Canon Comic Review: Doctor Aphra #18

Doctor Aphra #18

– Spoiler Review –

The penultimate issue of the “Remastered” arc, Doctor Aphra #18, puts Aphra, her band of misfits, and Hera Syndulla in one helluva bind aboard a secret Imperial base full of monstrosities. Just another day at the office for everyone’s favorite doctor!

Doctor Aphra 18 Full Cover APHRA AND HERA HOLY SHITAphra has professed before she’s much better with weapons than with people, which led to whatever quarrel Sana Starros has been salty about ever since their breakup, and watching her figure out how to express her feelings for Inspector Tolvan has been a blast. She doesn’t always only care for herself, as Aphra can care for others in her own, weird way, but it’s tinted with a bit of selfishness. Since issue #14, Aphra’s made it clear she’s been lonely ever since her murderbots became her masters and her Wookiee pal no longer needed her, and she’s been trying to convince Tolvan, in a series of roundabout ways, to leave the Empire and join her, thus ending her loneliness. Last issue, Aphra left Tolvan a communicator, which comes in handy when it’s revealed the Imperial Inspector has subdued the entire Rebel training base and offers up the ship to the commander of Hivebase-1, the secret Imperial R&D facility which houses the memories Triple-Zero so desperately wants; Tolvan is instructed to self-destruct the ship and stay aboard to see it through, leading to Aphra’s desperate pleas to Tolvan to let her silly honor go for a just a second and not give up her life for an Empire that doesn’t care for her…because Aphra cares for her! Or, as Aphra puts it, she finds Tolvan, “Nice.” Hera, no secret to relationships herself, picks up on Aphra’s loneliness right away, after Aphra admits she left Tolvan the communicator just so they could flirt, hilariously enough. And just when I’ve been saying Aphra is cracking through Tolvan’s Imperial heart little by little, and this issue looks to continue the process, Tolvan belays the order for the self-destruct but reveals Aphra’s intrusion of Hivebase! The elation and then sudden shock and disappointment on Aphra’s face as Tolvan goes from listening to Aphra to turning her in, is priceless. The issue ends with Tolvan happening to overhear the kill order on Aphra after she is captured by the Hivebase commander, along with a few remaining hooligans of her group, and there’s fear and worry tearing across Tolvan’s face. Will she come to Aphra’s rescue and these two can have a bit of a happy ending? Will her rescue attempt cost her her life? Will she rescue Aphra but cover her tracks, allowing herself to stay an Imperial, ending any chance of a relationship between them for the time being? I’m still rooting for these two, despite them being somewhat terrible people, they deserve a little moment of happiness.

Because while Aphra can find ways to care for other people, especially if they make her happy or her life better, she’s wholly unable to find that empathy for anyone else who have genuine feelings for others. Tam Polsa and Caysin Bog, the extremely odd but lovable couple, have been an intriguing addition to the series for this arc, not only because their minimized Rogue One roles/background stories are finally seeing the light of day in “Remastered,” but Aphra’s interactions with the damaged couple showcases some of the less favorable aspects of her personality; She’s not perfect, nor bad, nor good, but somewhere in a moral grey so deep, she’ll never crawl her way out, which is exactly why myself (and many other fans) have been enamored with her over the years. In Doctor Aphra #18, the story of how Tam was chasing Dr. Evanzan (yes, the ugly guy from the cantina scene who bugs Luke!), lost his badge in the process due to his obsession, and rescued some of the mad doctor’s test subjects, leading to his relationship with Caysin, finally gets discussed. Aphra nor readers needed to know that to understand how much they care for one another, but it makes Aphra’s decision to reprogram Caysin for a Plan B escape from the Hivebase just a little more tragic, as Caysin mindlessly (pardon the pun) becomes a dead distraction, allowing Aphra and crew to escape and cause Tam to go crazy on their strange attackers. It’s a real jerk move on Aphra’s part, though Tam short of tipped her hand for being too stuck up on his morals to help them escape from the Empire’s experimental subjects, but her survival always ranks the highest of priorities for her and it’s no surprise she pulled such a move. This leaves Tam, Sister Six, Aphra, and Hera, as even Dek-Nil, Aphra’s insane droid, bites the dust this issue. Since survival is certain for Aphra and Hera, I’m wondering like all hell how they get out of Hivebase-1 alive, as this ends with them in one helluva bind. While Tolvan’s actions will be part of their survival, I do wonder (see: desperately hope) if Dek-Nil didn’t completely perish and will manage to have one last glorious Rube Goldberg-like moment to help save Aphra’s (and Hera’s) hide.

