Free from Vader’s clutches, the galaxy’s most notorious archaeologist begins her own adventures in Dr. Aphra #1.
Warning: This article contains spoilers for Doctor Aphra #1.
Doctor Aphra #1
Writer: Kieron Gillen | Artist: Kev Walker | Colorist: Antonio Fabela | Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna | Cover Artist: Kamome Shirahama | Assistant Editor: Heather Antos | Editor: Jordan D. White
Doctor Aphra Lives
When readers last saw Dr. Aphra, she just survived exposure to the vacuum of space. Displeased with an apparent betrayal, Darth Vader threw her out an airlock. However, she had a contingency plan in place for just such an event. Her droids, Triple Zero and BT-1, along with the Wookiee Black Krrsantan rescued her before she died. Freed from the clutches of Darth Vader, Dr. Aphra begins her own adventures in the pages of Doctor Aphra #1. Those adventures start on the Cosmatanic Steppes of Archaeo-Prime (which were first seen in Darth Vader #21).
The Indiana Jones Influence
The Indiana Jones franchise clearly influenced Dr. Aphra. For instance, this issue opens with an archaeologist retrieving and artifact from within a cave. The recovery of the artifact triggers a trap. This archaeologist barely escapes with his life. It is certainly reminiscent of Dr. Jones escape from the temple at the beginning of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Even the artifact recovered resembles the idol from the temple in Raiders. However, this archaeologist meets a foul end.
The archaeologist, Ulik Tan, partnered with Dr. Aphra. At some point, he double crossed her and left her for dead. Unfortunately for him, she didn’t die, and she is waiting for him to emerge. Aphra isn’t Indiana Jones. In this case, if anyone, she is Dr. Belloq. She takes the artifact from Ulik. Anything he possesses, she can take. Then she kills him. In addition, she wasn’t making his mistake. From Dr. Aphra’s introduction in Darth Vader #3, the Indiana Jones influence has always been present. Like Dr. Jones, she too is an archaeologist. However, her motives are considerably less pure.
The Dark Han Solo
Indiana Jones is not the only influence for Dr. Aphra. In many ways, she resembles a shadowy version of another character made famous by Harrison Ford: Han Solo. Of course, Han Solo is more applicable in a Star Wars comic. First, she too is something of a scoundrel. Much like Han at the beginning of A New Hope, she primarily concerns herself with her own wellbeing. The difference is that she hasn’t had a change of heart. Her primary goal is looking out for herself.
In addition, she has a Wookiee sidekick. However, her sidekick isn’t as noble as Chewbacca. Black Krrsantan accompanies Dr. Aphra out of a sense of obligation to protect his financial interest. Aphra owes him money. Therefore, he protects his investment. Chewbacca may look after Han, but there is a life debt and loyalty involved there. Krrsantan comes to Aphra’s rescue when Soo-Tath comes to collect on a debt.
Like Han Solo in The Force Awakens, Aphra finds herself in debt. She lost her ship, the Arc Angel, during the Darth Vader series. To replace her ship, she borrowed heavily from an unnamed, shady organization. The clear implication from this issue is that the lender is someone from the underworld. Soo-Tath represents this organization, and he brings alien muscle with him. In fact, this alien muscle is a Rogue One tie-in as these brutes are Gigorans. The character Moroff represents this species in the movie.
Soo-Tath is looking for a payment on Aphra’s loan. However, Aphra lacks the necessary funds. When Soo-Tath’s muscle moves in, Aphra proposes a fight between them and Krrsantan. The wager is double or nothing on the loan payment. Krrsantan wins easily.
This scene demonstrated Aphra’s other Solo-like characteristic. She has a knack for talking her way out of trouble. Much like Han in The Force Awakens when confronted with the Guavian Death Gang and the Kanjiklub, Aphra resorts to flattery and fast talking to buy herself time. It works to an extent and stalls Soo-Tath long enough for Krrsantan to arrive.
Completing Aphra’s bizarro-Han image are the droids. As in Darth Vader, Triple Zero and BT-1 are dedicated to death and destruction. Working with Dr. Aphra provides them ample opportunities for both. Therefore, Triple Zero resolved to stay in Aphra’s employ as long as such opportunities are provided.
Triple Zero didn’t take kindly to Soo-Tath’s threats to Aphra’s life. He and BT-1 visit Soo-Tath in the “facilities” of a local cantina. Soo-Tath’s behavior offends Triple Zero. So, he does what comes naturally and injects Soo-Tath with a neurotoxin. The advantage of this toxin is it makes the victim appear to have died of a heart attack. With Soo-Tath disposed of, the droids rejoin Aphra.
