Canon Comic Review: Doctor Aphra #4

Doctor Aphra #4

Spoiler Review –

Chelli and Papa Aphra, along with the murderbots and Krrsantan, make their escape of Yavin IV in the action packed Doctor Aphra #4, setting in motion events and confrontations for the final issues of the first arc.

“Oh,” the statement used for humor, surprise, and ultimately disappointment by the Aphras throughout Doctor Aphra issue #4 was the same thing that left my mouth when I finished reading, with my usage meaning, “Oh damn, that was another fine issue.” While most of Aphra #4 is Chelli Aphra and her motley assortment of a crew escaping Imperial controlled Yavin IV, it mirrored some of the action-filled issues of Poe Dameron in that it both physically moved characters to the next part of the story in an entertaining way, but also mentally set them up for the remainder of the arc. I had thought we’d might be following a trail for awhile to the Ordu and their Citadel of Rur, but it seems Yavin IV’s temple light show was the final piece in Papa Aphra’s long-involved puzzle and they finally found it by issue’s end. Spending a lifetime hunting something down is never bound to be everything a person has built it up to be in their mind and Papa Aphra learns that the very hard way when facing the desolated and dead Citadel of Rur. Add in the fact he neglected his family and many others in the process of this hunt, his “Oh,” moment seems to spell the realization that maybe, just maybe, his obsessive quest for the Ordu might not have been worth it. He’s gone on quite the roller coaster ride, from the temple light show validating his work in the last issue to the dead Citadel bringing it crashing back down in this issue. In fact, his most telling comment is, “I only realize now, what I really wanted. Just one thing. For it to be real,” (emphasis mine) which certainly seems to imply he’s known the repercussions of his obsession turning out to be a wild bantha chase, as he would’ve never known how to face up to his failure and gain acceptance from his daughter or anyone else for that matter again; So much said in so little words, especially with the dead and crumbling Citadel in the foreground of the panel those words are said, bringing his revealing statement’s meaning to life on the page.

Doctor Aphra 4 Full CoverChelli approaches the escape from Yavin IV like she does most things: by the seat of her pants making things up, just barely getting out of sticky situations on mostly luck alone. But the whole thing seems to wear on her more than previous close calls have in the past, as this time it was in the service of something she’d spent the majority of her life assuming was a crazy, wasteful chase and a source of anger and contention towards her father, but suddenly his chase is real and she has to suffer through her humiliation to see them all make it out alive. However, she’s still right that he missed out on so much in his family’s life in his search for the Ordu, which didn’t need to come at the cost of said family, and she’s vindicated here when the Citadel fails to live up to his expectations, something she’d been trying to tell him for all her life but could never find the right words to get her point across. As justified as Aphra feels at this point, I can only imagine an apology or admittance from Papa Aphra that his journey cost their family life no matter the outcome would go a lot longer way with her, as she’s even more flippant than normal with her dad by the issue’s end. Just when things started to mesh for the two, they’ve fallen even further apart, but Kieron Gillen continues to make it a realistic, fluctuating relationship that I’m eager to see ebb and flow with whatever comes next, something I wasn’t sure I’d be able to say. Compared to some of the other father-daughter relationships throughout the saga, this one feels the most grounded, as they grew separated and distanced due to something any one of our parents could have done, instead of like say being the chosen one in a battle between two sides of the mystical Force, which is why it seems to work so well.

In my review of the previous issue I took interest in Captain Tolvan, the new female officer, because her impressive design and shrewd actions hinted at an interesting history. I was not disappointed in #4, as it expanded on the new Imperial in intriguing and canon-seeped ways, and leaving her alive to bring continued trouble to the Aphras in the issues ahead. Tolvan is stuck tearing through the remains of the Rebel Alliance’s Yavin IV base as part of demotion due to the raid on Eadu, which you might be wondering why that sounds so familiar: Jyn Erso went their with her group in Rogue One, only for the Rebel Alliance to strike out and destroy Eadu’s Imperial base, killing her father in the process. It seems Tolvan had been in charge of the base’s security and since her commanding officer had been General Tagge at the time, he simply demoted her because he felt she still had promise (while her new boss Ozzel reminds her Vader is way less forgiving, alluding to Tagge’s death as seen in the Darth Vader series…double tie-in!). This is a surprising but very unobtrusive tie to the latest Star Wars film and helps to quickly make a new character like Tolvan credibly grounded in her position and the era.

Kev Walker and Antonio Fabela’s work (with added help from Marc Deering on inks) has certainly grown on me over the past 4 issues and I can honestly say I enjoy how his style captures both the pulp adventure feel of the story while still managing to hit the dramatic notes (like the example I mentioned earlier about Papa Aphra’s words mixing with the hauntingly dead Citadel of Rur hanging in the cold embrace of space). Some of the eye catching scenes include one where the blown out back wall of the main hall of the Temple (where Luke, Han, and Chewie {he did get a medal, fyi} got their medals in A New Hope), hinting at the Empire’s attack on the Rebel base after the Death Star’s destruction/ And also the best scene of the entire issue: Bee Tee revealing pegs for Triple-Zero to hop on to make a quick escape, coupled with the murderous protocol droid’s wickedly hilarious line of how sprinting is undignified for him; that one joke makes their appearance in #4 not feel as subdued as it really was.

Here are a few other things:

  • Aphra‘s next arc has been revealed, though it comes as quite the surprise as the series will be taking part in Marvel’s second ever crossover: The Screaming Citadel. The event will cross Aphra with Star Wars, as the good Doctor recruits Luke Skywalker for help and they find themselves captured by brand new villains in a gothic-horror set tale featuring castles and symbiotes. The biggest news from the upcoming crossover? Chelli Aphra and Sana will, “…very much be part of the emotional arc of the whole thing,” meaning we’ll be taking a deeper dive into the relationship between the two first hinted at in the “Rebel Jail” arc of Star Wars. I was already all in for this because it meant more Aphra, but now I simply can’t wait for May to get here to see Aphra and Sana in a panel together again.
  • The general shape the destroyed moon (?) the Citadel of Rur is on mirrors both interpretations of the stories told by the Aphras about the Ordu Aspectu in the second issue. As for what looks like lightsabers in the hands of the dead bodies littering the Citadel’s floors, they come from Aphra’s version, where the Ordu were a broken and misguided dark sect of the ancient Jedi, which is the story I’ve assumed would be the closest to the truth. The biggest difference is how both of their stories showed the Citadel to be a castle like structure while in real life it’s more like a city. And suddenly I’m beginning to wonder: Could the Citadel in The Screaming Citadel be the Citadel of Rur? If there are surviving Force-users there, that would sound like a really good reason for Aphra to seek out Luke’s help (possibly even to help save her captured father in the process?) and for Luke to agree to helping so he can become the Jedi he believes he needs to be.
  • The other reviews, the one from David Marshall at MakingStarWars and of course Bria at Tosche-Station, agree even an action-packed issue like Doctor Aphra #4 had its fair share of the more compelling aspects of this series: its characters and setting.

There’s no turning back for the Aphras as they find themselves at the home of the Ordu Aspectu, but in the process find themselves even further apart than before in another top notch entry in the Doctor Aphra series.

+ The various uses of “Oh”

+ Chelli and Papa Aphra’s relationship gets even more complicated

+ Tolvan’s ties to recognizable events

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

Doctor Aphra
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