Personally, the most interesting Star Wars content doesn’t come in the form of a movie, TV show, or video game.
Peak Star Wars is the comic books. That’s right, the comics.
Specifically, Doctor Aphra. She’s such a neat character, and one that really can’t be captured fully on the big screen. If you’ve never read a Star Wars comic book before, then you’re in for a treat with Doctor Aphra vol. 1!
Chelli Lona Aphra is an archaeologist/treasure-thief with a shoot-first, ask questions later mentality. Doctor Aphra’s first appearance was in the third issue of the Darth Vader comic book series in 2015. In that story, she worked for Vader as a rogue recruiter until he attempts to kill her. Aphra manages to escape, but has to remain undercover because the Empire thinks she is dead.
She appeared throughout various Star Wars comics until she got her own series in 2016, the Doctor Aphra series we’re looking at today.
Doctor Aphra vol. 1 was written by the character’s creator, Kieron Gillen, and was illustrated by Salvador Larroca. Gillen is well-known for his work in the video game community, as well as for working on Uncanny X-Men, and Young Avengers.
Larroca is kind of a veteran when it comes to comic book art. He’s worked on Ghost Rider, Iron Man, Ultimate Elektra, and a number of different X-Men comic books. His detailed style along with Gillen’s character-driven storytelling make Doctor Aphra a perfect fit for the Star Wars universe.
Under Gillen and Larroca, Doctor Aphra ran for three volumes, and was picked up by writer Simon Spurrier and various artists for another four volumes. The series ended in 2019, but was picked up again in 2020 under Alyssa Wong and Marika Cresta for another 5 volumes, the tail-end of which has yet to be released.
About the Characters
One of the best parts about Star Wars has to be their characters. While they tend to lean toward certain character archetypes—the rogue, the stout Imperial, the idealist, etc. –they make up for it with giving the characters unique quirks and memorable traits.
Doctor Aphra, for example, has the grit and guile of Han Solo, but she’s far less noble. Her interests are always centered around personal gain, and her morals are much more pliable than those of the classic Star Wars heroes.
Aphra’s often accompanied by her two assassin droids –000 (also known as Trip or Triple Zero) and BT-1—as well as the gladiator Wookie, Black Krrsantan, who also appears in The Book of Boba Fett TV show.
These four, along with a Aphra’s father, Korin, and a few other recurring characters, make up the crew of the Ark Angel II.
As usual, the combination of characters revolves around a human—Aphra—but the story isn’t hindered by the focus on human characters. While Krrsantan doesn’t get as much recognition in the first volume as I think he should, generally the whole thing is very balanced.
Doctor Aphra Vol. 1 – The Story
If you’re a fan of pre-Republic Jedi history and an intense race against Imperial forces, then Doctor Aphra is the comic book for you.
The story starts off directly after Vader attempts to murder Doctor Aphra, and she’s laying low from Imperial Stormtroopers. After a brief encounter with a loan-shark, Aphra attempts to sell the newest relic she’s stolen for enough money to pay back her debts.
Little does she know; her doctorate has been revoked and her credibility as an archaeologist is ruined. At that moment, her estranged father shows up and asks Aphra and her crew to go on a quest of the Ordu Aspectu, a faction of the Jedi order that died out long before the Galactic Civil War.
Doctor Aphra begrudgingly agrees to help her father, but little does she know that there are life-changing things in store for her and her crew.
As far as Star Wars stories go, I felt this one was simple, but with enough complex elements and emotional encounters to make it worthwhile.
Not everyone reads comic books hoping to get life advice or timely wisdom, but Doctor Aphra vol. 1 is a powerful lesson of duty, forgiveness, and loyalty.
Overall, I give the first volume an 8/10. The characters are fun and quirky, and the story is neat and fast-paced. There were times when I felt I was being bombarded with irrelevant lore about the old Jedi and the Ordu Aspectu, but it wasn’t terrible.
I look forward to seeing how Gillen’s Doctor Aphra different from the later version written by Spurrier and Wong.
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