– Spoiler Review –
Fresh off the Screaming Citadel crossover with the Star Wars series, Doctor Aphra #9 puts the titular character back on the search for more credits, setting up a black market bidding war on her newly awoken Rur crystal. As great as parts of the crossover were for Aphra, putting her back at the forefront of her own series in her own criminal corner of the galaxy is a refreshing reminder of her series’ potential in the first place, while the issue’s cliffhanger is going to have every Aphra fan praying to the Force for her and for more, as this is the series at its best!
Chelli Aphra wastes no time turning the activated Rur crystal (thanks to the Queen of the Screaming Citadel) into potential for profit, finding a way to block the ancient Jedi’s technopathy aka ability to take over nearby technology so it can be used as the new owner pleases (an ability proven most effectively to the crowd gathered for the bid). The bidders assembled include many new and old criminals, broadening the galaxy’s obscure areas, just as I had hoped and was excited to see happen with the Aphra series in the first place. While overall Doctor Aphra #9 is largely set up for the rest of the arc, it’s done in Kieron Gillen’s usual way: it’s cleverly hidden within hilarious and entertaining character moments and dialogue, while its cliffhanger sets every hair on my neck on edge…again, in an entertaining way as well. It’ll be interested to see who, if anyone, makes it out of this alive, as both the cliffhanger (yes, I will cover that in a second) and one character’s astute observation that Aphra littered automated guns throughout the place she’s keeping a technopath point to quite the bloodbath.
Now that Aphra has scorned her chance at hanging out with her pal Luke and just barely reset her relationship with Sana to zero, she’s thrown herself back into her work, making sure everything is ready to sell Rur and make the big profits she’s been hoping for. I love how there’s simply no mention nor any indication of remorse, not only for all the insanity that happened at the Screaming Citadel, but also nothing for tricking her father and putting Rur out on the black market anyways. She might have taken some risks for others at the Citadel, even in moments where it didn’t help her get anything she wanted, but in the end she’s still Aphra and there’s no one she needs to stick her neck out for besides herself once again. But her quest for more credits and focusing on herself has left her distracted from a bigger issue right under her nose: Triple-Zero and Bee Tee.
Since their very activation, these two lovable murderbots of total death and destruction have been looking for ways to override their commands, kill their masters, and run amok in the galaxy to rain down a dark abyss on its denizens. The only thing holding them back, for a bit at a time, is if their masters provide the kind of entertainment they thirst for, something the Aphra series reminded Darth Vader (series 1) readers of it/brought the point up to new readers back in the first issue, where Triple-Zero killed a gangster trying to collect credits from Aphra because he enjoyed the mischief he was allowed to get up to with her. It seems since the Citadel incident, she’s been so focused on getting everything ready that the two murderbots have gotten restless for, you guessed it, more mayhem and murder, as she’s not been providing any opportunities (the bickering in this argument is deliciously full of laugh out loud black humor). She tries to appease the droids by making a promise that once this sell is over, she’ll get them upgrades and targets to kill, ordering them to not kill anyone unless she says so (though Triple-Zero knows a lie when he hears one). Once again, she’s been too distracted, as I don’t think she’d have given such a terribly specific order to these cunning droids, as her new order leaves Triple-Zero delightfully singing, “loophole!”
The loophole? They can’t kill anyone, but they could probably convince someone else to kill for them. And who would probably want Aphra dead the most, while not shutting down the murderbots and eventually using them to their full capacity? Yup, Triple-Zero and Bee Tee called up Darth Vader himself!!!! I’ve been wondering how and when Vader would ever learn about Aphra’s survival and what he’d do about it, and this issue provided part of that answer much sooner than I expected. Though part of me always wondered if Vader somehow knew Aphra survived and tolerated this because he admired her tenacity/it got Palpatine off his back about her, I knew he would never go actively searching for her, so she had to do something that would likely gain his attention. I never guessed it would be ignoring the murderous tendencies of the murderbots, but it’s so fitting I love how this brings Aphra back to Vader’s attention. As a fan of the character, this leaves me immensely worried and immensely surprised we’re going down this well this soon, but I’m excited to see what Vader will do about Aphra…and
if how (got to have some confidence!) Aphra will survive him once again. Either way, the moment left me with chills (even if the newest Marvel solicitations got a jump on the surprise).
By the end of the first six issues, I’d really grown to like and enjoy Kev Walker (Penciler), Marc Deering (Inks), and Antonio Fabela’s (Colorist) art, and issue #9 solidifies my feelings towards it. There’s just the right amount of grit to Aphra’s underworld dealings, even at her glitzy party, while the overall vibe from the character art/expressions fits rather well with the series’ tone. And though Aphra may not wear the same dress seen in the issue’s cover (Krrsanta doesn’t don any formal wear, unfortunately), her somewhat Poison Ivy-inspired strapless dress with a strange pattern on it, complete with eye mask, took a bit to grow on me, but it seems more like the thing she’d wear than the Leia-like dress on the cover.
Here are a few other things:
- The organization called The Pride, represented by the Rodian Yonak, and the Jabba-loyal Hutt named Sutha, were first introduced (and never seen again), in Gillen’s Darth Vader series, issue #7. Vader took out the Pride to help Jabba, represented in that area of space by Sutha, and confiscated their credits, which he later had Aphra steal so he could fund his side ventures. Considering they were only in one issue, it’s really cool to see them brought up again, especially by the guy who wrote them in the first place.
- Also neat to see again, criminal-wise: Papa Toren! He’s now been in 3 series, the others being Poe Dameron (though I wouldn’t count on seeing him in anything chronologically after that…) and Lando. I still think his visage from the Lando comic, where he was first introduced, is his best look and the one here is fine.
- When the preview pages for the issue came up, curiously the new arc’s title wasn’t included at the top of the opening crawl. It led me to hope it might be a play on a line from Spaceballs so it would be called, “The Search for More Credits.” I’m happy I didn’t learn the arc’s title till I opened the pages, as it left me laughing and, while I was wrong, it seems I had been aiming in the right direction: “And the Enormous Profit.” Now we’re talking!
- Salvador Larroca, the artist for the original Darth Vader series who first breathed life into Doctor Aphra, hung out with a rather great cosplayer at a recent convention. Looks like they’re ready to stir up some trouble!
Tons of gangster and criminals all in the same place? The muderbots on the line to Aphra’s most relentless enemy? An ancient consciousness able to take over technology surrounded by it? Anything and everything can go wrong and it’s that potential which brings out the strengths of the Doctor Aphra series in another top notch, issue post-crossover!
+ So much potential for things to go horribly, entertainingly wrong
+ Neglected murderbots call the big boss
+ Series exploring obscure corners of the galaxy
+ Just as strong as it was before the crossover
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
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)
Darth Maul (mini-series)
Han Solo (mini-series)
Rogue One (adaptation)
Obi-Wan & Anakin (mini-series)
Shattered Empire (mini-series)
Princess Leia (mini-series)
Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir (mini-series)