A Problem of Credentials
Why exactly Dr. Aphra would need to be an archaeologist was always unclear in Darth Vader. The answer to that question arrives in Dr. Aphra #1. With a doctorate to her name, Aphra has the privilege of membership with the Archaeological Association. As a member, she can sell her finds through the Association at a much higher price. However, in this issue, a snag arises in her plan.
Dr. Aphra’s doctorate was suspended. Aphra admits to her companions she cheated to get it in the first place. However, without her doctorate, she has no standing with the Archaeological Association and her most recent find is essentially worthless. She was counting on the sale of the artifact to pay for her new ship and settle debts with Black Krrsantan.
She doesn’t have long to wonder how her moral lapse was discovered. Her father arrives and admits to the discovery. However, he sees this as a blessing. With the revelation, they can look to her “spiritual salvation.” With this reveal, the first part of Doctor Aphra #1 concludes.
Doctor Aphra #1 Part II: Aphra’s Doctorate
Writer: Kieron Gillen | Artist: Salvador Larroca | Colorist: Edgar Delgado | Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna | Assistant Editor: Heather Antos | Editor: Jordan D. White
About that Moral Transgression
Fresh off the revelation that Dr. Aphra’s father revealed Aphra’s academic dishonesty, this issue tells at least the beginning of that very story. Dr. Aphra was a student at the University of Bar’leth. Coincidentally, the University of Bar’Leth is where Sava Korin Pers taught. If you do not remember this particular Ugnaught, she was part of Lando’s team that stole the Imperialis in the Lando mini-series.
Aphra the Student
While a doctoral student, Aphra took great delight in tormenting her adviser, Sava Toob-Nix. In fact, Sava Toob-Nix hates Dr. Aphra. He only agreed to serve as her doctoral supervisor to insure she failed. And, apparently, she was set to fail when she pinned all her hopes on the discovery of evidence of an underground civilization that turned out to be nothing more than an old shed.
Sava Toob-Nix’s threats to undermine Aphra aren’t enough for him. Indeed, before rejecting her completely, Toob-Nix shows Aphra his own work. He collected a batch of Abersyn Symbiotes. Lore has it that these symbiotes were the downfall of many empires. Aphra insists they should be destroyed. Of course, Sava Toob-Nix refuses. Furthermore, she orchestrates the theft of the symbiotes, neutralizes them, and reports that something about the Cosmatanic Steppes rendered them inert in order to satisfy the requirements of her doctorate.
Another Moral Shortcoming
Aphra happens to have a friend at the university. Her name is Susina. She happens to have a droid companion that bears a striking resemblance to K-2SO. Susina is suitably impressed with Aphra’s purported discovery. In fact, Susina tells Aphra that she intends to dedicate decades of study to how the Cosmatanic Steppes neutralize the symbiotes. Rather than set the record strait with Susina, Aphra permits her to go forward. It seems likely this isn’t the last of Susina in this series. One shouldn’t be too surprised if she later shows up seeking revenge on Aphra at some point.
Doctor Aphra is a different story than Darth Vader. It is not nearly as dark. Although down on her luck, Aphra’s life is not nearly as tormented as Darth Vader. Therefore, the spirit of this book is different than its predecessor. Still, Kieron Gillen has written a compelling character. If there is a criticism I have with the story it is the university setting and family issues. These elements seem a little too real world. Despite that, they only take the reader out of the story marginally. Gillen established plenty of plot lines for this story going forward.
Favorite Panel of Doctor Aphra #1
Salvador Larroca provided the art for Darth Vader. Now, he contributes the art for the second part of the story here. Kev Walker provides the art for the primary section of this book. His art compliments Larroca’s quite well. He excels with many of Aphra’s facial expressions. I selected one panel featuring Aphra for this issue’s favorite panel. She has returned from recovering the artifact and she lays her eyes on her new ship. Her satisfied expression is the favorite panel of Doctor Aphra #1.
Dennis Keithly is a graduate of the University of Missouri, North Texas attorney, husband, father of two, and co-host of Starships, Sabers, and Scoundrels. In addition to Star Wars, Dennis is a fan of science fiction, fantasy, and super heroes in general. When not engaged in fictional universes, Dennis is reading a good book or watching the NHL, football, or studying the NFL draft.