In Review: Doctor Aphra #21

Sana Starros and Hera Syndulla try to break Aphra out of jail with disastrous results.

The cover: A pair to pick up for this second installment of “The Catastrophe Con.” The Regular cover is by Ashley Witter. Sana Starros holds a hologram projector in her right hand to reveal the image of Chelli Aphra who is turning to her right. The characters look great, the coloring good, and teases that Starros will be after the title character without giving anything away. The Galactic Icons Variant cover is by Rod Reis and features a bust shot of one of my favorite prequel characters — General Grievous. The character looks as incredible as he did in the films and I was ecstatic to be able to pick up a copy of this cover the day it released. Overall grades: Regular A and Galactic Icons Variant cover A+

The story: Beginning “Nowhere Special (3rd Moon)” in the Outer Rim, Sana Starros stands in a room of recently killed men, smoke is trailing from their wounds, as she is contacted by someone via holotransmitter. The image projected freezes the smuggler, but it changes to reflect the caller’s true appearance: General Hera Syndulla. She’s contacted Starros to get Aphra out of Accresker Jail because she’s in possession of intel the Rebellion needs. Syndulla explains, “It’ll be be cheaper to make her unlock it than to pay the ransom. Not to mention a whole lot more satisfying. So we thought, who better to smuggle a toxic object out of a hostile scenario than the best smuggler in the galaxy?” Writer Si Spurrier then moves the tale to Accresker Jail where the title character is contacting someone. The doctor explains everything about Darth Vader trying to use a Force sensitive kid to overthrow the Emperor. Aphra’s not sure how much longer she hold out against interrogation unless she’s rescued. The person she’s speaking to asks, “W-W-Why are you telling me this?” “Because once they’re through with questions about what I know, the next thing they ask will be very simple. ‘Who else have you told?'” This infuriates Tolvan, Aphra’s contact, but the archaeologist is desperate to get out of the prison and knows the Imperial will have to free her now. The story then reintroduces Aphra’s friend Lopset to the reader with the pair having a really cool conversation. Twelve hours later, someone does arrive at the jail, but who that person is I will leave as a surprise. There’s plenty of action, plenty of chaos, and the last three pages are hilarious and painful to read as Aphra finds something at the wrong time. Spurrier has crafted a delightfully demented tale of the world’s greatest original Star Wars character. Overall grade: A+

The art: Kev Walker provides the pencils and Marc Deering the inks in this amazingly illustrated issue. From the first panel things look terrific; talk about an introduction to Sana — surrounded by the still smoking corpses of her victims. The angle given to the smuggler in the third panel makes her look malevolent. Hera’s introduction is a little too dark for me, but she is making contact with a known criminal, so I understand. Notice what Sana is doing on Page 2 to one of the corpses — outstanding! When Aphra appears she’s very sympathetic, her head hung down in a suit that’s too big for her. Notice that when she reveals why she’s giving all this information to Tolvan, Walker moves to her back so her face can’t be seen, leaving the reveal of the Imperial to take all the emotion when she realizes she’s now complicit with the criminal. Aphra’s reaction at the bottom of 3 is outstanding: the reader can tell she’s not proud of what she’s done and that’s exactly the emotion that needs to be conveyed. Though it’s only for one panel on 5, I love the full image of her in that suit as she makes her way down a corridor. Lopset is designed wonderfully, with his expressive eyes reinforcing everything he says. Page 8 also has some fun characters, with one being infamous. The layout of the bottom panel on 11 is great, showing the closeness of two characters and their separation. The panel layout on 16 is also awesome, with the final two panels reinforcing what’s occurring outside. The joy in the character’s eyes on the penultimate page is both hilarious and understandable. The gesture on the final page left me in stitches, as did the look of woe in the last panel. This book looks incredible. Overall grade: A+ 

The colors: Java Tartaglia also does some great work on this book, using colors to enhance the tension of scenes and the tone of the dialogue. The bright ceiling light in the first panel draws the reader’s attention which leads down a tendril of smoke to the first person Sana has killed. The blues used for the holograms would fit seamlessly into any Star Wars film. The lighting of Sana in her close-up on Page 1 is excellent, giving her a threatening visage. The blues behind Aphra as she speaks to Tolvan increase reader sympathy as she states the peril she’s in. The oranges and rusts behind Aphra and Lopset as they speak remind the reader of the age of the jail they’re in, yet also give it a warm comfortable feel which symbolizes their friendship. The violets on 16 are beautiful and are another visual element to symbolize chaos because they are just so out of place for the setting. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Scene settings, dialogue, transmissions, sounds, humming, and droid speak are created by VC’s Joe Caramagna. I’m still adamant in my dislike of the dialogue and scene settings in Star Wars comics, but I do like the few sounds that appear; however, why do explosions and blaster fire remain silent? Frustrating. Overall grade: B

The final line: Sana Starros and Hera Syndulla try to break Aphra out of jail with disastrous results. The story is hilarious and awesome, with visuals that impress. A top notch Star Wars adventure. This book makes me long for live action adventures of this character. 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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