In Review: Doctor Aphra #3

This is a textbook example of how strong a colorist's input is to a book. Sadly, to its undoing.

The covers: There are four different covers to find on this third issue of Doctor Aphra. The Regular cover is by Kamome Shirahama. There is a white horizon line that divides the cover in the bottom third. Above this line is wookie Black Krrsantan and small versions of Triple Zero and BeeTee-One. There is a gigantic white sun behind them, blanketing the orange sky and providing easy vision of four TIE fighters. The bottom third contains a rocky outcropping that Aphra is standing atop, with her full figure also going into the upper two thirds of the image. Triple Zero is a little soft looking and Aphra’s face looks very much in the mold of manga. This is okay, but not great. The first variant is a Textless one that’s exactly the same as the Regular, just without the text. Again, this is just okay. The Droids Variant cover is by David Lopez and it’s fairly funny, but not enough for me to grab one. This shows BT-1 in the foreground with several of his panels open, revealing several missiles in each aperture. Behind him is 0-0-0, looking as if he’s trying to reason with his counterpart’s prey. Again, this is okay, reminding me of something out of Robotech, but not something I’d look for. The final variant is the Star Wars 40th Anniversary Variant cover by Juan Gimenez and this is one to find! This is listed in the bottom right corner as the first variant cover in this series, so it makes it even more collectible. Darth Vader is standing among some stormtroopers who are opening fire against an unseen foe to the left. Above them is a Star Destroyer whose bay has opened to swallow a Corellian corvette. This looks great. I have to find a copy of this for myself. Overall grades: Regular B-, Textless Variant B-, Droids Variant B-, and Star Wars 40th Anniversary Variant A

The story: On Yavin 4, Aphra, her father, and Krrsantan are watching — from a distance — Imperial troops as they clear out the Rebel base in the Massassi temple. Her father can’t understand what the Empire is doing there, so Aphra tells him about the Death Star. He thought it was just a story, which prompts the ire of Aphra who chastises him for obsessing over the Ordu Aspctu. Her heated comments are tempered by Triple Zero stating that he’s heard her say she’s happy with the Empire’s “steel glove clasping around the throat of the universe as the best way to keep it safe.” This leads to her father learning that she worked for Darth Vader, which doesn’t sit well with the title character. After a moment of silence, she turns back to the group and says, “This is what we’ll do.” This is a good way by Kieron Gillen to reinforce that Aphra has done some things she shouldn’t be proud of before she gets to high and mighty with her father. The scene then moves to the Imperials and possible new recurring villain, Captain Tolvan. A coded signal in the jungle prompts her sending out some troops to investigate and that’s when the action of the book kicks in. Aphra and her father need a diversion so they can enter the temple, so Krrsantan provides several. The action is good, something that a fan would love to see on the big screen, but it comes too sporadically, as it’s what Aphra and her father are doing that’s the primary story in this issue. It’s okay (Am I overusing that word in this review, or what?), but there’s no real tension to the proceedings and I shouldn’t be more excited in the wookie’s actions that the title character’s. Something is revealed on the last page, but the art has been so computer tweaked, it’s unclear for the reader. This is obviously the middle chapter of a larger story as it serves to simply move things along. Overall grade: C+

The art: I’m enjoying Kev Walker’s art, but the coloring is not doing it any favors. The first page shows the three most active protagonists of the issue, but the coloring has faded the wookie so much, he’s useless in the panel. This happens in the backgrounds on every page. I would have preferred to see Walker’s art more clearly, and having the colors be as consistently bright as those in the foreground would have helped immensely. On Page 4 Triple-Zero looks lost in a fog because of the coloring. Yet, looking at Aphra’s final image at the bottom of the page, she is sharp and strong looking. Walker can unquestionably draw, but his visuals are being severely undercut. The design of Tolvan is really good, reminding me of an iconic Cynthia Martin designed character during Marvel’s initial run of Star Wars. Krrsantan has all the big action sequences in this issue, with some great facial reactions to what he’s doing. There are several different iconic troopers in this issue and Walker makes them all look fantastic. So much so, if Marvel ever wanted to do a trooper-centric miniseries, Walker should be considered at the top of the list to illustrate it. He gets several opportunities to show these troopers in action and they look great when on patrol or blowing up. The location where Aphra and her father are trying to gain entrance to is designed very well. It’s very reminiscent of something from a John Carter story, but absolutely suits what the two are looking for. The final page’s panel really is a huge let down. It’s incredible difficult to tell what’s going on. This is because the sunlight is distorting the image too much. To go through an entire book for a “moment” I would expect it to be much more clearly seen. I’ll have to wait until next month to find out what the heck it is that I’m looking at. I would have loved to have seen Walker’s work without these colors. Overall grade: C+

The colors: As stated in the Art review, I’m really not liking these colors. They are constantly faded; nothing is bright. This is terrible because this location such was brighter in A New Hope and Rogue One. The jungles should be much more alive; they look as though it’s fall and the foliage is soon to fall. Even in explosive moments, the colors are so flat they take all the excitement out of the illustration. The last page is completely undone by colors, leaving me incredibly frustrated at not seeing the payoff of the story. I expect better from Antonio Fabela. Overall grade: D

The letters: VC’s Joe Caramagna provides scene settings, Black’s unique dialogue, Triple-Zero’s dialogue, and BeeTee’s speech. There are several sounds during the action sequences, but they look as if Walker supplied them. I could be wrong, but they are colored so lightly that’s how they appear. Caramagna does a good job on the wookie and droids’ unique speech and his dialogue font is okay, but has never been to my liking. Overall grade: B+

The final line: This is a textbook example of how strong a colorist’s input is to a book. Sadly, this book shows how it can be its undoing. This middle chapter moves the story along, but lacks any tension. The visuals could have been so much better. Overall grade: C

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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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