Comic Review: Doctor Aphra #32

Published: May 8, 2019
Rating: Rated T
Writer: SIMON SPURRIER
Penciler: Wilton Santos and Caspar Wijngaard
Cover Artist: Ashley Witter

The synopsis;

UNSPEAKABLE REBEL SUPERWEAPON: PART 1
A NEW ADVENTURE STARTS HERE!
After a year of close shaves, Doctor CHELLI APHRA is taking it easy and lying low. Probably herding banthas or something. She’s smart like that, right? NAH, not really. The galaxy’s shadiest archaeologist is back doing what she does best: busting into alien temples to steal horrifying weapons for huge profit. She just can’t stop herself. But plenty of other people could. Powerful factions are watching closely: Rebel and Empire, familiar and strange – all calculating whether Aphra’s more useful alive… or dead.

The story;

Part one of ‘Unspeakable Rebel Superweapon’, begins twenty years ago, with us seeing a young Aphra with her parents. Her father is getting obsessed by some new find, taking little interest in his daughter. Her mother, realising that Aphra’s father has little time for them, gets Aphra to pack some things…

Back to present day, Aphra and Vulaada are on an adventure, trying not to get killed. Although Aphra says she took Vulaada in from the kindness of her heart, it’s actually because the little girl stowed aboard. The reason they are on this particular adventure, is the mysterious woman has hired them to track down an artefact and is willing to pay handsomely. With some splicing and luck, they are able to locate the artefact (a cloak). On the way back to the ship, Aphra spots a very rare gun that is made with lightsaber technology. Not particularly worrying about Vulaada, Aphra goes after the gun.

In the past, we see Aphra and her mother leaving the planet and Aphra’s father…

On the Ark Angel, Aphra is looking rather smug next to Vulaada as she holds the gun. Vulaada isn’t happy with Aphra, blaming her for almost getting the younger girl killed.

Back in the past, we see Aphra and her mother on an Outer Rim world, trying to do some form of farming. Young Aphra doesn’t like it, she finds it mundane and wants to be out amongst the stars. However, once she has ranted at her mum, raiders appear, shooting Aphra’s mum in the back…

Having returned ‘home’ to an abandoned spice mine, Aphra soon finds that she is confronted by Sister Six, who is working for the Rebels. They are after the weapon Aphra stole. However, before much can be said, the captain of these particular Rebels emerges, Magna Tolvan.

The review;

I’ve said before how nervous I get when a new story arc begins with Doctor Aphra. It has been laced in the past with very weak plots, questionable art and has never been very consistent. The last two arcs, heralded by Spurrier, have been some of the very best this series has had to offer. Spurrier has finally found the winning formula and the series has gone from strength to strength. It meant my apprehension with this new arc was a lot less.

The first thing that struck me right away about this issue was the artwork. For some reason, there has been a change in artists. After the abysmal art from earlier in the series, I’d finally become very comfortable with the art we had been getting. This new artwork by Santos and Wijngaard, it’s different. Most of the issue is very bright, something I’m not usually a fan of. However, here? I love it. There is a contrast in the colours between the past and the present. The past is filled with dull, darker tones, the kind of style I like. And as mentioned, the present is bright. Somehow, it reminds me of classic science fiction, and somehow, they make it work. The story looks fresh, and after everything Aphra has been through, it does seem fitting that the art reflects this.

What really steals the show here is Aphra’s background. We don’t know a lot and to see some of the gaps filled in is exciting. It explains an awful lot about why Aphra is the way she is, and surely that must be building up to something. Aphra is so like her father, yet it is her mother who has moulded Aphra into the emotional train wreck that she is. I also find it slightly weird that Aphra’s mother looks similar to Tolvan (Freud would have a field day). With the basic story being basic, I believe (or hope) that these flashbacks will be the main driving force of this storyline. With two gripping arcs previously, it seems wise for Spurrier to slow things down and provide a different type of story.

We see a lot of returning characters. Vulaada is back, and I’m very glad she is. Although how she got her pet to travel with them is a different question. With Triple Zero and Beetee gone (at least temporarily), the story needs someone for Aphra to bounce off, and I think having an apprentice is perfect. It allows us to see what Aphra has actually learnt and what skills she thinks are important. We also see Sister Six and the ‘mysterious’ woman back.

However, the one character I’m so glad to see returning is Tolvan. One panel, Spurrier you’re a tease! The last arc did not see these two interact. The pause was definitely the right choice, but I also think that the relationship Aphra and Tolvan have, is one of the most compelling aspects of this series. It is what has brought me back again and again. Now we get to see what Tolvan has been doing with the Rebels and how she will respond to Aphra being back.

The last two arcs have been fast paced, action intensive and always topping what has come before. This arc promises to be something different. It doesn’t have lots of action (at least not as much as we’ve come to expect from Doctor Aphra) but instead, is sending us on an emotional ride. This is where we get to find out just what made Aphra into who she is today and possibly, where she is going. With this change, we also see new artists, and I look forward to what else they may bring in the next few issues. In some ways, it’s all change with Doctor Aphra, yet change, done right, can be a very good thing indeed…

Availability;

Doctor Aphra is an ongoing series available from Marvel. This issue is available via the Marvel App and all good comic book stores. This issue retails at $3.99.