In Review: Doctor Aphra #24

Incredible tension paired with spectacular visuals make this a Star Wars "must read."

The covers: A pair to pick up this time, with both being excellent frontpieces. Ashley Witter is responsible for the Regular cover and it’s a scene that fans have been waiting for. Triple-Zero stands in flames, but his red eyes turn slowly upon this prey — Aprha! The title character is on the left side of the cover, turning her head to look behind her. If the reader were to look in the lenses of her googles the other antagonist is revealed — Bee-Tee-One. These killer droids have been gunning for her for several issues and it looks as though they’ve got her at last. Great illustration with the look on Aphra’s face perfection. The Galactic Icons Variant cover is by Rod Reis and features one of the most popular characters in the Star Wars saga: Boba Fett. The infamous bounty hunter looks terrific, making this cover an absolute must have item. Overall grades: Regular A and Galactic Icons Variant A+

The story: Simon Spurrier’s fifth installment of “The Catastrophe Con” starts with Acresker Jail, an orbital prison, on a collision course with the Rebel stronghold on Tiferep Major. Aphra has Sana Starros and Magna Tolvan placed in an escape pod to get the pair to safety. Unfortunately just as the hatch closes Magna jumps out. There are nine minutes left before the collision. Aphra and Magna, accompanied by Lopset, make their way to the main launch chamber where Tom Posla, a bounty hunter who really hates the doctor is coming to pick up someone. Before Posla’s ship arrives she has Lopset stand on a grille off to the side. As all this is occurring, the Force-sensitive Hookspore swarm has learned where the trio is. The chaos in this book is fantastic. Just as one thinks that Aphra has been backed into a corner, something happens to change everything and she gets a second chance at survival. I love how Spurrier has Aphra appearing as though she’s finally gotten a soft side and she’s going to do the right thing. Nope. Heck no. Not a chance. Her dialogue on Page 3 is enough to foreshadow that she’s got a trick or two up her sleeve. Pages 5 and 6 are heartbreaking for what happens to a character, but if one has been reading this series for any length of time it really isn’t a shocker. Magna is definitely the voice of the reader in this issue, with her comments matching those of anyone who goes through this story. There’s a great surprise on Page 8, a horrible cliffhanger in the fourth panel on 10, a stunning reveal on 12, a musical note that will terrify readers, and a arrival on 17 that will send chills up the spine of anyone. There is no way out for Aphra at this point with all these individuals after her, yet Spurrier finds one possibility with the final page. Wow. There’s no other possible word for this issue. Wow. Overall grade: A+ 

The art: Kev Walker provides the pencils and Marc Deering the inks on this fabulously illustrated book. The space suits worn by the characters are wonderful: bulky, oversized, clunky looking things that provide such a contrast to all the skin tight slim togs worn throughout the Star Wars saga. Notice on the first page that Magna says nothing, but her face speaks volumes considering what Aphra says and does. Aphra and Sana have great emotions on Page 2, with the large image that ends the page a spectacularly epic illustration. Lopset’s character design pays off incredibly in this issue, with him at the bottom of Page 3 fantastic. Tam Posla’s arrival is spectacular. His ship looks amazing and the close-up that shows him in the pilot’s seat has him look impressive and threatening. How the characters are shown in the final panel on 6 is terrific: Aphra is onto the next obstacle, while Magna considers the evil her love has done. The character rushing into the story at the bottom of 7 is great. I really like how the character extends beyond the borders of the panel, showing the speed at which it moves. I did not like the blurry characters at the top of 8, which gives the book a cheap look. Thankfully, this doesn’t happen again and never will in this series or any other Marvel book, #Marvelstayinfocus. The second panel on 10 is a heartbreaker. The reveal on 13 is a terror to come across. Page 14 is a full-paged splash and is stunning: the distance of the character from the characters and the reader pulls the reader more closely into the piece and the destruction that surrounds the individual is a visual apocalypse. This character is never shown clearly to the reader, but is shown from behind on 15 and is monstrous. The actions that occur aren’t shown in a panel, though Magna’s reaction is and she displays the horrors fantastically. The motion on 16 is amazing; bodies tumbling through space has always been heart stopping in films and even more so on this page. The reveal of a character on 17 shows only the lower half of this character, but what is wielded by this individual easily gives away the identity. The action on 18 is staggering. It’s as close to a visual “Game Over” as possible, with Aphra conveying this in the final panel on the page. The last page is a shocker of a full-paged splash. The visual tells the reader what’s going to be attempted and it’s scream worthy. This book looks so good! Overall grade: A

The colors: This book’s visuals aren’t just impressive for the line art for the colors by Java Tartaglia are sensational. I love the greens used for the surface of Tiferep Major. The reds in the final panel on the opening page look great. I’ve not seen the interior of an escape pod ever go red, but they do increase the tension and energy of the moment. The large panel on the second page has the colors in the foreground slightly brighter than those in the background, assisting the distance of the illustration. The bright highlights on Posla’s ship are a neat way to have certain elements of the vessel stand out. The icky blue-green used for the Hookspore swarm increase the physical menace of the creatures, and notice how the same colors are used for a device on 6, indirectly making Aphra as sick as the swarm. Very nice. Oranges, yellows, and tans arrive in full force when a pair of antagonists arrive, making their entrance horrific. Crimson appears in two panels against a black background and it’s extremely powerful. The gray-green on the revealed object on the final page makes this thing a true abomination. Tartaglia is knocking this book out of the park. Overall grade: A+

The letters: VC’s Joe Caramagna creates this book’s text which follows the pattern of all Marvel Star Wars books: a limp dialogue font that makes each character sound weak, though works perfectly for when characters whisper because it’s so slender. The scene settings are difficult to read because they’re surrounded by a white border that blends in too easily, too often with the background. However, the sounds are terrific. The pair of sounds on Page 6 are very cool for visually matching the actions in the art. Overall grade: B+

The final line: Incredible tension paired with spectacular visuals make this a Star Wars “must read.” Every turn of the page has Aphra and her companions getting deeper into trouble; just when the reader think it can’t get worse it does. The visuals are fantastic for wonderful character work and epic settings and ships. If only the lettering was allowed to soar as the rest of the book does. Fantastic Star Wars adventure. Overall grade: A

To order a digital copy go to https://comicstore.marvel.com/Star-Wars-Doctor-Aphra-2016-24/digital-comic/49211?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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