In Review: Doctor Aphra #23

Aphra faces dangers from several sides, but can't avoid learning how allies feel about her.

The covers: A pair to choose between, though, if you’re like me, you’ll probably be snagging both. The Regular cover is by Ashley Witter. Aphra and Tolvan hide behind the remnants of a wall as the specter that’s making appearances in this story searches for them. The details on the characters’ costumes are fantastic, with them looking completely real. Their faces are also outstanding, clearly communicating their feelings to the reader. The colors are also top notch, with that orange-yellow beam of light outstanding. Great tone work throughout. The Variant cover is by Rod Reis. This Galactic Icons cover spotlights Yoda who is looking at the reader with the kindest of eyes. This is great. I prefer this Jedi master to be looking at me with understanding and hope, rather than the threatening character that frightened Luke at times. I’ve loved these Galactic Icons covers and I really like this one. Overall grades: Regular A and Galactic Icons Variant A+

The story: Simon Spurrier has crafted an incredibly smart Aphra outing with the doctor dodging danger but also having her soul revealed to the reader, and it’s not a pretty thing. The book opens on an hijacked touring ship, shown with several dead Bith musicians floating in space. Aboard are Triple-Zero and BeeTee-One who intercept a transmission between Aphra and bounty hunter Tam Posla. She wants him to rescue her from Accresker Jail, which is crumbling. He refuses, saying she deserves that fate, but then she pulls into the hologram the person he most wants to catch: Doctor Cornelius Evazan. This is his trigger and he says he’s on his way, and so are the pair of murderous droids who want Aphra dead. At the jail, Lopset, who has the ability to change his appearance, returns to his normal visage. Magna Tolvan and Sana Starros are busy watching the Imperial cruiser that was next to the space bound jail release all its escape pods. That can only mean one thing, and the cruiser collides with the jail causing an immense explosion. The jail is now going to fall into Tiferep Major, population two billion. The inmates are rioting. The “sentient telekinetic fungus” or “ghost” is killing those it finds in need of justice. Add to this an object of an ancient order that continually tugs at Aphra’s basest nature, and the title character is definitely under the gun. There are all kinds of actions occurring and in the process Spurrier finds an outstanding way to have what drives Aphra brought to the reader and slammed in the character’s face. It’s a terrific scene and a defining one. The book ends with a spectacular cliffhanger due to one character’s secret cry for assistance. Things are going to get infinitely worse for Aphra quickly. This is outstanding. Overall grade: A+

The art: The art on this issue comes courtesy of penciler Kev Walker and inker Marc Deering. The first panel of the book is of shocked Bith floating in space, killed by the droids that are shown in the second panel. Triple-Zero seems to still be unwell, as he’s only shown sitting far back in the pilot’s chair. Panels four and six feature head shots of the speakers to show how each views the other via hologram and it’s cool. I love the smile on Aphra’s face, foreshadowing the trump card she’s about to play. The first panel on the second page is outstanding for the joy on her face and the terror on the misshapen lump of flesh she holds at knife point. The collision of the cruiser into the jail is a full-paged splash on 5 and it’s epic. I really like the cables that writhe about around the destruction and the debris that’s flying. Page 6 has the inmates rioting and Aphra looking frightened in every panel. She’s been on the run before, but this time she looks as though this could be end of the line for her. Only with a bust shot on 7 does her confidence return and it’s due to her basest need. This is a great image of the character. The energy that blasts out of weapon on the following page is terrific, great power from it. One of her reluctant companions has a great emotional turn on 11, ending with a funny/sad/true physical action on 12. The big emotional moments are on 13 and the visuals by Walker and Deering communicate much to the reader that goes beyond the dialogue. The three panels that feature no dialogue are amazing. I love that the last image on the page shows the character from the back, reinforcing how this individual has finally shut out Aphra. Page 16 is a pretty creepy composition of images that shows one character’s backstory and how others interact with that person. The final page has only two panels and it’s scream worthy. The character that’s revealed will have fans jumping up and down in anticipation or leaning deeper into their seat at the danger that’s headed Aphra’s way. The last panel on the page is a wonderful turning away. This is brilliant artwork. Overall grade: A+

The colors: Java Tartaglia’s work on this book is also stellar. The reds on the first page amplify the evil that shows in all locations. Having the droids and the bounty hunter’s ship bathed in red light makes them instantly evil. There is a blue twinge to Aphra’s hologram, but it’s still overpower by red, showing, through colors, that she’s got a strong strain of evil in her as well. The panels that contain space shots have the location in blues rather than black which allows the action to be much more clearly seen than if the void was painted in ebony. When the riots are shown oranges and rusts are employed, showing how all are dead or dying, they just don’t know it yet. The backgrounds become a cool green when the characters get into a control room, justifying a calm time for them to speak. The greens acquire a blue tint when an antagonist gets its hands (?) on the characters, giving it a correctly supernatural feel. Reds return like a punch to the face on the final page to reintroduce a character into this series. Contrasting this panel with the lack of colors in the final panel which showcases the isolation of this character with whites. Great work. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Scene settings, transmissions and droid speech, sounds, dialogue, and a vengeful declaration, are crafted by VC’s Travis Lanham. The scene settings are difficult to read because they are surrounded by a white border which fades any colors, which are often too pale, within them. The dialogue font continues to be inefficient with it’s thin design that makes every character’s words weak. The transmissions and the droid speech are differed by the shape of their dialogue balloons, which works, but seeing a different font for each would have been an additional visual to separate them. The sounds are fine, with FOOOOOM being great, but there aren’t enough of them. None of these decisions are Lanham’s because all of these formats were begun years ago as the look for Star Wars comics, but they lessen the power that the text could have on the reader. Overall grade: B-

The final line: Aphra faces dangers from several sides, but can’t avoid learning how allies feel about her. The story is another home run and the art is fantastic. My only nick in the book are the letters, but they’re not so bad as to ruin the book. Overall grade: A-

To order a digital copy go to https://comicstore.marvel.com/Star-Wars-Doctor-Aphra-2016-23/digital-comic/48900?r=1

To see the covers visit my Instagram account: patrickhayesscifipulse

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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