When Doctor Aphra was initially introduced in Darth Vader issue #3, it didn’t take long for myself and many others to fall in love with the character. Twenty plus comic issues since, the enjoyment and excitement that comes from her being on the page hasn’t waned and has only grown even more and more. It recently reached a fever-pitch since the dual revelation she survives her time with Vader and will have her very own ongoing series, but for those who have yet to enjoy her special brand of snark, wit, and love for weapons, you’re probably wondering why exactly fans like myself are so damn enthusiastic this rogue archaeologist persists. Check out below why you too should be jumping over ewoks in joy at the upcoming Doctor Aphra series!
Pulled into Vader’s quest to regain his standing in the Empire after being responsible for the greatest military disaster in the Empire’s history, Doctor Aphra finds herself (along with her newly awakened murderous droids Triple-Zero and BT-1) helping the Dark Lord build a personal army, procure a giant coffer to fund various ops and further his interests, and even verifying if Padmé gave birth to a child or not. Their partnership has always had the specter of death looming over it for Aphra, and after a few missteps by her (including blackmailing Vader with Luke Skywalker’s location, which ends up being a trap Aphra knew nothing about), she’s targeted by the Sith Lord for termination. Despite proving herself to his boss, showing how she was instrumental in helping Vader get his Sith-ly groove back, Vader jettisons her out an airlock anyways. But she was counting on Vader to be so merciless and has the appropriate contingency in place, as she’s rescued from the cold embrace of space by her muderbots (and a bounty hunting Wookiee) and books it into lightspeed to get as far away from Vader as she can manage. Overall, her story is far more elegant and enjoyable than what my summary could ever hope to make it out to be, but as you can tell she’s gone on quite the journey already and she’s only just getting started, as her very own ongoing series launches December 7 and here are some big reasons why I believe this is exciting news for any Star Wars fan. UPDATE: You can check out my review of Doctor Aphra issue #1 here, where several of the below aspects already got touched on!
Personality / Moral Ambiguity
“You know, one of these days, I hope we’re going to get past this is-he-going-to-murder-me-this-time stage of our relationship.” – Aphra, Darth Vader #12:
Direct from the blurb on the official Marvel site for issue #1:
“Because you demanded it! Following the blockbuster finale of the critically acclaimed Darth Vader series, the fan-favorite character begins an all-new journey! Following her time in the clutches of the Dark Lord of the Sith, Doctor Aphra has barely escaped with her life. If Vader ever learns of her survival, he’ll hunt her to the ends of the galaxy. But for now, it’s time to return to what she does best. With the droids 0-0-0 and BT-1 in tow, she’s off in search of rare artifacts from the galactic center to the Outer Rim and everywhere in between.”
If you find yourself imagining Doctor Aphra essentially being Indiana Jones in Space, you wouldn’t be terribly wrong until you look just a smidgen deeper at Aphra herself. Beyond the obvious gender difference and propensity to stumble through things somewhat gracefully as they fall apart around them, Aphra is a much more than some Indiana Jones clone. For starters, she wants to prevent valuable artifacts from being stuck in a museum, especially if they end up being some type of weapon. She’s charming and roguish to be sure, but she isn’t learning how to become a better person or trying to fit in with a group. Instead, she stays as aloof and independent as she pleases, hoping to sell whatever she finds to the highest bidder to keep her lifestyle going. She’s not one of the good guys, but isn’t necessarily bad either, straddling the line and even if she might lean one way or another from time to time, in the end she stays firmly planted somewhere in between, giving readers a unique protagonist who markets, trades, and sells in funny, interesting, and engaging amounts of moral ambiguity
“I’m a rogue archaeologist, not a protocol droid.” – Aphra, Darth Vader #3: The simple idea of an archaeologist in Star Wars seemed like such an unlikely occupation or concept to be explored that I never really considered such a position to exist and I was totally thrown off by Aphra being one. The only historians or researchers of the galaxy’s cultures largely mentioned in the saga before seem to either be the Jedi or the Sith, both of whom were content to focus their collections on Force-related artifacts (in an attempt to keep them out of the hands of their enemy’s). There’s been an increase in collectors who aren’t Jedi or Sith across several mediums in the new canon, including Savas (Korin Pers from Lando), to Lor San Tekka, and even Grakkus the Hutt (Star Wars #11). However, all those characters focus on Force-related findings (though Savas can have different specialties) so that means there’s still a whole galaxy of random objects left to explore and plunder. Even if the artifacts Aphra ends up finding turn out to be MacGuffins, be they ancient weapons as she is prone to scrounge for or just priceless artifacts she hopes can net her big credits, they can be items which teach us more about the galaxy. For example: the Gungan Statue of Fertility shown in Lando #3 was both funny and intriguing; Such an item has a chance