In Review: Doctor Aphra #4

A enjoyable action issue, with a new setting discovered and a villain getting some motivation.

The covers: Kamome Shirahama is responsible for the Regular cover and it’s neat. Two Imperial walkers fire off some shots as they make their way through a forest, its sky a harsh orange. Below, stepping out of this image, is Aphra, blaster in hand, looking as though she’s on the verge of being caught by the mechanical monsters. The layout of this is very cool, with the bottom of the walkers being revealed to be circular, and Aphra is coming out of it, onto a white vacant background. This looks more like the cover of a novel, rather than a comic, and that’s a compliment. The first variant is a Textless Variant of this cover and it’s even sharper without the text. The final variant is the Star Wars 40th Anniversary Variant by Pepe Larraz and David Curiel, who were spectacular on the incredible Kanan series. This is a classic moment from the first film as Luke sees Leia for the first time, projected by Artoo. Everything about this is great, but I think Larraz was unaware that the image would be in a border, as there’s a lot of empty space at the top of the illustration where he probably thought the book’s logo would appear. Still, anything by Larraz and Curriel is “must own” for me, so I’ll have to track this down. Overall grades: All A

The story: On Yavin 4, Captain Tolvan and her troopers are looking for the wookiee that’s been killing so many of their members while they’ve been trying to pillage the leftovers from the Rebels who fled after the Death Star was destroyed. Even with the sun in her eyes, Tolvan sees the reflection of the macrobinoculars that Aphra’s father is using. She realizes the wookiee was a distraction and tells her men to go there. Aphra tells her father and the droids, Triple Zero and BeeTee, to get moving as the Imperials will find them eventually. As they descend some stairs, they run into several and that’s when the action kicks in. This issue is the escape issue for the fourth part of “Aphra”, written by Kieron Gillen. It’s all action and thrills, seeing how the five protagonists will escape the Empire’s finest. Proving why droids are the most helpful companions one could have in the Star Wars Universe, BeeTee gets the gang out of a scrape in epic fashion, though it does have them meeting up with an enormous challenge at the bottom of Page 8. Aphra’s response to such an obstacle is terrific. Their escape (Be honest, that’s no spoiler) is Star Wars worthy, and it’s impossible to look upon the scene without hearing the music from Return of the Jedi when the heroes left Jabba’s exploding sail barge. The aftermath from this escape was the highpoint of the book, with the one sided conversation between Aphra and her father telling, and the surprise character from The Empire Strikes Back rearing up on 15 and 16 outstanding. The issue ends with the heroes in a new locale, continuing their search for where the Ordu Aspectu takes them and it looks extremely promising; very classic 1950s sci-fi. I’m really happy to see Gillen showing more of the archaeological side to the title character, as it explores more of Star Wars’ settings. Overall grade: A-

The art: Kev Walker is the penciller and Marc Deering provides the inks on a visually heavy issue. This phrase is necessary since there are several panels where the visuals tell the story without much text. The first page is a two panel shot of lights hitting one of the temples on Yavin 4 with Tolvan and a pair of her troopers looking at it. The temple is gorgeous; it’s always neat to see artists capture this location, evoking the age and the alien aspects of this site. But it’s Tolvan who steals the page. I love her. Walker and Deering have created a terrific look for this character that I hope she makes several more appearances. She looks like a blonde haired Irina Spalko from Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and creates chills on the second page when she raises her hand like a gun and points at the temple, squinting from the light. It’s beautiful and terrifying — exactly what a villain should evoke! With all the action that this book has, it’s impressive that the pair can capture so much movement, such as how BeeTee takes out the troopers and how the group ultimately escapes. I’m still not sure how Aphra is supposed to be. In her appearances in Darth Vader I thought she was in her mid to late twenties, while in this book she looks like early twenties. The mechanical objects in this book are very strong, with the weapons and vehicles looking sharp. The final page makes me think of classic Wally Wood art from EC Comics and it’s a WOW! splash for the conclusion. Overall grade: A

The colors: The familiar settings of this book have colorist Antonio Fabela going into expected territory, with the temple being aged in dusty and faded browns, while the jungles of Yavin 4 are vibrant in green. However, when the action goes big, starting on 8, the backgrounds go pale. They’re washed out greens, and this gives the art a weak look. Case in point: Pages 10 through 13 should be much more vibrant because of the jungle, but by lightening up on them so much the vehicles blend in with the background. Brighter colors would have punched this scene up immensely. Page 14 is incredibly powerful because of the intense coloring done on the surroundings. I’m somewhat nervous on how the colors will look next issue, as the outfits the protagonists have donned for the this location are already blending into the surroundings. Fabela’s work should be brighter. Overall grade: B

The letters: Scene settings, dialogue, BeeTee’s exclamations, Black’s bellow, and a transmission are created by VC’s Joe Caramagna. The artists inserted some sounds into their visuals during BeeTee’s scene, but the epic escape is silent. It seems odd that in the Star Wars Universe a droid makes more noise than two thousand ton vehicles hurl death at one another. That mute scene needed Caramagna’s expertise with sounds to make it more enjoyable. I wish that Editor Jordan D. White would allow Star Wars comics to sound like Star Wars films. Overall grade: B

The final line: A enjoyable action issue, with a new setting discovered and a villain getting some motivation. Some stronger colors and sounds would have punched it up immeasurably. Overall grade: B+

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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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