Review by Jamie McNeil
Doctor Chelli Aphra is an outstanding archaeologist and explorer. However, she’s better known for being a cheat, swindler, dirty back-stabber and generally crappy person. Aphra has betrayed lovers and friends to make the score of a lifetime or just save her own skin, although as seen in Worst Among Equals, now she’s growing a conscience and she’s starting to regret those actions. Especially since ticked-off hunters, psychotic droids, Imperial officers, Rebel generals and ex-girlfriend Magna Tolvan would happily shoot her in the face repeatedly. Particularly the ex-girlfriend. In her own way Aphra is trying to be different even taking in streetwise Vulaada, equally smart-mouthed and resourceful. When Aphra is hired by a mysterious benefactor to retrieve a powerful and rare Jedi artefact she discovers that both the Rebels and the Imperials are keen to acquire it for similar reasons. Now caught in the middle it’s time for Aphra to pick aside, but who to choose when both want her dead?
Unspeakable Rebel Superweapon is an origin story as much as it is a new tale in the series. Readers already know Aphra’s father but her relationship with her mother hasn’t been explored. Writer Simon Spurrier uses flashback techniques to delve into some of the experiences that may motivate the good Doctor. Depictions of “Then” are smoother with the “Now” a rougher finish. There are a number of artists, both pencillers and inkers, working on Superweapon which is unusual for Doctor Aphra. The result is that it is difficult to tell whose work is whose, with many styles overlapping and occasionally clashing. There’s a sense of artistic experimentation, and to Spurrier’s writing, of trying to move away from the polished spectacular that defines so much of the Star Wars franchise to character driven stories. As such it is less shiny and pretty but really sells the human drama Spurrier explores. There is still plenty of action, but it just focuses more on the responses of people in the thick of it. A round of applause for colourists Chris O’Halloran and Stephané Paitreau who allow the styles of eight other artists – including series regulars Andrea Broccardo and Mark Deering – to tell the story. Their palette sets the mood, moving effortlessly in a plot with more twists than a bag of snakes.
As far as story-telling goes Unspeakable Rebel Superweapon is fun, the interaction between Aphra and Vulaada highly entertaining. It’s clever and fast paced, full of intrigue plus the ending is whip-smart! Aphra is going from the metaphorical pan into the fire. As the series draws to a close will she survive? It all comes together in the conclusion Doctor Aphra: A Rogue’s End.