– Spoiler Review –
The Doctor Aphra series is back with a new arc, new co-writer, and new art team in issue #14! It’s a riotous beginning to the “Remastered” arc that reintroduces us to a familiar Imperial, makes your skin crawl with its ending, and will leave you laughing with delight at Aphra’s honest attempts at matchmaking, all of which come together to make a new high-point for the excellent series.
Back in issue #3, the series introduced Imperial Captain Magna Tolvan, whose design of grey hair and wound coverings over her neck left an impression with me because it seemed like she had a lot of stories from her past. By issue #6, when Aphra allows Tolvan to live, depositing her on a backwater planet, it was apparent she’d impressed Aphra as well, whose simple reasoning for letting her live involved the good Captain being “cute.” We catch up with Tolvan’s life post-Aphra run-in this issue and it’s not looking good at all, which seems to be the case for people who get pulled into Aphra’s wake, as Tolvan’s been demoted and plopped out on a quiet assignment guarding a remote comm array. Her superiors make fun of her, she’s lost her mentor (Inspector Thanoth! What an awesome cameo/connection), and her career is effectively over. It’s always a nice surprise when we can sympathize with an Imperial and I found myself rooting for her a bit when the orbital pod landed and starting spilling out enemies, as she showed her cool under fire and tactical mind, aspects that have been ignored by her superiors due to some unlucky circumstances. But then out of the pod poured the good Doctor Aphra, who’s reaction to seeing Tolvan got me laughing quite a bit: a thumbs up.
After that entrance, how could the issue top that moment? Why, how about Aphra getting some one-on-one time with Captain Tolvan! Their conversation brings out a side of Aphra we rarely see: earnest and honest. The dialogue here as Aphra attempts to get to know Tolvan, who’s current state leaves her more open to the encounter than their first meeting, is heartwarming and funny, as she lets her guard down and really opens up to Tolvan. Aphra’s romantic leanings towards Tolvan is handled respectfully and honest here, seeming no different than had Aphra not been of the LGBTQ+ persuasion. While I’ve been rooting for Sana and Aphra to overcome their past and rekindled their lost flame, The Screaming Citadel crossover hinted that ship had past, and now I’m really hoping so because Aphra and Tolvan might be an even better pairing than I could’ve imagined. Both have lost people to confide in, even if in Aphra’s case it was a pair of homicidal droids, and they’ve both lost their ways in their respective careers. Together, with Tolvan’s tactical skills and Aphra’s habit for getting into trouble, they could make quite the unstoppable pair. Part of me believes Tolvan won’t ever leave the Empire, preventing these two from getting together, but I’ve got to have some hope for Aphra’s sake because you can tell she’s genuinely interested. I mean, who else has Aphra ever let live twice after encountering them that was an enemy? No one.
While they part on good-ish terms, Aphra’s not-really-friends friends blow up the base, killing everyone there despite Aphra’s promise to the contrary, something she made due to have the lack of knowledge regarding the full mission. Tolvan is pissed after her base is razed of course, and seeing how Aphra and Tolvan’s back and forth continues, with Aphra likely trying to clear her name so Tolvan doesn’t see her as enemy again, will be the main aspect of this arc I’ll be looking forward to see unfold. The other aspect, which is where this arc gets its name “Remastered” from, leaves us with quite the surprising and frightening development: Aphra has a new master…Triple-Zero!
Seeing the murderbots Triple-Zero and Bee Tee freed at the end of issue #13 literally made my skin crawl and seeing the dastardly protocol droid standing over Aphra, hand on her shoulder, as she calls him Master, sent even more chills up and down my spine that I’m not sure I can handle this new development! I did fear for Aphra’s life under Vader, but he had a cold rational that made her survival not impossible, but Triple-Zero’s penchant for mayhem, murder, and a total disregard for any meatbag’s life once they start boring him/out-live their purpose puts Aphra in a violate situation that makes being under Vader like her recent beach vacation. How and why Triple-Zero and Bee Tee roped her in is a story I’m frightened but eager to learn, while how she manages to get of this incredible mess she created for herself might just be one for the ages.