of telling us a bit about Gungan culture, more so than any of Jar-Jar’s antics, and the prospect of learning more about all the cultures of the galaxy as Aphra plunders its depths might scratch an itch people who want a bigger, more open galaxy haven’t quite gotten in a while. For those who don’t care so much about the little minutia of random cultures of the galaxy, it’s still an entertaining enough way to start adventures for Aphra. Either way, it’ll be really cool to explore the galaxy from more of a ground-up approach than we’re used to; Normally, we’re hopping planets and seeing new worlds but only in the background because we’re dealing with Jedi or Rebels trying to stop/getting involved in some planetary conflict or whatever befalls the planet. With Aphra and her archaeology, she likely won’t get mixed up with such things and will see new planets from the caves and seedy bars up (so to speak), meaning we’ll get glimpses into more normal lives around the galaxy (potentially). Not every new planet that’s visited has to be part of a giant conflict, as it can be just as entertaining to see a gal try to make her way through the universe instead, no potential galactic repercussions abound. We’ve already gotten a small taste of this in the Poe Dameron comic series, as each arc has so far given readers a new planet to explore and revealed strange but interesting customs can be found in all sorts of unlikely places. The series has appealed to me greatly and Aphra has a chance to replicate that sense of adventurism for adventurism’s sake with her archaeological digging…even if it’s mainly for weapons.
“If you were a blaster, I would’ve known how to deal with you. Blasters I know.” – Aphra, Star Wars #19: When Aphra traveled over to the Star Wars series for a brief 4 issue arc known as “Rebel Jail” (or also “Women Kick Ass in Jail”), she and Sana Starros were revealed to share a history, one which wasn’t just as partners in crime, but something more (the first big hints were dropped in issue SW #18). In the final issue, which is where I pulled this section’s quote from, a confrontational conversation between Aphra and Sana all but confirms their past relationship, because while it’s never explicitly stated, the implications are so strong the series’ creative team basically said it without ever actually using the words. No matter if she’s just bisexual or lesbian, Aphra can be counted as a LGBTQ character (slowly growing in the GFFA), which in my post about the Doctor Aphra series announcement I mentioned is a big deal because she is a series of firsts for an ongoing SW comic series lead: first woman, woman of color, LGBTQ character, and original comic character. In the GFFA, the idea of someone being LGBTQ isn’t even an afterthought anymore, it’s simply part of life. Getting to see it so casually accepted and part of everyday life is a positive image for those who do and even for those who don’t identify as LGBTQ, as neither group normally gets to see the community in mainstream parts of their favorite mediums; this can help send signals to everyone it’s a normal part of life because even their favorite heroes are just like them. No matter how ambiguous they want to play Aphra’s orientation, it still sends a powerful message that she not only continues to live but takes a prominent place in the spotlight. Beyond the importance of her orientation, I’m honestly looking forward to seeing this aspect of Aphra’s character explored, especially if it means more details on her and Sana’s past or even them trying to fix what happened between them (though their final interaction in SW #19 doesn’t make that seem really possible). Even if Sana isn’t brought in some way to the series, seeing Aphra stumble through a new relationship would be particularly refreshing and enlightening, while her history with Vader and trying to keep under his radar could add some fun tension to any relationship she pursues because imagine having to explain that to a significant other.
“Hello! I’m Triple-Zero and I’m looking forward immensely to torturing you today.” – Triple-Zero, Darth Vader #4: Had Aphra not used Vader’s own lack of mercy against himself, fooling the Sith Lord into thinking he killed her, I wouldn’t have been shocked the Aphra series would’ve instead been the Murderbots’ series in the wake of her death. Triple-Zero and BT-1 are as big of breakout stars as Aphra is so those who just want to see more of their merry murdering ways will be pleased to see them up to no good in DA. There’s something delicious about them being sinister, dark mirrors of the comedic and friendly duo of C-3PO and R2-D2, and so far Gillen has proven he knows how not to overuse them, making each moment they get to take a minor lead in well-worth the wait. Another side character introduced in Vader will continue on in DA: Black Krrsantan, the bounty hunting Wookiee who’s always roaring for a fight. If any character got the short end of the stick, I feel like it was Krrsantan, whose biggest moments were probably his battle with Chewbacca in the Vader Down crossover and his confrontation with Obi-Wan on Tatooine and well, that’s about it. From his prominence on the first non-variant cover of the DA series, it seems he’ll get an expanded role and I’m interested to see how that plays out, but from the series’ announcement it looks like Aphra will follow up on her promise (in issue #8) to help him track down those who experimented on him in the past. All in all, Aphra will be surrounded by a colorful cast befitting of her rather colorful nature.
