– Spoiler Review –
The history behind Black Krrsantan’s origins is revealed in Doctor Aphra Annual #1, an overly fun, quick-paced, and concise standalone adventure that even nicely fits into the series’ larger story.
Krrsantan has actually been around longer than Chelli Aphra has (though not much longer), but he’s never been the main focus like her and Aphra Annual #1 changes that as we finally get to learn what the Xonti Brothers not only did to him, but how he believes he owes them his own unique brand of life debt. As recently as Aphra #10, it certainly seemed like Krrsantan was looking to outright murder the Xonti brothers, but that’s not his initial intentions: they changed his life (for better and worse) and he wants to change theirs. I had always assumed the change was them whipping the fighting, blood-thirsty spirit into him that he’s had for as long as we’ve known him, but it turns out that was already part of Krrsantan’s DNA, considering he actually volunteered to join the fighting pits (revealed through a action-packed and funny story from the sole surviving member of a Trandoshan hunting party unlucky enough to cross into Krrsantan’s path). In actuality, the Xonti’s gave him metallic fists, forever making him an undefeated champion of the fighting pits, like he always wanted, but the torture and treatment at their hands is what pissed him off the most. I’m now curious as hell to know how Krrsantan plans to go about bringing reciprocal change into the brothers’ lives, and if he’ll manage to do so, in the upcoming issues of the series proper. How we find out about this story is actually from Krrsantan himself, who happily tells his tale to two reporters as a distraction, and it’s this set up that provides plenty of laughs and helps keep events of this issue engaging, especially as it ties into the larger Aphra series narrative.
The distraction is so Aphra, with the murderbots, can slice into the reporters underground Holonet network, Undervine, to send out invitations to her upcoming sale of the Rur crystal, a storyline we’re 3 issues into already. The reporters, Dixnet and Domthro, are entertaining new characters both because of how they banter with one another and they have set out on a mission to report the truth of the galaxy through the alternative, non-Empire Holonet. It screams its own spin-off potential, as they seem like the type of complex characters getting the focus these days that would be fun to follow, while learning more about the independent (from both the Empire and the Rebellion) Undervine, like how it operates and what else it broadcasts, holds tons of story potential. That I want to see more of these two after only one issue with them means someone was doing their job correctly. Domthro has one of the best lines of the issue, “Just leaving quickly, for absolutely no reason.”
Aphra isn’t a large part of this issue, but she, along with the murderbots, take advantage of their limited space, much like they would when they played second-fiddle to Darth Vader. This works perfectly, as it helps keep Krrsantan the rightful focus of the issue but still keeps her in the loop and helps to tie into the current events of the series. As great as Domthro’s line was above (which will make sense once you have the context so go read this!), of course Aphra and the murderbots have the top lines of the issue, including Triple-Zero’s overly excited response to Krrsantan’s carnage in the fighting pits, mirroring his slack-jawed love (despite having no jaw) for Krrsantan hopped up on Abersyn symbiotes (as seen in The Screaming Citadel).
It should be no secret by now that I feel like Gillen did a fantastic job with this issue, considering all the above is thanks to his writing, so lets focus a little bit on art newcomers Marc Laming and Will Sliney. Marc Laming’s style reminded me slightly of Mark Brooks’ (Han Solo comic), which is to say it looks pretty superb, as panels feel packed, have a bit more weight to them than most artists have, and he does a great job on all the faces. He’s helped by Jordan Boyd on colors, who balances everything looking drab with it all being colorful. Also helping out is Sliney, who actually only does the art for pgs. 21-25, which is where we first see Krrsantan in the ring before the Xonti’s decide to upgrade him; Had it not been pointed out which pages Sliney contributed to, I wouldn’t have been able to really discern a difference, as it flows really well with Laming’s work, arguably way better than the multiple artists for a Shattered Empire issue (which would’ve been nice to have their contribution pages numbered as well). Another thing about Laming’s work is how much more Asian Aphra has looked than as of late, which is a nice and much appreciated touch; and though Kev Walker has done it in his own style, I guess this just seems more traditional like how Salvador Larroca originally breathed life into her.
Here are a few other things:
- The surgery for enhancing Krrsantan with metallic fists was given to the Xonti’s by none other than Dr. Cylo, the architect of Vader’s replacements and his suit, as seen in Gillen’s Vader series! Nice little nod and reference there!
- I’ve mentioned Gillen’s interview with CBR in a few other posts recently, but I’m mentioning it here again solely because it reveals he has Aphra planned out to at least issue #25!! That’s when his Vader run ended, but I have a funny feeling the good doctor’s fanbase will be enough to make them keep the series going past that.
- The November solicitations came out for Marvel’s comics this week and the solict for Doctor Aphra #14 provided some interesting news: not only would there be a new art team, but the series would be co-written from that point on. For the art team, it will be Emilio Laiso, who previous worked on Star Wars Annual #2 and the Rogue One adaptation. I enjoyed his work on the Annual issue, but haven’t been terribly fond of how Rogue One has looked, but considering it’ll be more original characters than redoing movie scenes for his work on Aphra, I’m sure it’ll be closer in style to his Annual #2 work. As for the writing, Simon “Si” Spurrier will be co-writing Year 2 of Aphra with Gillen, something I was both surprised to see but am not worried about in any way, shape, or form. Gillen goes into more detail on the process of co-writing and how it came about over in his newsletter.
- I’ve included both David Nakayama’s original cover and Phil Noto’s variant covers above because I really loved both of them…enough to break my usual only buy one cover per issue rule, as I just couldn’t make a choice which one I wanted more.
Aphra might take a backseat in Doctor Aphra Annual #1, but it’s not to the issue’s detriment at all, as Krrsantan’s tale and how it’s told is more than entertaining enough to hold any Star Wars comics fan’s attention.
+ Krrsantan getting to tell his tale…
+ …and the little surprises within
+ Despite less Aphra, this is just as good as the main series has been
STAR WARS CANON COMIC REVIEWS:
Aphra (#1-6) | And the Enormous Profit (#9-14)
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)