Doctor Aphra #13 Review

by Dennis Keithly

The quest for “The Enormous Profit” ends with a reset in Doctor Aphra #13.

This article contains plot details for Doctor Aphra #13.

Doctor Aphra #13 Cover

Doctor Aphra #13

 Writer: Kieron Gillen | Penciler: Kev Walker | Inks: Marc Deering | Colors: Antonio Fabela | Cover Artist: Kamome Shirahama | Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna | Assistant Editor: Heather Antos | Editor: Jordan D. White

Doctor Aphra #13 wraps up “The Enormous Profit” story arc. Previously, Rur escaped from his containment crystal and inhabited the body of a droid on the space station where Aphra held her auction. Freed from his confines, Rur began hunting down all those with the audacity to bid on him. However, Triple Zero and BT-1, exercising a loophole in Aphra’s orders, summoned Darth Vader. Now aboard the station, Vader stalks Rur, and the two finally come into conflict.

Despite his own delusions of grandeur, Rur is no match for Vader. Using the Force, the Dark Lord of the Sith flings Rur around until the droid is nothing but scraps. Taking advantage of the distraction, Aphra escapes as stormtroopers execute many of the surviving bidders. Doctor Aphra #13 concludes one phase of Aphra’s adventures and clears the deck for a new set of stories. Along the way, readers revisit some of Aphra’s moral ambiguity.

Aphra’s Cloudy Morality

Although Aphra’s conscience inflicts itself upon her even though she wishes it wouldn’t. The first instance in this issue arrives when she needs an escape from stormtroopers shooting down gangsters. She witnesses Yonak using another gangster as a shield and adopts the same tactic. Her shield is Sutha the Hutt. Using another being as a blaster shield is already morally dubious at best, but then Sutha confronts Aphra with another problem. He threatens vengeance by reporting Aphra to Jabba.

Aphra doesn’t need any more gangsters after her. Therefore, killing Sutha in cold blood is the obvious solution and she starts to tell Sutha she is going to shoot him. However, before she can get the words out of her mouth, a shot deflects right into Sutha’s head and kills him instantly. Aphra greets this turn of events with a smile on her face and a lucky development as she avoids the moral dilemma completely despite the fact she made up her mind.

Aphra’s next morally dubious moment arrives with the return of the Shadow University’s artifacts. As discussed later, she returns some of the artifacts. Arguably, she might have kept all of them. However, by returning some, she maintained her credentials as an archaeologist, which the Dean of the university threatened previously. While it was a good deed, it was not purely altruistic.

Doctor Aphra #13 - Vader destroys Rur

Vader Senses an Infuriating Presence

After Aprha made it on to the Shadow University’s ship, she attempts to run the Imperial blockade. At that moment, the Imperial stormptroopers report to Vader that some smaller ships are slipping the blockade. They present Vader with a choice. He can either commit the Star Destroyer to pursuit, or it can remain in orbit and snag any other fleeing vessels. Interestingly, Vader reaches out with the Force and senses a presence. It appears that he senses Aphra. In the past, this ability of Force users to sense others was largely limited to certain circumstances. So, how can Vader sense Aphra?

There are a number of potential answers to that question. First, the ability isn’t limited to Force users. Instead, it is only magnified or important when other Force users are around. However, Vader, and in his former life as Anakin, previously sensed the presence of people important to him. Of course, he sensed Obi-Wan Kenobi on the Death Star in A New Hope. As a Jedi, this isn’t an exception to the general rule. Vader also sensed the presence of Padme on a few occasions. One of the most notable examples was on Naboo in Attack of the Clones. After a night of nightmares, Anakin sensed Padme’s presence and found it soothing while he meditated.

