Most Star Wars fans felt some level of trepidation when Disney announced the previous canon outside of the movies and a few exceptions were being wiped out to make sure they could tell their stories unhindered by the decades of extended universe material, now dubbed "Legends." Thankfully however, Disney, especially Marvel, has done some great stuff with the new canon, and the clean slate has allowed them to tell some interesting stories that exist between the movie saga’s installments.
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Kev Walker
Publisher: Marvel Comics
One of the most interesting characters to come out of this reset in my mind has been Doctor Aphra, a rogue archeologist whose moral fiber could generously be called "questionable." She’s witty, sarcastic and daring, and is more than willing to get herself in sticky situations if the reward is great enough. And as an archeologist, she is an easy vehicle to expand on Jedi history that predates the prequel saga and beyond. Her first trade, written by Kieron Gillen and drawn by Kev Walker, has recently been released by Marvel.
We’re first introduced to Aphra in Darth Vader #3, but this arc takes place directly after that one, and both take place between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back. Aphra did some work for Vader in the past, but has a…let’s say, complicated relationship with him. She’s off on her own this time, until she runs into her father, who Aphra also has a strained relationship with. Boy, outside of a couple of homicidal maniac droids, Aphra doesn’t have too many friends, does she?
Aphra’s father is after information on something called the Ordu Aspectu–an ancient splinter faction of the Jedi Order, who were obsessed with everlasting life (have you ever heard the tragedy of–oh, never mind), and he needs his daughter’s help. Aphra sees her father as somewhat of a quack, but ever the opportunist, she figures there may at least be some weaponry she can pilfer from the whole deal, so she agrees. He’s been on this quest for most of his life, which explains the strained relationship between the two and may even explain why Aphra is so aloof and such a loner. Their search for the Citadel of Rur leads them to Yavin IV, where there is increased Imperial presence after the rebels set up base there–for more information, I think they made a movie out of that conflict. What they find may have implications for the Jedi Order’s past and future, and as such, is such an interesting story for any Star Wars fan.
Kieron Gillen pens a script that is a joy to read, as Aphra is a cunning, witty character. Oftentimes though her droid sidekicks, Triple Zero and BT-1, steal the show. They are sort of inverted versions of C3PO and R2D2–imagine Threepio with loose morals and an unquenchable thirst for blood and you get the picture. This makes for some hilarious situations you may not necessarily expect when reading a Star Wars story.
Pairing Aphra with her father in her first standalone story was a smart move, as it allows us to get a read on who she is as a person and what her upbringing was like. We can see where she got her love of digging into the past from, as well as why she has such questionable morals. The story never falls into the all-too-easy trap of dumping exposition on the reader, though–these nuggets of personality are discovered organically over the course of an engrossing story. The relationship between Aphra and her father gets pretty damn intense, and combined with the fun action and great story–you won’t want to put this book down.
If there’s any complaint to be had with the story, it’s that it takes a long time to get to the big baddie. I won’t say much more to avoid spoilers, but since it took so long to finally encounter him, it makes the resolution feel a tad rushed.
Kev Walker’s artwork is lively, expressive and colorful, bringing new locations to life, such as the frigid, crypt-like Citadel of Rur, and giving new life to those we’re already familiar with, like Yavin IV. Aphra herself is designed excellently, and you can always see her emotions thanks to Walker’s great facial work. Some of the character designs remind me of The Clone Wars cartoon’s style, which is never a bad thing. There’s a good amount of action in this comic as well, and Walker depicts it with a kenetic energy that adds to the comic’s liveliness.
Panel work is pretty creative here as well. When the scene is tense, the panels will reflect that feeling with scratchy borders and crooked sides. Sometimes, however, when the panels are zoomed out, the artwork seems to lose a disproportionate amount of detail in the characters. Characters will sometimes have zero facial features when there is definitely enough room to draw them. But this is a minor quibble, and the great background work helps alleviate the weirdness.
Is It Good?
Doctor Aphra may be my favorite new character introduced since the Star Wars canon reset. This volume introduces her to the larger Star Wars universe in a heist full of ancient Jedi lore, action, touching character moments and humor. While there are minor nitpicks, they are all surface-level–this is a top notch Star Wars story through and through. Don’t miss out on this one.