Speaking of Hera and Aphra, I absolutely love how Hera sniffs out all of Aphra’s schemes and totally isn’t here for any of her shit. It’s how you’d expect a meeting of these two diametrically opposed women would go and their time together so far has practically lived up to expectations. As opposite as they might be, the do share one thing in common, and it’s how love hasn’t always gone smoothly for either. Hera and Kanan hovered between friends and a relationship, though never made the commitment until it was too late, while Aphra can’t seem to make the relationship she has or wants work. Hera stuck with this group of criminals highlights her squeaky clean image, though having to deal with Aphra does push her a bit towards a less savory edge, which is fun to see for the warrior Space Mom. Though this issue doesn’t touch on the possible thread I extrapolated from #17, that Hera was throwing herself into the work to avoid thinking about whatever loses she suffered in Star Wars Rebels‘ last 8 episodes, her having Jacen makes the idea moot because I’m sure she wants to spend time with him! I never once believed Aphra would give up Hera to the Imperials, not just because Hera lives past all this, but Aphra isn’t as terrible as she and others make her seem, with the bonus reason being she has a soft spot for pretty ladies.

Hivebase-1 is home to some of the most bizarre things I have ever seen in Star Wars, though I mean that in a good way! The experiments they’ve been running there, from the Wookiee with a mini-gun head, the rathtar melded with an interrogation droid, a stormtrooper with AT-ST legs, to whatever the heck is going on with the base’s Commander Yewl, looks like something out of a rejected batch of video game enemy concept art. Minus the commander, those monstrosities were actual rejects, frozen because they worked, but never replicated again simply due to costs, and while it did feel a little too crazy, seeing the Hutt troopers with the death troopers helped blend them into the story and normalize it just a tad; This is definitely a Kieron Gillen plot thread if I’ve ever seen one! However, I don’t think we’ll be seeing any of these oddities again in the near future, as part of me believes this base will be toast before this arc ends next issue.

But that leaves Aphra with Triple-Zero and BT-1 to still deal with and something tells me they won’t be happy with her performance on this mission, while I’m beginning to think the story thread of them being autonomous won’t be wrapped up by the end of the arc, meaning the creepy, crawling feeling that runs up my back every time I think about their freedom isn’t going away anytime soon…

Kieron Gillen’s stamp is definitely felt this issue (especially with the abominations storyline), but once again Si Spurrier’s addition hasn’t visibly altered this series in any discernible way, but it only continues to get better, so his inclusion is a welcomed one! Emilio Laiso (art) and Rachelle Rosenberg (colors) have increased my laughter in certain scenes time and time again with the exaggerated, emotive faces, with the colors really highlighting the mood of a scene, but the lack of definition in the background elements hinders some of the monstrosities getting their due.

Here are a few other things:

  • Those rebels on the training base just blindly jumped after Hera with the entire cruiser? They certainly haven’t been the brightest bunch of recruits.
  • Back when issue #17 came out, the series finale of Star Wars Rebels hadn’t aired yet, but now that it’s out I’m suddenly left wondering where Hera has Jacen stashed during all this?!
  • I plan on doing a separate write up about the editor shake up in the next couple of days, but this is both Editor Jordan D. White and Assistant Editor Heather Antos’ final issue of the Doctor Aphra series, as they are both ending their work on the Star Wars comics this year. Jordan is going to oversee X-Men, so at least staying within Marvel, while Heather has left the company for a whole different gig! I (and many other fans) will forever be in their debt for them being involved with and overseeing Aphra’s tales since her inception three years ago.
  • Speaking of which, March 25 was the 3 year anniversary of Aphra’s introduction in the panels of Darth Vader #3! And now she’s hosting Hera Syndulla within the pages of her own comic! She’s certainly come far.
  • With the second season of the microshort animated series Forces of Destiny recently released, Elisa Ardell, a Star Wars fan artist, imagined what Aphra would look like if she ever managed to get an episode of the series. Highly unlikely, but damn does Elisa make it look like Aphra would work really well in that series’ animation!
  • Here’s some fantastic cosplay of Aphra with Vader by Louise Julie.
  • Aphra‘s second trade paperback volume, collecting issues #9-13 and Annual #1, placed second in the top 100 best selling graphic novels of Febraury! That’s an impressive feat, and it’s even more so when you consider the number 1 spot, as usual when a new TPB of the series releases, was Saga‘s 8th volume! Second only to Saga, which is basically first since it’s hard to imagine that not being at the top spot, though it totally deserves it for being so damn spectacular all these years.

Doctor Aphra #18 throws Aphra and her team through the ringer, only for them to end up in an even worse, though wonderfully entertaining, situation.

+ Aphra and Tolvan’s back and forth

+ The good and bad of Aphra

+ One heck of a situation for Aphra and Hera to get out of alive

 Background of art feels undefined at times

Ryan is Mynock Manor’s Head Butler. You can follow him on Twitter @BrushYourTeeth. You can follow the website @MynockManor.

Doctor Aphra
Aphra (#1-6) | And the Enormous Profit (#9-13) | Remastered: #14 | #15 | #16 | #17 | Annual: #1

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)
Poe Dameron
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
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Ashes of Jedha (#38-43) | Mutiny at Mon Cala (#44-49) | Annual: #3

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