In Review: Doctor Aphra #25

Hold on to something because this issue gets absolutely insane.

The covers: A terrific twosome for the hardcore fan to pick up with this issue. The Regular cover is by Ashley Witter and shows Aphra wielding a weapon I never would have expected — a lightsaber! The angle of the image is looking down upon her as she looks up at her target. There is some mechanical debris behind her. What it’s from I can’t tell. I really like this and wish it had been just a titch brighter so I cold see more of the artwork. The Variant is a Galactic Icons cover by Rod Reis and it’s fantastic. Aphra earns her place as an icon by being the focus of this cover. I’ve been wowed by all of Reis’s covers for these variants and this one also impressed. I love that she has a slight smile on her face. I have to find this! Overall grades: Regular A and Galactic Icons Variant A+

The story: Oh. My. God. Hold on to something because this issue gets absolutely insane. Simon Spurrier opens this issue dramatically with Darth Vader swinging his lightsaber to fell the inmates of Accresker Jail that are attacking him. From a distance, Aphra is telling Tolvan that she’s going to undergo a memory wipe from a Bor gullet named Bor Ifriem. If she undergoes the wipe it’ll keep Vader from burrowing into her mind to learn the identities of those she could have told her secret (of Vader planning to kill the Emperor), including Tolvan. “That little droid that nearly killed us — I-It’s still out there!” Tolvan says. “It’ll slow him down…P-Perhaps even stop him!” Aphra doubts this and it’s at this moment where BeeTee-One confronts the Sith, all of its weapon launchers open. Vader looks upon the assassin droid and simply says, “You.” Tolvan suggests another solution to Aphra as Vader makes a move. My jaw dropped on Page 4 by the action of one character and the words of another. Another shock occurs on 6. There’s a confrontation that’s revealed “Eleven minutes later” that echoes the climax of one of the films. Page 8 is another shock, with the full paged splash of 9 being absolutely killer. Spurrier then returns to shocks with an arrival ans actions on 10. 12 has a revelation that will illicit gasps. The actions on 13 seems as though the book is headed in one direction and then Spurrier returns to a foe from this storyline catching the attention of Vader on 14. 16 is a stunning moment, with dialogue from several famous supporting characters coming on strong on the next page. 18 – 20 feature a fantastic confrontation that puts a period on one character’s existence. Page 26 left me reeling. What this surprise character tells the doctor shook me to the core. How can this possibly get any worse for Aphra? How can she possible survive? How can my heart deal with any more reveals from Spurrier? This is as good as it gets in Star Wars! Overall grade: A+

The art: Kev Walker was responsible for the pencils and Marc Deering the inks. This book is beautiful in the magic and horrors it presents. Their are several incredible full-paged splashes in this issue and the book begins with Vader taking out several foes. These are the type of visual moments that fans relish and Walker and Deering make this opening a memorable one. The meeting of the Sith with the killer droid on 3 is presented in silhouette and is incredibly ominous. The large panel on Page 4 is a jaw-dropper. The Bor gullet looks awesome on every page it’s on, like a malevolent octopus and it’s tentacles are enough to raise the hair on the back of anyone’s neck. The close-up of Magna on 6 is painful. The appearance of two familiar faces on 8 bring joy and dread. The full-paged splash on 9 is unquestionably cool. The panel that follows it on 10 is funny and painful. This leads to masterful reappearance of another character and an incredibly violent action. The pain on Aphra’s face on 12 and 13 make her wholly sympathetic, but if anyone has been following her exploits, one knows she deserves to feel this pain. Page 15 features six panels that communicate much movement, leading to an explosive full-paged splash on 16. The battle on 18 – 20, though brief, is beautiful and powerful. Page 26 is a visual to relish as it’s been building to this moment for so long and Walker and Deering make it spectacular. The final two pages have Aphra in fear. Whatever this pair of artists were paid, it wasn’t enough for work this magnificent. Overall grade: A+

The colors: Also reaping immense praise are the colors of Java Tartaglia. This is no reason Vader should be standing out in a panel because of his ebony armor and the destruction of the dark, powerless jail as it falls into a planet. Tartaglia smartly uses backgrounds, such as gray, to make him the focus, such as on the first page. A blaster bolt brings the reader’s eyes to the Sith and then has his armor catching the glow of the destruction he’s causing. Fantastic work. Notice how the backgrounds behind Aphra and Tolvan are given a sickly green as they discuss using the Bor gullet to increase the creature’s disgusting abilities. The oranges and yellows on 4 are incredible, with the sound as explosive as the art. The greens on 9 are powerful. The red that’s teased on 10 is terrifying. These reds return on Vader’s blade. Yellows and oranges return dramatically on 16. Look at the red highlights on 18, which are spot on. I also adore the blue-greens used during the battle on 18 – 20. The violets and greens on 26 are delightfully disgusting. The book ends with a red colored object that, again, is terrifying. Wow. Overall grade: A+

The letters: VC’s Joe Caramagna does the job I expected, but I don’t wholly blame him for the look of the letters because he’s only following in the format established long ago in Star Wars comics. The dialogue is too faint for strong characters, such as Vader, and the scene settings are difficult to read due to their design and colors. That said, the sounds are incredibly fun and the droid speech is great. Overall grade: B 

The final line: This series continues to give Darth Vader a run for the money as the best Star Wars comic published by Marvel. Every page has a moment that will leave the reader stunned. Every page has visuals that are frightening and wonderful. This book confirms it’s a very good time to be a Star Wars comics fan. Highest possible recommendation. 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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