In Review: Doctor Aphra Annual #3

A fun, twisted story is lessened by incomplete visuals and dreary colors.

The covers: There are three covers to add to your collection this go around if Chelli Aphra doesn’t get them first. The Regular cover by Elsa Charretier & Matt Hollingsworth shows Aphra sitting among a ton of mechanical wreckage holding an outdated holoprojector that’s projecting images of Nokk, her husband Winloss, and Black Krrsantan. Charretier has been doing art for some time for IDW’s Star Wars Adventures title so it’s not surprising to see her make the leap to Star Wars for Marvel. The art is okay, but I’d prefer to see the colors be a lot brighter than this. It’s like it’s colored through a filter. The Greatest Moments Variant cover by Mike McKone & José Villarubia has Han taking Chewie’s bowcaster from him in The Force Awakens. The pair are looking forward to see where the old smuggler can take his next shot. It’s not a great cover and the coloring is very dull. What’s up with these blasé colors? Thankfully the final cover is the best of the three. The Variant cover by Colleen Doran has the title character standing front and center on a sandy world. On the left are the approaching figures of Nokk and Winloss. The characters look great and the colors are gorgeous. This is how a cover should look! Overall grades: Regular C, Greatest Moments Variant C, and Variant A

The story: This is a fun story from Simon Spurrier. Aphra is telling a story on a recorded message being listened to by an unseen character that has scaly green hands. The doctor talks about how everything causes ripples. She then gives the example of a female Trandoshan named Nokk that was taken down by a jealous male named Skikkesk, who goes as far to purge her blood line. This Nokk met up with a “burned-out old Human with a knack for causing ripples of his own — usually in the wrong places.” His name is Winloss. The two eventually cross paths with Aphra who allow her to leave with her life because they realize there is nothing they can do to punish her that she’s not already doing to herself. Because of this, Aphra decides to pay this pair back. She knows what planet Skikkesk is on. All that Nokk (the individual listening to the message) has to do is deliver a message and “maybe even think a little better of me too.” The couple is in the Cantina in Mos Eisley on Tatooine. Winloss speaks with the bartender Shrem, asking him to look after something they have while they go out to take care of some business. It’s from this point on that Shrem becomes the main character of the story. The story wraps around the ripples that Aphra has begun with this act of kindness, but Shrem doesn’t realize what’s happening until it’s too late. A fun tale with some fun bits. Overall grade: A

The art: I’ve said in other reviews of Elsa Charretier’s work that it would probably look better in black and white than colored, because her style is fairly loose. I have the same sentiments looking at his book. Charretier starts out with a strong image of Aphra on the first page, but look at the droids around her — incomplete lines give the illustration an unfinished look. Had this panel not been colored, it would look better. The final panel on the page shows Nokk; she, too, is incomplete and the trees behind her are very simplistic. When characters are shown from a distance they get very sketchy. Take a look at the second panel on Page 2 to see the first example of this. It is also apparent in the two panels that follow it. The large panel on 4 should have been a Wow moment, but with characters incomplete it becomes a “Could Have Been” moment. The exterior shots of the cantina, of which there are several, are also disappointing. It’s obvious as to what’s happening in these panels and never impede in the telling of the story, but every panel has elements that have me wishing they had been completed. Black Krrsantan looks really different. Granted, it’s Charretier’s style, but I’ve never seen a Wookiee with such a small head. I do like some of the visuals, such as the full-paged splash on 24 (though it has incomplete line work) and Jabba looks terrific. I could go on and state examples of where this book looks incomplete, but it’s like beating a dead Bantha. Overall grade: C-

The colors: Hurting the book even more than the artwork are the colors by Edgar Delgado and Jim Campbell. I wish that the credits had stated who was responsible for what pages so I could be specific with my comments, but it does not. This book is drowning in browns and tans. Yes, those are the colors fans will most associate with Tatooine, but no one in this book has any bright colors, or even primary colors? This book was just dreary to read. I realize that it’s supposed to be a story from the underbelly of the Star Wars Universe, but even scum have bright colors on them. The lack of bright colors only increased my need to see Charretier’s work in black and white. Overall grade: D-

The letters: Joe Caramagna is the creator of this issue’s dialogue, transmissions, scene settings, sounds, Wookiee dialogue, and Huttese. The dialogue has certain words bolded so that readers can properly hear the stress in characters’ speech which is cool. The transmissions are differed from the dialogue by being in italics, which gives them a proper mechanical filter. The scene scene settings blend into the background due to their coloring. I really dislike these scene settings which appear in other Star Wars books. The sounds are good, with Charretier doing some of the smaller ones herself. The Wookiee dialogue is fine and the Huttese looks great! I can’t recalling seeing Huttese in a recent Marvel comic, so this was cool. Overall grade: B+

The final line: A fun, twisted story is lessened by incomplete visuals and dreary colors. This is a shame because this could have a classic tale. Aphra is barely in this book, but her presence and ability to chart the details in a devious plan are obvious. This reads better than it looks. Decent for long time fans, but off-putting for new readers. Overall grade: C+

To order a digital copy go to https://comicstore.marvel.com/Star-Wars-Doctor-Aphra-2016-Annual-3/digital-comic/52808?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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