Released On: 30 October 2019
Rating: Rated T
Writer: Si Spurrier
Penciler: Elsa Charretier
Colourist: Edgar Delgado & Jim Campbell
Cover Artist: Elsa Charretier & Matt Hollingsworth
THE ARRANGEMENT – A DONE-IN-ONE TALE! MOS EISLEY: you will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy — and even from far away DOCTOR APHRA wears this place like a glove…Caught in her wake, struggling beast-hunters WINLOSS AND NOKK are about to cross paths with their most monstrous adversary yet…Oh blast, is that BLACK KRRSANTAN? And is there really an audience with JABBA THE HUTT up for grabs?
Let me pull back the curtain on my reviews. With the hectic world of teaching, my reviews get done at a weekend, when life slows down by a parsec, just enough so I can get my work done. However, this annual has had me so excited for months, that I’m reviewing it on Wednesday (the day of release). Why? For a single reason: Elsa Charretier. I have been reviewing Star Wars Adventures for over a year, the talent that it brings forth to its pages is incredible. My favourite artist, heck my favourite lady in Star Wars (with the exception of Princess Leia) is Charretier. Her work is incredible. Every tale she illustrates is a sight for the eyes. Not only that, but she gets what Star Wars is. As soon as I heard she would be illustrating Doctor Aphra I was beyond joy, so much so, that the weekend is far too far away, and the laptop, the comic, it’s already on release day…
…Let’s begin with the story: It wasn’t what I was expecting. The rollercoaster that is the Doctor Aphra series has gone from strength to strength in the last year, with a pace to match. It is always full of action, mystery and has been a joy to read. Being an annual, I should have expected something different, yet this is a massive turn around. It is a quiet build-up to the finale with a very slow pace. It rarely strays from the Mos Eisley cantina, and only then it’s usually only for a couple of panels. The good news? It works! It is a breath of fresh air from the regular series and so it should be. I did wonder how Spurrier was going to fit a story into the current series, yet he does it flawlessly. I am a huge fan of the Tales of The Mos Eisley Cantina anthology from Legends and I can’t help but draw a comparison between the two. There’s lots of little things going on in this story, little clues that all come together at the end. With the Legends book in the back of my head, this story works as something different to what you would usually find with Aphra. The setting is one of my favourites, drawing on the nostalgia that is in all of us.
The last annual for Doctor Aphra introduced us to Nokk and Winloss. These are two characters who have made several appearances since in the series and I have to say, I love them! There is something about these characters that is so wrong that it just works so well. The humour that is generated from them is fantastic and it seems right that they should feature so heavily in this annual. Add the incredible entrance by Black Krrsantan and you’re onto a great annual.
The one obvious thing missing from all of this is the doctor herself, Aphra. We only glimpse her in this comic, much in the way we did in annual two. With so much focus on her in the regular series, it works to have her move to the background and allowing the other characters to come to the forefront. Aphra is in true character in this annual, she comes across as all selfless, but if you’re a fan, I think you catch on pretty quickly that there is something in it for her as well (because there always is!). Spurrier works it that even without her direct presence, her influence is everywhere.
Finally, we come to the artwork. The last arc of Doctor Aphra showed a marked change to the art that we had come to expect from the series. This annual is no different. Charretier has a unique style and it is a welcome change to Aphra. The comic has never looked so good! Aphra herself looks incredible and it’s almost a shame that we don’t get to see more of her. Yet the thing I loved the most, was to see my beloved Mos Eisley illustrated by Charretier. The place looks great, most notably the outside of the cantina, it’s lifted straight from A New Hope. Inside the cantina itself, the use of shadows is excellent to give the impression of just how busy this place is. But more than anything, it’s the flow of the art for those parts that are without words. It’s like watching a film, with Charretier the director. She has a very cinematic vision in this issue, one only has to look at the entrance of Black Krrsantan to understand what I mean. Charretier has pulled out all the stops for this issue and it shows.
For months, I have been excited to see what was going to happen in this annual. The result is something that I never expected. A slow-moving story that feels like a day in the life of a bartender. Yet it works incredibly well. It’s a welcome change of pace compared to the thrill ride that is the regular series, I’m sure Spurrier welcomed something a little different! Added to this, is the incredible artwork of Charretier that fills in the silent spaces of the story without flaw. It’s a combination that works brilliantly. One can only hope that Charretier will be able to do some work on the new Aphra series that starts next year. The annuals from Marvel have been very hit and miss, but make no mistake, this issue is a hit through and through.
The Doctor Aphra Annual is a one-shot issue available from Marvel. This issue is available via the Marvel App and all good comic bookstores. This issue retails at $4.99.