In Review: Doctor Aphra #32

The visuals really hurt this issue's new story arc.

The covers: Two covers to pick up as “All-New Arc: ‘Unspeakable Rebel Superweapon’ Stars Here!” The Regular cover by Ashley Witter is neat, but could be placed on any cover featuring the devious doctor. Aphra lifts the lid of a chest that’s covered in long tendrils of green moss-like material. The point of view is from the inside of the chest, with Aphra clearly shown smiling at what’s she discovered. Witter has become the Aphra cover artist, with her version of the title character superb. The colors on this are good too, with the moss colored in a glowing supernatural light green. Very nice. I’m a tremendous Luke Skywalker fan so seeing the cover to the Greatest Moments Variant by Stephanie Hans makes me immensely happy. Is this Luke? Maybe not, but I’m going to pretend it is. A rebel pilot raises a pistol as the enormous foot of an Imperial Walker begins to slam down before him as the snowfall increases on the surface of Hoth. In the background another walker makes its way to the left. Flat out gorgeous from one of my favorite scenes from the original trilogy. Overall grades: Regular A- and Greatest Moments Variant A 

The story: Twenty years ago “Little Boop” — Little Aphra — is watching “The Crimes of Oo’ob the Apostate” a holographic film with her father. This shows her father is fascinated with Jedi lore, not something welcomed by the Imperials, and it introduces an item that will become important as this story progresses. While her father goes over stolen Jedi memory crystals, Aphra cuts her finger. Her father is too caught up in his work to notice, so mother Lona comes down to take care of her. Korin says the crystals they have could lead him to “…find the Lost Citadel of Garn! Restore the Knights of Ordu Aspectu! They could bright light to this dark galaxy!” This is the moment when Lona decides to make a horrible decision. This is a nice throwback to a previous story in this series and hints at things to come. Page 4 moves to the present where Simon Spurrier has Aphra and Vulaada in the Slinani Migration Shrine in the Outer Rim. They’re swinging on electronic cords to avoid a rolling ball and a spiked pit that’s also full of flowers with long tongues. Vulaada is complaining the entire time. They avoid other hazards, until there’s a moment when Chelli can tell the young woman why they are there. Once hearing the reason, Vulaada is placated. The object they’re after is lackluster, but what’s discovered on 10 is an object the doctor cannot let go. The conversation on Pages 13 and 14 is good, albeit painful. These pages are only a build up to a horrible flashback on 15 and 16. It was neat to see how this terrible moment is updated on 18 and 19, ending in a surprising return. The final page is a jaw-dropper reveal that will have Aphra’s fans wondering what troubles are in store for Aphra and this character. A really fun story. Overall grade: A

The art: I did not like the art. There are two different artists, Wilton Santos & Caspar Wijngaard, with Marc Deering and Don Ho as inkers, with one pair used for the flashbacks and the other for the scenes in the present. It’s sadly not stated who does what. The flashback sequences are on Pages 1 – 3,  12, and 15 – 16. These pages look to be trying to capture the style of Kev Walker and Marc Deering. The settings are fine, but the characters are very simple, with the close-ups on Page 3 being very simple. The layout is good, it’s the final imagery where things come up short in the past. The exterior of the family home is murky when it’s shown, though the interiors, primarily dad’s work space, are okay. The large panel on 12 has the characters really blocky, with those in the distance very simple. The full-paged splash on 16 is dramatic, but by not having the older character as the center of the page, I was looking all over for a focus. The background is wasted on this page. The pages in the present are a remarkably different style. Where the past has thick lines, the present is make of thin lines, extremely thin line work. Page 4 is a very empty setting for such a large panel. The faces of the characters on 5 are really simple. They look much better on 6 and 7, though the droids aren’t believable for their design or their actions. The point of view at the bottom of 8, and the colors, make the moment difficult to make out. I can’t believe the threat in the third panel on 9 — it just does not fit with this universe; I’m willing to chalk this up to writer Spurrier. The object that receives all the focus on 10 is too far from the reader — it’s a smudge. The setting on the final four pages is a sloppy creation with lines used unsuccessfully to create texture. There’s a ton of empty space in the first panel on 18. The reveal on 20 is good, but the character is too far from the reader to have it make an impact — I want to see the reaction on her face and it’s about the size of a dime. This was a very disappointing visual experience. Overall grade: C-

The colors: Chris O’Halloran & Stephane Paitreau are the credited colorists, with one, I’m guessing doing the flashbacks and the other the present, as did the artists. And like the artists, it’s not stated who does what. The flashback scenes are dark, but allow the art to be easily seen. The colors create a terrific sense of depression which adds to the story well. They are absolute opposites of the present where Chelli and Vulaada are confronted by outrageous neon colors from the get-go. I cannot understand why this stated “shrine” has hot pink spikes, glowing yellow rolling balls, and neon pink trim in doorways. The colors are garish when the lights go on (Page 9) but awkwardly are out on the following page. There’s no rhyme or reason to the colors in this location. Much better are the final four pages with the setting consistently colored, lime green for skies and gray for ground. The muted colors on the character that appears at the end has the reader looking at the speaker at the right and the character on the right before looking at this individual. That’s wrong: the reader should be focused/hammered/devastated/shocked by this appearance. The colors were oddball for the scenes in the present. Overall grade: C-

The letters: This issue’s text is crafted by VC’s Joe Caramagna. who creates scene settings, dialogue, sounds, and droid speech. The scene settings look odd because they’re atop a white outline, causing the text too look blurry when colored. The dialogue is okay; it’s not as wispy as the main Star Wars comic book, but is still not as strong as the ones in Age of Rebellion. The sounds and droid speech is well done. I liked the letters better than the other visuals of the book. Overall grade: B

The final line: The visuals really hurt this issue’s new story arc. I’m ready to see how Aphra interacts with the character that appears on the last page and more than willing to see what the object she’s stolen can do. The characters are fun throughout, but the visuals are just average or below average. I really disliked the scenes in the present, with the colors looking like they were mirroring a 1980’s music video. I’ll buy the next issue, but I’m really wanting a different art team. 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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