot have the book’s final grade suffer too much. Overall grade: B-

The final line: This series continually proves that the Star Wars universe is big enough for characters that have never been on the big or small screen. This is the most perfect issue of this series yet. The story is a screamer and the artwork is fantastic. You don’t know Star Wars unless you know Doctor Aphra. Overall grade: A

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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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