Review by Jamie McNeil
Spoilers in review
For someone who grew up with Star Wars, writing stories that become part of the official canon must be a dream come true. It’s a sure bet Kieron Gillen’s internal child is high-fiving his adult self.
Introduced during Gillen’s run on Darth Vader, rogue archaeologist Doctor Aphra proved popular with readers. So much so she was given her own series when Darth Vader rain its course. After her narrow brush with death, Doctor Chille Lona Aphra has returned to archaeology. Or rather, the acquisition of rare items that can be sold for considerable profit, which with her qualifications and expertise, is lucrative. How she acquires them doesn’t bother her or the criminal organisations she owes credits to. Until she finds out the authenticity of her doctorate is being questioned and temporarily suspended. Aphra isn’t concerned about accusations of cheating. Of course, she did. What she wants to know is: who told them? This puts her in even more debt, her finds so much more difficult to sell. Aphra is livid, more so when she discovers it was dear old dad who leaked the info. He can get it reinstated off course. If she helps him find a place he has been searching for his whole life. A legend that consumed him and drove his family away. If she helps she gets her life back. With crime cartels, Imperial soldiers and dangerous uncharted space ahead, it’s likely she’ll be killed. Can she even trust her father? Fortunately, she has the dangerous wookie Black Krrsantan making sure she stays alive long enough to pay off her debt to him. And there’s also the two deadliest droids in the galaxy, Triple Zero, and BeeTee, tagging along. They come in handy for things like assassinations, explosions, and dismemberment. What could possibly go wrong?
On the face of it, Aphra shouldn’t work. Aphra herself is a female hybrid of Han Solo blended with Indiana Jones. Krrsantan is a far less honorable version of Chewbacca. Triple Zero and Beetee are both the psychopathic opposites of droids C3-P0 and R2-D2. Its so obvious the story is an inverse to the original Star Wars saga. Yet it does work, and rather well thanks to Gillen’s script and art from Kev Walker. Aphra is redolent of Indiana Jones – dark gritty themes balanced by humour and action. The plot’s familiar from other Star Wars formats, but with a high fun factor. Aphra is believable as a rebellious twenty-something with a chip on her shoulder, and the dialogue is witty, treacle black yet well timed.
Walker’s art lacks the glossy blockbuster style Marvel usually employs, with strong elements of his Judge Dredd work, more obvious in the gangsters and creatures. Walker uses digital overlays on his art, spectacularly detailed backgrounds contrasting the simple. Starships and droids look fantastic, the environment of cantinas and university convincing. Initially, human expressions are not clear but quickly improve. The plot falters in points, the dialogue disjointed by some of Gillen’s ideas. Yet whatever emotions the characters experience, you believe they are feeling them. The adventure is fast, the moods and tension just right. It’s good work from Walker, making the series more personable and enjoyable.
Deviating from the core content is a bold step forward for Marvel. It captures the adventurous spirit and imagination of the Dark Horse years that revived the franchise. Aphra is fun and entertaining, getting more right than wrong. Doctor Aphra returns to Star Wars in crossover event The Screaming Citadel, while Doctor Aphra and the Enormous Profit, arrives in early 2018.