In Review: Doctor Aphra #5

The Star Wars Universe continues to expand and Doctor Aphra is there to profit from it.

The covers: A quintet of covers to add to your collection with this installment if you’ve the wherewithal. The Regular cover is by Kamome Shirahama. It’s looking down upon the Doctor as she’s running from three people behind her. The floor she’s speeding off on is so reflective, the reader can see the images of three stormtroopers behind her. This is a really cool perspective shot and the angle of the troopers is sharp. The coloring is a little too dark, with a brighter background for the Imperials would have made this cover stand out better. There’s also a Textless Variant of the Regular cover. I feel the same about this as I do the Regular. The Star Wars 40th Anniversary cover is the one to track down this month. Framed in the same yellow and black outline of ships is a terrific image by Marc Laming and Matthew Wilson. Several stormtroopers in the desert of Tatoonie, with a pair riding Dewbacks, is flat out awesome. The figures look great, the beasts tremendous, and the coloring is a blaze in blinding whites and yellows. I love this and want this to be a print so I can frame this on my wall. There’s also a Textless Star Wars 40th Anniversary Variant. This is good, but I have to admit that it pops just a bit more with the black and yellow border. The final variant is by Joe Quinones and has Aphra in a hallway that has a familiar shape. She looks like she’s ready to go for her blaster. Behind her is Black Krrsantan and the droids, Triple Zero and BeeTee-One. Great idea for a cover, but the expression on Aphra’s face is killing it for me. She looks almost cross eyed.  In fact, she looks like Kathy Najimy from Hocus Pocus. I’ve got to pass on this cover. Overall grades: Regular A, Textless (Regular) Variant A, Star Wars 40th Anniversary Variant A+, Star Wars 40th Anniversary Textless A, and Quiones Variant C. 

The story: Last issue, our heroes (well, okay…anti-heroes) arrived at the Citadel of Rur. This issue begins with Captain Tolvan arriving on the scene in an Imperial shuttle accompanied by a squad of snowtroopers. Meanwhile, at the entrance, Aphra’s father examines the corpse before them. It’s not a Ordu Aspectu, it’s a Jedi. He feels sorry for the fallen Jedi, who obviously died in pain and was not cremated as is done with their remains. Feeling saddened, he looks to his right to see Aphra taking something from another corpse. “There’s always collectors looking for secondhand lightsabers…What do you think I actually do, Dad? Archaeology is just grave robbing with fancy paperwork. And I’ve got debts to pay.” This is when Black Krrsantan joins the conversation, reminding her that she promised to find the people that trained him to be a gladiator. The three and the droids go through the doorway and enter a chamber with an even larger door. After some quick looking about, Aphra finds the mechanism that opens it and that’s when things are discovered and things begin to happen. This was an excellent mix of archaeology and action, making me hungry for Marvel to begin the adventures of another Lucasfilm acquisition. Kieron Gillen puts enough mystery in this to keep the reader wondering if Aphra’s dad will find what he looking for. He might have found it on Page 19, but before that happens there is a wonderful turn of events on 12 that had me laughing aloud. A very enjoyable read. Overall grade: A

The art: Kev Walker is on pencils and Marc Deering provide the inks and they’re a good duo. The visuals are good throughout, with them capturing the familiar elements of the Star Wars universe, as well as creating several new ones, especially in the design of the Citadel of Rur. The complex is enormous and designed very well. It had me thinking of several classic images by Moebius as I went through the book. The characters continue to look good, with the look reminding me of Cam Kennedy’s work done decades ago on Dark Empire. I practically fell out of me seat in joy at seeing the snowtroopers on the first page and loved what was done with them on Page 7. I also have to sing the praises of how they make Black Krrsantan move: the fourth panel on 8 shows the wookiee hearing something the others cannot and turning his head slightly. This echoes the movements of Chewbacca from several films and I was glad to see them recreating it for this burly bounty hunter. Page 11 has nine equal sized panels that have tons of action occurring and I was happy to see them using this format to pack in so much action. The expression on Aphra’s face at the bottom of 12 was sensational, being the perfect match for her dialogue. The final page’s largest panel is a wonderful “It could be worse”–“It’s worse” moment, with an excellent design on the impending threat. I would love to see Walker and Deering doing Star Wars books until the end of time. Overall grade: A

The colors: The colors by Anotonio Fabela on this book are outstanding. The icy ruins of the setting are beautiful and cool in grays and blues. The light sources that are high above the characters have just the right amount of glare to state their purpose in the panels but not overshadow the rest of the visuals. The light blues and violets on 6 strike just the right balance of something being wholly alien. When the blaster fire begins, and there’s a lot of it, it’s like a bloody streak on the page — completely shocking. But it’s on Page 14 where the coloring really hits its highpoint. Perhaps it was the extensive use of this color that had me thinking of Moebius, but it’s absolutely beautiful and otherworldly. Fabela did a great job on this issue. Overall grade: A

The letters: Scene settings, dialogue, Black Krrsantan’s growls, and Triple Zero’s droid speech comprise this issue’s text created by VC’s Joe Caramagna. I was disappointed that when people yell in this book their utterances are exactly the same size and font as regular, calm dialogue. It’s also never given a different font to show it’s intensity. Every character, even in the most stressful of situations, “sounded” one note. There are also no sounds for the blaster fire. This is like watching a Star Wars movie on mute. Why, for heaven’s sake, would you do this? Granted, these may not be in Caramagn’s pervue to change, but I wish someone at Marvel would unleash him to make this book sound more like Star Wars. Overall grade: B

The final line: The Star Wars Universe continues to expand and Doctor Aphra is there to profit from it. Great combination of action and archaeology with familiar threats. Very enjoyable, though the text is a minor letdown. 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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