As original series writer, and Aphra creator, Kieron Gillen takes over for the Star Wars mainline series, he’ll be splitting writing duties on Aphra going forward with Simon “Si” Spurrier. I couldn’t tell where one writer ended and the other started, but if this is the level of quality we’ll get regardless if they both share or only one writers for an issue, then I believe we’ll be in solid hands no matter who is at the helm. With the new arc comes a new artist team of Emilio Laiso (art) and Rachelle Rosenberg (colors) and, despite my initial reservations after Laiso’s work on the Rogue One adaptation, my fears go unfounded as his work here emulates the work he did the Star Wars Annual #2, if not better in some ways. I had come to enjoy the previous art team’s work, but one issue I always had with it was how Aphra didn’t quite look as Space-Asian as originally drawn by Salvador Larroca in the Darth Vader series, but Laiso returns her to the more traditional look and the series benefits from the change. Also, while Laiso and Rosenberg seemed to de-age Tolvan a bit, she still retains her air of authority. The rest of the art looked great as well, with Rosenberg’s colors bringing explosions to life and giving Triple-Zero’s horrible red eyes the ability to strike fear in readers (see: me). Joe Caramagna joins our adventures this arc for lettering purposes, doing a wonderful job as always with allowing the art to shine and the dialogue easy to follow.
And of course a big shout out to Jordan D. White, editor, and Heather Antos, assistant editor, for letting this awesome character and her book continue, as well as letting this latest arc bring Aphra’s orientation to the forefront in a big and entertaining way.
Here are a few other things:
- Tolvan is not only connected to Rogue One due to being in command of the Eadu outpost when the Rebellion hit it, but she’s now connected to the Darth Vader series 1 character Inspector Thanoth, one of the best original characters from there.
- The way Aphra picks her false name to give to Tolvan is just plain delightful.
- Rexa, the hulking mini-gun mercenary that’s part of the muderbots’ crew, has the same implants as Lobot. Did she get them before joining up with the murderbots or after?
- There’s been Triple-Zero cosplay before, but now someone is building a full-sized BT-1!! Check out his progress on Twitter and damn does it look quite intimidating in real life. Probably the wrong time to make the droid though, considering once he’s finished Bee Tee will be free to rule all humans.
- Update 11/27/17: Over at CBR, both Kieron Gillen and Simon Spurrier are interviewed about the “Remastered” arc and holy cow, did my excitement for what’s ahead skyrocket! They discuss us meeting a droid creation of Aphra’s, the fun of the rogues gallery she’s stuck with in Triple-Zero’s crew, and even teases a surprise cameo late in the arc! Better yet, they hint there are plenty of opportunities for Tolvan and Aphra, and suddenly I’m bouncing off the walls in excitement for the rest of this arc (not like I wasn’t already, but still). Be sure to check it out!
Doctor Aphra issue #14 is rousing, funny, and candid beginning to a new era for the series, setting the bar even higher than it has been set before.
+ Tolvan’s New Low
+ Aphra’s Even Bigger Low
+ Aphra and Tolvan’s candid, honest conversation
+ New arc, new art team, new co-writer=new high point for the series!
CURRENT SERIES COMIC REVIEWS:
Darth Vader – Dark Lord of the Sith
The Chosen One (#1-6) | The Dying Light (#7-10) | The Rule of Five (#11-12) | Burning Seas (#13-18)
Black Squadron (#1-3) | Lockdown (#4-6) | The Gathering Storm (#7-13) | Legend Lost (#14 – 16) | War Stories (#17-19) | Legend Found (#20-25) | Annual: #1
Ashes of Jedha (#38-43) | Mutiny at Mon Cala (#44-49) | Annual: #3