In Review: Doctor Aphra #16

The most original character of the Star Wars universe continues to shine as she wrecks havoc while pilfering treasures.

The covers: A pair to track down before Triple-Zero has to get “rough.” The Regular cover by Ashley Witter is a wowzer of a frontpiece! Aphra and Tolvan are in close quarters, looking as if they’re trying to hide from something. The problem is the something has found them and is carving its way through the metal around them: sparks are raining down upon the pair. The characters look incredible and the sparks are spectacular. This is a gorgeous cover. The Galactic Icons Variant cover is by Rod Reis with Rose Tico taking the stage. She’s against the same white background that Rey and Finn were on and Kelly Marie Tran’s character looks great. Once again, I’ll be looking to track this one down. Overall grades: Regular A+ and Galactic Icons A

The story: The story opens in the thick of things as Aphra and her crew of mercenaries have just taken out several Imperials to open a mysterious case of the good doctor’s. Within are sixty “shrink-frozen” Tookas, which are the cutest little fuzzy creatures seen in the comics. Last issue Aphra revealed that she’s created them to be explosive devices when the phrase “Snugglebum Oogiewoogie!” is yelled. Unbeknownst to the title character and her motley crew, they’re being watched by by a droid whose signal is being picked by an Imperial scanner, which is transmitting to Inspector Tolvan. The Imperial is happy to see Aphra, but is taken out of her joy by the corporal next to her, who reminds her they’re supposed to be apprehend the criminals. Back at the ancient Techno Union base, a stormtrooper gains consciousness and runs off. He doesn’t get far because Glahst Ombra kills the trooper and proceeds to eat him, spider style. Aphra and Rexo-Go head into the abandoned base first and discover it’s full of “stuff here to make a Sith sob.” When the other hoodlums enter, Aphra has to remind them not to touch anything, “It’s ancient archaeotech, all right? Traps are sort of obligatory.” With those words, the reader knows something is going to go wrong, and it does two panels later. Kieron Gillen & Si Spurrier have this issue explode into chaos starting on Page 5 and there’s no time to breathe until 17. Even then, with the mission complete, Gillen and Spurrier spin this tale into another direction. And for the record, Triple-Zero is officially as fixated on a mission as Darth Vader is in killing Jedi. If you think he couldn’t get creepier, what until Pages 18 and 19. There’s plenty of action, plenty of long breathy stares, and plenty of humor in this issue. Overall grade: A+

The art: The visuals on this book are amazing. The first panel of the book is a tight close-up of the droid’s eye that’s watching the villains, but it makes no sense to the reader until the text reveals what it is; it’s a fantastic image to shoot the reader into this galaxy far, far away…The next panel shows a familiar looking character from a film that will jar the reader unless they’ve read last issue. Finally, artist Emilio Laiso pulls the reader back to show the gang opening Aphra’s mystery case, and then pulls back again to show the group being watched by the Imperials. The first panel showing Tolvan’s face has her looking in absolute rapture at Aphra. From this one image every reader will know how this villain feels about the title character. The large panel on 2 is amazing for showing all the characters, revealing that more Tookas are going to be in the issue, and creating a fantastic jungle environment. When the trooper bolts, he’s already at a distance from the reader and Laiso captures his movement outstandingly. What Ombra is doing to him in the third panel on Page 3 is shown from the side and it doesn’t show much, but suggest something utterly disgusting. The reveal of the interior on 4 is outstanding, being as huge as when the Space Jockey was first shown in the original Alien film. The entrance on 5 is great with the looks between two female characters superb. This moment of distant intimacy is forgotten due to the tremendous entrance on the following page. Page 12 has an outstanding large panel that this series has been building toward and it is picture perfect, making the moment memorable. The first three panels on 15 creates movement by keeping the point of view locked, though the characters move, especially in reaction to a sound. Triple-Zero enters the book like a god, high above Aphra and he’s great. The last panel is a scream worthy image that is the definition of dramatic irony. I’m loving Laiso’s work. Overall grade: A+

The colors: Rachelle Rosenberg’s colors are key to many parts of this story. The blues of the first panel are teases to the reader that what’s being seen is a transmission. If one is aware of Star Wars’ coloring, this color is always a tip off. The greens on the second page are fantastic, instantly giving a lush feel to the environment and allowing the characters (Aphra, Rexo Go, and the Tooka) to stand out. The utter lack of color in a stormtrooper’s armor is what draws attention in the second panel on that page, while the red in the trooper’s final utterance have it horrifically noticeable. Look how Rosenberg makes the greens go ultra pale in the third panel on 3, increasing the sickening scene. The use of violet and blue on the setting that’s introduced on 4 makes the locale alien, which is a rare feat in a Star Wars comic, since most everything is alien. My favorite work by Rosenberg is the bottom panel on 10 that transitions wonderfully from pink to red to violet. Blues return wonderfully when Triple-Zero appears. Rosenberg is a coloring ace. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Dialogue, dialogue transmitted, whispers, screams, slurps (You’ll see…), droid speech, yells, and an antagonist’s unique wails are crafted by VC’s Joe Caramagna. Still not liking the dialogue, but everything else about this issue looks excellent. The whispers nicely create intimate moments and the screams are large and powerful. The high marks of the book are the many varied yells from several characters, from Aphra’s activation yell to the sensational one at the bottom 10. Grade B+

The final line: The most original character of the Star Wars universe continues to shine as she wrecks havoc while pilfering treasures. The story is fantastic and the visuals sensational. This is the Star Wars comic you’re looking for. 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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