Separation from Films and their Characters
“That was fun. Let’s never do it again.” – Aprha, Darth Vader #25: I wouldn’t be surprised if Aphra has to deal with Vader at some point in her upcoming series, because if he learns she survived he will definitely not be pleased and that never means anything good for the target of his wrath…but at the same time he might be too busy chasing down his son to care. And Aphra might have a run-in or two with Leia, as the Rebellion leader did offer Aphra a job before letting her go back to a master who Leia knew would likely kill her (which technically, he did). But besides those two movie characters, Aphra isn’t really connected to anyone else (that we know of yet) and that’s a very good thing. I wouldn’t mind if there’d be movie characters popping up in DA (like dealings with Lando wouldn’t be too far-fetched), but having her stay away from them means the series can carve out new corners of the galaxy (maybe even uncover Legends-inspired ones) and create more original characters. That’s perhaps the most important aspect of this point, as they’ll need to create a whole new slew of rogues, do-gooders, and oddities to match Aphra’s unique skills and personality. Instead of shrinking the galaxy with another series set between Ep. IV and V, Aphra’s adventures have the best potential to expand the galaxy because she won’t be part of the whole Galactic Civil War conflict and off doing her own thing. And while most of the other mediums have introduced us to new species and areas of the galaxy, the story tends to move through the setting and onto the next rather quickly while DA could really dig into (pun totally intended) these new cultures.
Kieron Gillen as Doctor Aphra‘s Writer/Good Excuse to Read Vader
“That’s the fundamental fun of the character, and you can root [for her], because she makes really bad life decisions and sort of rolls with them.” – Kieron Gillen, StarWars.com Interview: It’s not like you should really need an excuse to pick up the Vader comics, considering how highly praised they have been, but they are essential if you want the full Aphra experience. I might have given a small rundown at the top of this article, but my words don’t truly do the series justice. And even if you don’t read Vader (which again seems like a silly choice, but hey, it’s your life and you can choose to miss out on great things if you want), simply having Gillen on as DA‘s writer puts this Aphra fan at ease, as it ensures there’ll be a continuation of the consistency he’s been able to bring to Aphra and the murderbots throughout Vader‘s run. The same person who was so critical in shaping Aphra will have a hand in diving deeper into her character, a rarity that should be celebrated by all of us die-hard fans as she’s increasingly become more important over the past year and a half, thanks in no small part to fan demand.
Here are a few other things:
- While this article focuses on why you should be excited for more Aphra, I did attempt to touch on the various reasons her lead of an ongoing series is so important as well. For an article singularly focused on all the reasons this series is so important, look no further than Alecia D’Entremont’s article at the always excellent Eleven Thirty-Eight.
- Marvel’s Star Wars Editor Jordan D. White talks briefly about Aphra and what makes her such a fun character (while also revealing the reasoning for setting so many comic series between Ep. IV and V).
- Back at the beginning of 2016, I posted a year-in-review of 2015’s comics. In it, I not only hoped for a series focusing on an original character from the comics, even offering Aphra as a suggestion, but I also was afraid there would be less Aphra. It’s cool to see one of my hopes already coming true and one of my fears thankfully dashed.
Whether it’s her humorous, unique personality, the series’ chance to open up the galaxy, or her unforgettable droid companions, I believe there are plenty of reasons to look forward to and eventually enjoy Doctor Aphra’s comic series. And while it’s still quite possible Aphra isn’t your cup of caf, even after all my points above, I urge you to give her and her series a chance either way when it drops onto the shelves of your local comic book shop.
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Doctor Aphra Comic Series Announced, Drops December! (UPDATED)
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Darth Vader Ongoing Comic Ends with Issue #25
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Upcoming Comic Releases Include Han Solo Miniseries, The Force Awakens Adaptation
Poe Dameron Headlines New On-Going Comic Series
Marvel’s Back: Star Wars Comics 2015 Year-in-Review
Aphra (#1-6) | And the Enormous Profit (#9-14)
Vader (#1-6) | Shadows and Secrets (#7-12) | The Shu-Torun War (#16-19) | End of Games (#20-25) | Annual: #1
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)
Vader Down (crossover of Star Wars and Darth Vader on-goings)
The Last Padawan (#1-6) | First Blood (#7-12)
Black Squadron (#1-3) | Lockdown (#4-6) | The Gathering Storm (#7-10)
Han Solo (mini-series)
Obi-Wan & Anakin (mini-series)
Shattered Empire (mini-series)
Princess Leia (mini-series)
Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir (mini-series)