In Review: Doctor Aphra #31

Star Wars gold! Recommended!

The covers: A pair to find for this climatic issue of “Worst Among Equals.” The Regular cover by Ashley Witter has Chelli Aphra on her knees as an explosion occurs off to the far right. The reader cannot see the detonation, but the items caught in the blast are now flying past Aphra. The debris looks to be a droid. Could this be Triple-Zero’s bomb going off? Does this mean the bomb within Aphra is next to detonate? There is a red light on her neck that looks as if it’s the countdown clock gone to zero. Only one way to find out…Buy this book! Great tease of an image, though I don’t like the blurry imagery of the debris around her. I hate when comics do this because it lessens the work of the artist. I would have preferred to have seen this pre-computer alterations. The Greatest Moments Variant cover by Giuseppe Camuncoli & Jean Fran├žois Beaulieu is a stunner. Darth Vader stands among the bodies of the Rebels aboard the Rebel Blockade Runner he and his stormtroopers have just boarded. This is from the opening moments of the original film and looks terrific! Overall grades: Regular B- and Greatest Moments Variant A+

The story: Triple-Zero is done with Aphra and her antics. She’s laying on the ground injured and he’s walking away from her, setting off the timer for the proximity bombs within each of them. With the timer counting down, she crawls over to some nearby debris. A single noise causes Trip to stop in his tracks and turn his head. Aphra has done something to the junk that was next to her which sends 0-0-0 running back. The specifics of what’s occurred I’ll leave unrevealed so as not to spoil the surprise and the sensational dialogue that occurs. Needless to say, all those on Milvayne that are watching the proceedings are having their hearts warmed, while Doctor Cornelius Evazan, who created this dire situation for the pair, and Ponda Baba are not pleased. Also not enjoying the broadcasted spectacle is a character on Coruscant whose side story will be revealed by the end of this issue. Simon Spurrier continues to craft one of the most edgy, sarcastic, funny, joyous Star Wars sagas ever written. The dialogue is killer in this issue with Aphra saying she’s going to do the right thing and Trip always reminding her that she’s a terrible person — and she is! A character seen earlier in this story returns to help the characters get to their destination and it’s at this location that they are confronted by stormtroopers, with one of the bucket heads using a really big word that makes him the most educated trooper I’ve ever read. Chaos breaks out, but on 12 and 13 the unthinkable happens, with destruction exploding to a planetary level. Page 16 has an awesome reveal and 18 has a moment that’s been promised for so long go smartly in another direction, literally. The last page reveals whom the new character answers to and places Aphra in her most precarious situation yet. WHEW! This issue left me tired! Happy, but exhausted. Overall grade: A+

The art: The artwork by Emilio Laiso & Andrea Broccardo is also to be praised. The first two panels are full horizontals, stretching from one side of the page to the other. The first shows Aphra on the far left, reaching out to Trip, while the second shows the assassin droid on the far right walking away; what a slick way to show distance. The third panel teases what Aphra is reaching for. The large panel on Page 2 shows the return of a character. The fourth panel on the next page has a funny action that visually makes a confirmation before the dialogue explains it — fantastic! The top of 4 shows the four different groups of people watching the antics of the anti-heroes and they’re a great collection of characters. The mode of transportation at the bottom of the page is very funny. I love the reactions of two characters in the fourth panel on 5 when encountering two other individuals. The shock that ends Page 7 is funny, with even Trip looking surprised. The arrival of several characters on 8 is great, but not as impressive as the actions that follow. The energy and fire on 10 is spectacular. Pages 12 and 13 is a double-paged splash of an important action that features nine panels inserted atop and behind the larger image to show the reactions of people witnessing it and what they do because of it. It’s an epic moment for this character and deserved to be this big. The lack of motion by the characters in the foreground of five panels on 15 make the moment very intimate; though I have to admit to chuckling at what’s occurring in the background — great stuff! The appearances on 16 are glorious and only lack heroic music as the page is read. There’s a fantastic visual moment in the third panel on 18 because this action has been discussed for a long time in this series. It’s not stated, merely shown to the reader and it packs a lot of punch. What happens afterwards on the page is visual gold. The appearance of the individual on 10 ups the threat level of who’s after Aphra, though that last panel shows there may not be any more issues after this — it’s a great visual cliffhanger. Overall grade: A+

The colors: I would be neglectful if I also didn’t discuss the incredible work by Rachelle Rosenberg. Notice how the reds stick out on the first page: with the countdown sounds for their bombs, the fiery eyes of 0-0-0, and the slight glow emanating from Aphra’s neck. Adding to the anxiety level of the page is the sick green mist-like color used for the backgrounds, making this environment unhealthy. The strong yellow that appears in one sound on this page and is repeated several times on the next is a beacon on the pages, resulting in joy for one individual. Notice how colors tell the reader all is fine, with Aphra’s neck glow now becoming green. Aphra stands out on every panel she’s in due to her green hat, red lensed goggles, and orange vest. The pale white and red eyes of the creature that becomes the protagonist’s salvation captures attention whenever it appears. The location that’s revealed on 7 is in blues and violets, giving it a metropolitan flavor. When the action kicks in oranges and reds are used, showcasing the stormtroopers among all the violence. One threat has his dialogue balloons colored blue, making it very inhuman. The double-paged splash has a great yellow explosion with crimson as the background; this makes the action epic. The reds that dominate the top panel on Page 20 increase the evil present and also serve as a good transition to the shocking final panel. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Scene settings and character identifiers (the same font), dialogue, the countdown, droid sounds, droid speech and transmissions (the same font), sounds, and weakened speech are created by VC’s Joe Caramagna. The scene settings and character identifiers look good because they don’t have that extra border in white around them; other Star Wars books need to do the same. The countdown, droid sounds, and general sound effects are dramatic whenever they appear. The droid speech and transmissions are in the same italicized font, but they should be since both are mechanical in their origin. The dialogue still is too weakly designed. Would anyone be afraid of stormtroopers, regardless of their numbers, if they issued an ultimatum in that font? Not at all. I would be more afraid of their aiming abilities. Overall grade: B+

The final line: A spectacular conclusion with the title character doing the unthinkable. The characters are fun, frightening, and completely memorable. The situations and actions are nail biters. The visuals are epic, funny, and wholly Star Wars. The only nick against this issue is the inappropriately thin dialogue that leaves every speaker sounding small and weak. But that’s a minor nick — the majority of this book is Star Wars gold! Recommended. Overall grade: A

To order a digital copy go to https://comicstore.marvel.com/Star-Wars-Doctor-Aphra-2016-31/digital-comic/51133?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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