Doctor Aphra #13 - Aphra heads for hyperspace

Vader’s Mercy

In those examples, Obi-Wan, Anakin’s former master, and Padme, Anakin’s then soon-to-be wife, were clearly important people in his life. They were like family. Aphra was Vader’s servant. Or, perhaps there was more to their relationship? In their time together beginning with Darth Vader #3, did Vader develop an affection for Aphra? If so, why did he throw her out an airlock in Darth Vader #25? Although there is no specific answer to that question, one might speculate that he knew he grew attached, his attachments brought him pain and weakness, and therefore, he got rid of the weakness and pain before it festered. Alternatively, Aphra learned quite a bit of Vader’s past. She was a liability to him.

Regardless, Vader instructs the stormtroopers to maintain the blockade. The presence he senses is “of no matter.” Perhaps he intends to hunt her down later. Alternatively, the Empire believes her dead, and therefore, her existence is not a threat. She had the good sense to flee after all. Maybe he sees an opportunity. Whatever the reason, the answer to the question remains for another day.

Loose Ends

Doctor Aphra #13 concludes by tying up loose ends. First, Aphra returns a fair number of artifacts to both the Shadow University and the Museum of Bar’leth. Note that she didn’t return all the artifacts. A woman has to make a living after all. She tells both organizations she is then off for research, which amounts to the study of a cocktail menu on vacation. Although a posse from the Cosmatanic Steppes interrupts her vacation in an attempt to bring her back to stand trial for the murder of the man that betrayed her in Doctor Aphra #1.

Somewhere in the Outer Rim, Black Krrsantan fulfills his own quest. Krrsantan captured the Xonti brothers in the previous issue and left Aphra behind. In Doctor Aphra Annual #1, readers learned of Krrsantan’s voluntary submission to the Xonti gladiator school and the “debt” he owed them. In Krrsantan’s mind, he must repay them in a fashion similar to how they changed his life. He finally has his chance, and it doesn’t look pretty for the former slavers and gladiator trainers.

Meanwhile on Son-Tuul, Triple Zero and BT-1 establish themselves as criminal kingpins. They managed this by kidnapping Yonak of the criminal organization known as the Son-Tuul Pride. Next, they lured in the Pride’s competitors and eliminated them. Although, Yonak is the face of the organization, make no mistake, he is under Triple Zero’s command. If Son-Tuul sounds familiar, it was also the name of the ship Aphra and company hijacked for money back in Darth Vader #7.

Finally, Vader presented the Rur crystal to Emperor Palpatine. Although appreciative of the gift, the Emperor has Vader store it with other similar artifacts in his collection.

Doctor Aphra #13 - Aphra on Vacation

Concluding Thoughts for Doctor Aphra #13

Aphra is Aphra. Despite everything that happened to her, she rides her luck. Whatever aspect of fortune it was that smiled upon Han Solo gifted her as well. She combines skill, knowledge, and luck and forges her own way through the galaxy. “The Enormous Profit” brought an end to her previous alliances with Krrsantan and the droids…for now. It seems possible and likely that they will return. Of course, Darth Vader is still out there.

Doctor Aphra #13 and “The Enormous Profit” storyline demonstrate how great Star Wars stories can be even when they don’t feature Luke, Han, and Leia. Aphra is an intriguing and engaging personality. Kieron Gillen created one of the best new characters of the Star Wars galaxy with her. Her actions are frequently chaotic, yet somehow predictable. With the table cleared for new adventures with this story arc, Aphra has plenty of new possibilities to make a profit.

Favorite Panel of Doctor Aphra #13

In previous “Comics Commentary” reviews, I would add a “favorite panel” feature to each review. I abandoned that practice because it was becoming difficult to pick a standout panel for each and every comic. However, in Doctor Aphra #13, an issue with many, many outstanding panels, one panel really captured my attention. Therefore, I’m bringing it back for this review. Darth Vader duels Rur in the halls of the space station. Rur begins to boast he can control any machine, including Vader. The Dark Lord of the Sith responds that one other attempted this and failed. He is referring to Cylo in issues twenty-four and twenty-five of volume one of Darth Vader. Since that time, Vader added safeguards to his armor. He informs Rur of this with confidence and Walker’s art is amazing. That is the favorite panel of Doctor Aphra #13.

Doctor Aphra #13 - Vader Adds Safeguards

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