In Review: Doctor Aphra #7

This Screaming Citadel will have you screaming for more.

The covers: A threesome to seek out for this third chapter of “The Screaming Citadel.” The Regular cover is rare, for it shows scoundrel Han Solo strapped upright to a table as three creepy looking insects are making their up his body to his head. Several computer graphics are overlapping the action, insinuating that someone is watching this spectacle. It’s nice to see Han in peril, so my hat’s off to artist Marco Checchetto for this image. The coloring on this is heavy on the blues for all the computer graphics in use, but there’s also a lone bit of rose, to show the threat the creatures bring. The Star Wars 40th Anniversary Variant cover is by Greg Land and it’s one to track down: Ben, Luke, and Chewie in the cantina surrounded by its patrons, with the hunched over figure of Dr. Evazan in the foreground. The character work is stunning and the coloring outstanding. This event is seconds before Ben pulls out his lightsaber to dispatch with his foes. Fantastic cover by Land. There’s also a Mile High Comics Exclusive Variant by Mike Mayhew, which connects to the previous two variants from this retailer. This has Leia in a new white outfit, her hair styled in their iconic buns. She’s got one foot on a rocky outcropping that she’s backed up to, while holding a rifle. She looks tense before letting loose a blast. There’s red lighting striking behind her and in the distance is a Star Destroyer. Great illustration, but the colors, from the electronic image I’m viewing, is very pale. I would have preferred this to have brighter colors. Overall grades: Regular A, Star Wars 40th Anniversary Variant A+, and Mile High Comics Variant B

The story: Luke and Aphra are running away from several aliens that have been made into zombie-like creatures by the Queen of Ktath’atn. The doctor uses her comlink to have Triple Zero fly her ship in to rescue them, but Luke is done running. He turns and ignites his lightsaber, just as Aphra’s ship appears…and crashes into their pursuers. The ramp opens revealing BeeTee-One and Triple Zero, who tells his master that it was Han Solo who piloted the ship. Before Aphra can state how she truly feels about the Corellian, Sana Starros sticks a blaster in her face and says, “Goodbye,” as Leia looks on gasping. She fires, but Luke deflects the shot with his saber. Luke reveals to his rescuers that he’s with Aphra and went willingly with her. Vouching for her, Luke convinces the others to let her be. Han has an obvious idea for where they should go since the ship isn’t going to get them out of there. Writer Kieron Gillen keeps the action quick since the heroes are on the run, and when there’s a moment of quiet he gives some solid character growth moments between Luke and Aphra. There’s a conflict that resumes on Page 9 and Aphra has a very smart way of avoiding it — my hat’s off to Gillen for that piece of equipment’s use. One character falls before the villain, while another gives up on the group. This allows for some outstanding character scenes on 13 and 14. There is an absolutely shocking scene on 17 that seems completely out of place for a Star Wars comic, but Gillen uses it to move the story forward and it does fit this dark tale. I’m standing and clapping, Mr. Gillen. Well done. This is the strongest chapter yet of this saga for action, drama, and shocks. Overall grade: A+

The art: Andrea Broccardo is the artist for issue and he needs to do more Star Wars work! His work his highly detailed, the characters resemble the actors at time of the films, his settings are sumptuous, his droids flawless, and his aliens incredible. I’m officially a fan of this artist after this one issue. Broccardo kills it in the first panel, showing Luke and Aphra running from the zombie aliens. The character work is great, but check out the nice background in that panel to establish distance. The second panel has him truly showing a terrific setting, followed by Luke looking so darned cool igniting his lightsaber. The arrival of Aphra’s ship is a movie quality entrance. And all this occurs on just the first page! This is followed by the ship crashing, the arrival of several characters and Sana looking tough in the final panel of the second page. The two pages that follow are dialogue heavy, but Broccardo masterfully moves the point of view of around to keep things interesting and he gives plenty of room for the letterer to insert text. The setting that follows is terrific; it’s completely realized and I feel as though I could make a map of this location, it’s that detailed. BeeTee has got a sensational visual joke that won’t surprise long time readers, but definitely shocks the princess. One character has something horrific done to him and it’s shown primarily off panel, but what is shown is enough to give adults nightmares. This character springs to life like a madman on the final two pages and the reaction from the main character in the book’s final panel will undoubtedly mirror that of the reader. Andrea Broccardo, you are an illustrating god! Overall grade: A+

The colors: Much of this book is set in dark corridors or evening exteriors. Antonio Fabela creates a dark environment without making Broccardo’s work disappear. For example, look at how he creates the dark exteriors on the first page — the characters are colored darkly, but a reader can still tell what color their skin or costumes would be if the setting were in the daytime. His work with Luke’s lightsaber and all the blaster fire is especially well done. The Queen and her minions are covered in crimson and it comes across as an insane color every time they appear. Notice how sick light greens are used on Page 5 and continue to appear throughout this environment, foreshadowing their later importance in the book. On 13 Triple Zero is in many panels. Because of the droid’s ebony coating, he’s been incredibly difficult for all colorists to work on, since he often disappears into the backgrounds or becomes a black blob. Fabela gives him black tones, but look at all the shades he uses to keep him visible to the reader. Truly, Fabela is doing incredible work on this book. Overall grade: A+ 

The letters: Scene settings, dialogue, Triple Zero dialogue, BeeTee bleeps, yells, sounds, and Black Krrsantan’s roars are created by VC’s Joe Caramagna. BeeTee and Krrsantan’s sounds are outstanding. I wish that Caramagna had been allowed to contribute some sound effects when Luke uses his saber or blasters are fired. The font for dialogue on this, and other Star Wars books, falls short of commanding any strength, as shown by the antagonist on Page 19. Overall grade: B+

The final line: This Screaming Citadel will have you screaming for more. Superior story and visuals make for a classic in the making. Outstanding. 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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