In Review: Doctor Aphra #28

I love the unpredictability of this series which goes for the heart and then the gut with the turn of a page.

The covers: A pair to pick up on for an awesome Aphra installment. The Regular cover is by Ashley Witter and has Aphra slightly to the center left, making adjustments to a device she’s holding. Behind her is Triple-Zero, his red eyes looking on emotionlessly at the human to whom he’s bonded by a proximity bomb. Below the pair are images of the bounty hunters/couple Nokk and Winloss. Behind all is a massive ghostly, ghastly face: Doctor Cornelius Evazan, the madman who’s responsible for placing bombs withing the human and the droid, all to entertain him and his friend Ponda Baba. This is a great cover and would make a fantastic print. The latest Greatest Moments Variant cover is by Greg Land and Frank D’Armata. This is titled “Boonta Eve Classic” and features a large image of a smiling Anakin Skywalker at the top, wearing his podracing helmet. Below him is his foe in the race, Sebulba. Beneath him is some of Tatooine’s bizarre rock formations that serve as obstacles to the racers, with Sebulba and Anakin’s podracers speeding forward. Anakin and Sebulba are recognizable, but not great likenesses, though the vehicles look fine. The colors are bright and look good. Overall grades: Regular A and Greatest Moments Variant C+

The story: The third installment of writer Simon Spurrier’s “Worst Among Equals” opens with the rebuilt and reprogramed Beetee-One bringing weapons to bear upon Triple-Zero and Aphra. Trip is stunned to see his friend. “Oh! My dear friend! Cut to ribbons and reassembled by a dull-witted do-gooder! How you’ve suffered! That frightful policeman. Do know, Tam Posla lacks even the manners to remain dead? And yet he expects you to turn against me! In the name of all we’ve shared! All those moonlit atrocities! Show him how wrong he is.” After this emotional outpouring, Aphra yells at the droid to get down and smashes him to the ground. Beetee lets loose a massive expulsion of flame. Trip tries again to reason with his former partner, but Aphra pulls him down again to save him. She convinces the droid to run and they do, until they are mysteriously pulled backwards. It seems that the back-from-the-dead Tam Posla is being manipulated by the Force sensitive fungus. Then on Page 4 something surprising occurs. I can’t say what it is without spoiling it, but it is awesome. The dialogue that follows on the next page is funny and that leads to another surprise on 6. Evazan makes the doctor and assassin droid’s situation worse in spectacular style on 9. There’s a great return on 10 that shows someone should not be counted out. Another return occurs on 12 and is followed by a five page discussion during a momentary downtime in the leads’ run. It was extremely revealing of how Aphra sees herself and how she thinks others shouldn’t be like her. It’s an honest moment from the protagonist, only to have the final three pages throw her world upside down. I love the unpredictability of this series which goes for the heart and then the gut with the turn of a page. Overall grade: A+

The art: The art on this issue is Emilio Laiso and he does an excellent job. I love the two close-ups of the droids on the first page, showing their responses as they size each other up. Aphra’s action in the fourth panel is great. The last panel on the page is wonderfully small, but the turn of a page shows how massive Beetee’s action is. The smoking ruins around Trip and Aphra are hellish, showing how destructive Beetee can be. The awkward stand of the runaways in the final panel on 3 reflects what’s being done to them, with the pose of Tam outstanding. The first panel on Page 4 is jaw dropping — it’s a still image on the page, but Laiso makes it dramatic and massive. The pose of the victim in the bottom panel is like the fall of a Greek god. The final panel on 6 is outstanding, funny, and huge. Page 8 has one character getting a new limb and what it can do will make readers chuckle. The panels on Page 9 show the variety of characters that populate Milvayne City and it’s a great menagerie. The action on 10 is awesome. It’s also creepy and cool. The first panel on 12 is outstanding for the point of view. The smile that ends the page is so smug it makes me want to punch that person and congratulate them. Take a look at the three panels that top 14: they contain some great motion, with one character moving forward and another having some great reactions to what is before them. The large panel on this page is creepy if one is willing to look closely in the foreground — excellent! The regret that ends the page is wonderful. This regret is repeated at the end of 16, but is even stronger because the character closes their eyes. The large panel on 18 is a fantastic “Uh oh” moment, followed by a startling visual in the fourth panel on 19. The last panel on this page has two excellent reactions. The large image on 20 is superb. Seriously, if Marvel is smart, they’ll sign Laiso to a lifelong contract. Overall grade: A+

The colors: The issue opens with a ghastly green to make Beetee and Tam Posla’s threat uncomfortable for the reader and the characters. The red eyes of Triple-Zero shine fantastically in this pea soup colored miasma. His crimson is countered by the bright yellow eye of Beetee. When Aphra leaps into action, colorist Rachelle Rosenberg increases the tension by coloring the background in yellow and orange. The brown colored emission from Beetee that ends the page becomes an apocalypse of orange and yellow for the next two pages. I love the cool blues that power reanimated Posla, strengthening his supernatural reappearance. Even his dialogue balloons are given the same color. The first panel on 4 has a yellow background for intensity and one character’s colors dim because of the action. The violets, reds, and greens on 6 are an interesting combination, which I’ve not seen before on a Star Wars book, they look tremendous. 8 and 9 are bathed in cool blues and greens due to the number of video screens populating the panels. The top of 12 has beautiful colors which are due to the point of view. The fourth panel on 14 has some very dark colors in the foreground, but they’re used to hide the horrors that are about to ensue. The reds and blues on 18 and 19 are great, combining threat and technology into one. Rosenberg is as strong as a right hook. Overall grade: A+ 

The letters: VC’s Joe Caramagna is the man behind the issue’s droid speech and transmissions, yells, Beetee sounds, scene settings, dialogue, pained dialogue, and whispered speech. It makes sense that the droids and broadcast transmissions would look the same because they are both mechanical based. The yells are large and in varying sizes and fonts to emphasize the different volumes at which they are cried. Beetee’s sounds resemble those of a famous astromech droid in the Star Wars Universe and is entirely appropriate. The whispered speech occurs between Aphra and Tip and was funny, since these two never whisper to each other. I’m still not a fan of the look of the dialogue, but I’ve been harping on that for years. Overall grade: A-

The final line: Action, surprises, and a lot of humor make Doctor Aphra a fantastic Star Wars title. I am always enamored with how Spurrier makes Aphra a character a reader can love on one page and then absolutely despise on the next. I’m rooting for her and always hoping her plans fail, leaving few bodies in her wake. The visuals on this are excellent, with the characters emoting beautifully — and that goes for the droids, too. Every contributor to this book is outstanding. This continues to be a favorite title of mine. Overall grade: A

To order a digital copy go to https://comicstore.marvel.com/Star-Wars-Doctor-Aphra-2016-28/digital-comic/50383?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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