In Review: Doctor Aphra #33

The visuals for this issue are a disaster.

The covers: A twosome to acquire if you’re got the collecting bug like the title character. The Regular cover by Ashley Witter has the doctor in full Indiana Jones mode (Where is that Lucasfilm property as a comic, Marvel?), swinging on a cable and kicking a foot out to the reader while sporting a smile. This Aphra in her element. The colors are a little too dark, making the art blob up. The Greatest Moments Variant by Paul Renaud spotlights “Lando’s Deal” with Han Solo shooting at Darth Vader over a dining table on Cloud City. Leia is horrified and Lando stands emotionlessly as Vader holds up his right hand and deflects the blast. This is definitely an iconic moment and Renaud has changed the point of view, showing this moment from the characters’ backs with Vader perfectly visibly at the head of the table. This is great, but it looks as if Renaud thought the title and text would be at the top of this illustration. Overall grades: Regular B and Greatest Moments Variant B+

The story: Simon Spurrier doesn’t waste any time, starting his tale on Unox with Aphra being confronted by Tolvan. The former Imperial shares how unhappy she is with the title character for using Bor Ifriem on her to wipe her memory, having her think she had killed Aphra. The doctor tries to explain, but Tolvan puts a gun to her head and pulls the trigger. This leads a two page flashback to Aphra and her mother on Arbiflux nineteen years ago. It’s here at this moment where her mother imparts some wisdom onto her child that will be the way she looks upon her life. It’s an interesting perspective in the Star Wars Universe and it’s one that others share. Reading these two pages puts all of Aphra’s actions into perspective. The story then moves to Trading Post Sh’ung-Tesk where Aphra wakes from the stun charge Tolvan blasted her with. She finds she’s now in the care of a group of individuals she thought she’d never see again. She learns about the superweapon that’s causing much consternation for everyone and gets to see it in action. Motivation is also given for Tolvan’s new profession and an offer is made to the doctor. After reading Pages 3 and 4 there can be no doubt how this will conclude. A solid story that’s setting the stage for bigger things to come. Overall grade: B+

The art: Wilton Santos, Caspar Wijngaard, and Andrea Broccardo provide pencils and Marc Deering and Walden Wong inks. I didn’t care for the previous issue’s art because there were two artists and two inkers, and now there are three artists. This book, again, doesn’t look as good as has in earlier issue. The characters start the issue looking very basic looking. The second page is essentially a full page splash, but the focus is on the doctor when it should be on the gun pointed at her head. Granted, the angle of the illustration leads the reader to the gun, but the weapon does not stand out on the page. Is Vuaada even looking at Aphra? The two paged flashback is obviously done by a different artist. The characters and the focus of each panel is much better. Even though this is a rural wasteland, there are terrific details in the setting. On Sh’ung-Tesk another artist takes over the settings become extremely plain. For example, look at the establishing shot at the top of Page 5: this is the design from a 1950’s science fiction comic. The large panel on 6 is exceptionally sparse for set pieces. Anything could have been added into this environment to punch it up. It is ridiculously empty. The computer screens that appear later look good, but they soon give way to overly dark panels on 9, and I’m just not meaning the clandestine locations. The top panel on 10 is worthless because nothing can be seen. The panel that tops 12 is practically worthless for not giving a clear image of the character or the weapon; spinning this point of view 180 degrees would have solved this problem. I am shocked at the overly simplistic large panel on 13, and, again, it is empty of details. The full-paged splash on 14 has rudimentary geometry employed for the background city. And are those supposed to be banthas in the foreground? I’m just going to stop my review of the art now. The story is told by the art, but it looks terrible. Overall grade: D

The colors: Not helping the artwork is the too often overly dark colors. I actually thought that the panels were darkened so much to hid the quality of the artwork. Chris O’Halloran and Stéphane Paitreau are the colorists, but, like the artists, there’s no specific pages credited to them. Why are the fifth and seventh panels on the first page so dark? It was done to increase the solemn tone of the story, but it looks like a jetliner passed overhead. The colors are so dark on the second page that the fun is lost in the ship and Tolvan’s arm. The darker colors on the flashback I expected; it’s a flashback, so colorists often age the story with darker colors. The glowing light source on 5 is excellent. The setting on 6 and 7 is too dark. How can the characters even see each other? Wouldn’t this group want bright colors on the second story so no one would sneak up on them? The computer screens cast a neat green glow on the pages they appear, but the characters in the room with them are still too dark. The top of 12 is too dark, but, to be fair, the colorists aren’t really given much to work with. I’m going to stop discussing the colors early. It’s too dark throughout this book. Overall grade: D-

The letters: Scene settings, dialogue, whispered text, sounds, and droid speech are created by VC’s Joe Caramagna. Because of the way they’re colored, the scene settings are blurry. I wish Marvel was using the scene settings from Age of Rebellion for this series because they’re much better. The dialogue is okay looking. The whispered text is in a smaller font, but is easy enough to read. The sounds, though few, are good, and the droid speech is nicely differed from dialogue by being in italics. Improvement could definitely be made in this series’ letters. Overall grade: B

The final line: The visuals for this issue are a disaster. The story is good, but these visuals hurt it. I can’t believe how good this series has looked until Issue #32. A change must be made on the visuals as soon as possible. If it continues to look like this, I wouldn’t be surprised if this book was cancelled. Overall grade: C

To order a digital copy go to https://comicstore.marvel.com/Star-Wars-Doctor-Aphra-2016-33/digital-comic/51730?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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