– Spoiler Review –
In Doctor Aphra #5, the first arc’s penultimate issue, neither plot nor character arcs are sacrificed as both advance in exciting and memorable ways only the Aphras can allow in another excellent and deep entry that makes the wait for the finale all the more antagonizing.
As Doctor Chelli Aphra and Papa Aphra get closer to the core that powers the Citadel of Rur, so too do we get to the core, in a surprisingly touching but still very Aphra-family type moment, of why Papa Aphra became so obsessed with the Ordu Aspectu in the first place. Chelli’s flippant attitude from the end of last issue pervades #5, as she counters her father’s excitement over each new discovery about the Ordu and Rur with realism and cynicism, whereas she’s normally more excitable about investigating ancient ruins in the search of valuable loot. He’s blind to it, much like she has felt he’s been her entire life, and with the object of his obsession so close, this is why she deferred to have a talk with him despite him offering to open up after escaping Yavin IV. But they finally have the chat here, trapped in the Citadel’s computer core with the Imperials outside and without a final power crystal to unlock the computer’s secrets, and Papa Aphra lets it all out, confessing how his terrible parenting and Ordu obsession came out of the most basic parental instinct: providing a safe place for their child to grow up in. He and Lona, Aphra’s mom (and yes, my heart be damned, that is where Chelli’s middle name comes from!), both had different opinions on how to do it: Papa Aphra wanted to bring back light to the universe (hinted at since issue #2), aka the Jedi, after the Great Jedi Purge and he thought his best bet was the Ordu Aspectu while her mom Lona wanted to go to the fringes of the galaxy and just live life without fear, Empire or Republic ruling the galaxy be damned. We already knew the two had split thanks to Aphra’s slight admission about her past in Darth Vader #10, but I never imagined the reasons would be so relatable and almost understandable: parents fighting on how best to provide safety and security to their child in an uncertain time, while also coming with a bit of (possibly planned) topical relevance.
But what I love the most about this candid reveal about both of her parents is how their warring ideologies seemed to influence Aphra into becoming the woman she is today. Being an archaeologist allowed her both to follow a bit in her father’s footsteps, digging into and unearthing reality from myths about the galaxy’s past, and her mother’s, by staying out of the galactic conflict and operating on the fringes. And that her focus in archaeology is on weapons speaks to her desire to provide safety for herself considering she was unable to save her mom and her dad had abandoned her in search of the Ordu. Sure, Chelli got a little involved in the galactic conflict once she teamed up with Vader, but it is clear now where she originally got the desire and push to choose the profession and her focus within it from. I had imagined we’d dive deeper into what makes Aphra tick in her series, and Kieron Gillen promised that before the series started, but I love how he managed to sneak so much info into a single conversation, which we had starting building up to back in the 2nd issue and is expertly paid off here in issue #5. And the best part of how the whole conversation unfolded is the big reveal Chelli, in her typical fashion, misled her father into believing there was no chance of them accessing Rur’s computer core (by hiding the missing power crystal) so that he would come out of his spell over the Ordu and face her truly for the first time since they’ve teamed up and admit what he’s done is wrong. Aphra’s never been a clean player, a skill sharpened by time spent with Vader, and she delectably uses that skill to her advantage here, while this also explains why she deferred her dad’s offer to talk at the end of last issue because she knew he’d never open up to her with the Ordu, and his doctorate blackmail, still on the table. It’s a bit of a dark twist to the favorable moment between the two, as it took Aphra tricking him into thinking all hope was lost he could bring light back into the galaxy for his baby girl to finally tell her why he was so obsessed with the Ordu in the first place, even to the point he was willing to blackmail her into helping him. Nothing’s ever been easy or clean between these two and I’m happy even in the biggest revelation, that stays the same.
You’d think from all the above their conversation was the only thing that transpired in another excellent Doctor Aphra issue, but there’s still more! Beyond the deep dive into Chelli and Papa Aphra’s relationship, some other big things happened: we begin to understand what happened with the Ordu Aspect and Rur, while Krrsantan makes a not-too-surprising choice…once you think about it for a moment. For starters, it seems my guess that the true story about the Ordu would end up being a mix of Papa and Chelli’s versions of the Ordu (from issue #2) might end up being right, even though things look to have turned out a bit more like Aphra’s version of events with a bit of twist. Bodies lie everywhere in the Citadel of Rur, including Rur’s own (I love Aphra’s line, “I’ve got to admit, I’ve seen more immortal.”), and they’ve all died in a rather painful fashion (which Aphra can’t help but continuously point out), which lines up with how Aphra told her version of the story. But Rur seems to have died trying to shut the computer off, which when Papa Aphra activates it after Chelli reveals her little trick, they are greeted by Eternal Rur, who takes over the body (or bodies, it wasn’t clear) of a nearby droid! It seems Rur might have got what he and the Ordu were after, immortality, but not the way he wanted and he tried to shut it all down before he and the others became consciousnesses that roved between machines; I imagine no matter his intentions and methods, he and the Ordu were expecting immortality more along the lines of what Qui-Gon will one day learn and eventually teach to Yoda (and down the line), not being turned into droids….we’ll probably find out a bit more in this arc’s final issue next month!* Either way, Rur’s consciousness hopping into droids (kind of reminds me of Doctor Cylo’s conscious hopping between bodies in the Darth Vader series…hmmm) is definitely not going to be the light Papa Aphra was planning on bringing back into the galaxy, which in a way fits with how Raiders of the Lost Ark ends with revealing some things are better left buried.
The other big moment is Krrsantan’s decision to leave Chelli and Papa Aphra at the Citadel, taking BT-1 and Triple-Zero with him in the Ark Angel II, and this even comes after Aphra reiterates her promise to help him locate those who turned him into a gladiator of sorts. The only reason the murderbots are even with Krrsantan is due to them being sent to the ship for a crystal mimic device Aphra has, to help them unlock the Citadel since they only have a few crystals on hand (several were left on Yavin IV), but not before the two droids make a puzzling discovery *something they conveniently don’t disclose): crystal fragments liter the floor. Did the Jedi who came to stop the Ordu Aspectu attempt to shatter all the crystals so no one could power the Citadel back up? Was Rur helping towards the end as well? Either way, this is another good hint powering back up the Citadel will be a bad idea, which fits again with some of the Raiders homage happening this arc. But besides hoping Aphra’s adventures will help pay him back and she’ll uncover his torturers, I’ve been wondering why Krrsantan would stick around as much as he has, so seeing him take off her to cut his losses for the time being wasn’t all to surprising and fit with the character well. In the end, this leaves me wondering: will our muderbots and Wookiee warrior come back and help the Aphras escape from Tolvan’s troops, will Eternal Rur’s awakening be the thing that helps the Aphras escape, or a little bit of both?
On the art side, I really enjoyed the use of colors here by Kev Walker, Antonio Fabela, and Marc Deering. The Citadel is a grave site in a way, bathed in stark greys and given little light. Therefore when things begin powering up or blasters start firing, it highlights the new colors even more, with the red blaster shots brightening up the place, as well as the purple glow of the computer core. Once they get inside, everything is basked in a pleasant but menacing green, almost giving it a sick-like feeling, which slowly morphs to fit that mood when Eternal Rur wakes up. My favorite panel has to be the near full page of the computer core and its surrounding area, where stepping off the ledge means a trip straight out into the cold reaches of space (something Aphra sure is eager never to do again), highlighted by the simple line, “Nice.”
Here are a few other things:
- Oh. My. Droids. While this announcement isn’t the Doctor Aphra action figure I’ve been dying for, it’s the next best thing: Kotobukiya, known for the stunningly detailed and lovingly crafted figures, is making BT-1 and Triple-Zero figures!!! These are Star Wars Celebration Orlando 2017 exclusives, but Kotobukiya’s site I linked to does allow you to pre-order them so maybe the collectible coin and mini-poster are the exclusive parts. Either way, I’ve never really bought a figure more expensive than something Hasbro sells (besides Sphero’s BB-8) but I don’t think it’ll be possible for me to pass the deadly duo up, no matter how my wallet feels about it, when I’m at SWCO (originally revealed on the latest Star Wars Show).
- *I just realized the next issue comes out the week of SWCO ’17 and I’ll already be in Orlando that Wednesday to enjoy some of Orlando’s sights. I might not get around to reading this issue till after the convention, unless there’s a comic shop nearby I can visit to pick it up! So there might be a delay in my review of the next issue, but there’ll be plenty of big news to distract me and you from the delay. Hopefully.
- Don’t forget, Doctor Aphra‘s next arc is actually the next big crossover event called The Screaming Citadel!
- Speaking of Raiders homages, come to think of it, the first issue’s opening is a bit of a dark mirror of Raiders opening: initially we don’t see Indiana Jones’ face, much like the character at the start of issue #1, and just when he thinks he gets away with the treasure the opposition (Dr. Belloq) snatches it away but Indiana escapes with his life at least. In Aphra #1, Chelli plays the opposition’s role, helping pit her as the anti-hero we know her to be even in her own series, and snatches away the treasure from the ‘Indiana’ character…but not before she kills him for it. Seeing how this arc’s ending might mirror Raiders, in that the Eternal Rur might take out the enemy in the Aphras’ paths, it made me reread the series so far with the film in mind and that’s when I found the similarities.
- Tolvan continues to be a competent villain and I hope she doesn’t meet her end by the time this arc closes, though her living might mean any report she makes on this could potentially reveal Aphra is alive to Vader if he happens to catch wind of it. So, maybe for Aphra’s continued existence, it might be okay if she doesn’t make it through.
The search for the Ordu Aspectu reaches a rather dark and exciting turn while Chelli gets Papa Aphra to finally admit some big truths about their family past in another excellent Doctor Aphra issue, #5, where story and character advance in entertaining ways.
+ Aphra’s trick to get her dad to open up
+ Discovering Aphra’s lifestyle influences
+ The Ordu Aspectu tale takes a surprising turn
The Screaming Citadel (crossover of Doctor Aphra and Star Wars on-goings)
Skywalker Strikes (#1-6) | Old Ben’s Journals | Showdown on the Smuggler’s Moon (#8-12) | Rebel Jail (#16-19) | The Last Flight of the Harbinger (#21-25) | Yoda’s Secret War (#26-30) | Out Among the Stars (#33-37) | Annual: #1 | #2 | #3
Black Squadron (#1-3) | Lockdown (#4-6) | The Gathering Storm (#7-13) | Legend Lost (#14 – 16) | War Stories (#17-19)
Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith
The Chosen One (#1-6)
Vader (#1-6) | Shadows and Secrets (#7-12) | The Shu-Torun War (#16-19) | End of Games (#20-25) | Annual: #1
Vader Down (crossover of Star Wars and Darth Vader on-goings)
The Last Padawan (#1-6) | First Blood (#7-12)
Jedi of the Republic – Mace Windu (miniseries)
Captain Phasma (miniseries)
Darth Maul (miniseries)
Han Solo (miniseries)
Rogue One (adaptation)
Obi-Wan & Anakin (miniseries)
Shattered Empire (miniseries)
Princess Leia (miniseries)
Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir (miniseries)