Doctor Aphra #16 Review

by Dennis Keithly

Tolvan catches up to Aphra, and she isn’t quite sure what to do about it.

This article contains plot details for Doctor Aphra #16.

Doctor Aphra #16 - Cover

Doctor Aphra #16

Writers: Kieron Gillen & Si Spurrier | Artist: Emilio Laiso | Colors: Rachelle Rosenberg| Cover Artist: Ashley Wittier | Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna | Assistant Editor: Heather Antos | Editor: Jordan D. White

Because Triple Zero didn’t give her a choice, Doctor Aphra continues her raid of Wat Tambor’s stash of old Techno Union files. She isn’t alone. Against her better judgment, Aphra leads a team of mercenaries to Skako Minor. Should Aphra’s performance or decisions displease Triple Zero, her continued existence will be exposed to Darth Vader. Things on Skako Minor started off with one encounter with Imperial stormtroopers, which Aphra ended by detonating her genetically altered pet Tooka in Doctor Aphra #15. Now, in Doctor Aphra #16, Aphra gets a reunion with an old foe that has developing feelings for her.

A Brief Synopsis

Doctor Aphra #16 begins with Aphra reviving another exploding Tooka pet as Inspector Tolvan watches from across the galaxy courtesy of a video feed from a deactivated Imperial droid, a K-2SO look alike. Infatuated with Aphra, Tolvan then flies across the galaxy to confront the archaeologist and her team. However, their arrival triggers the awakening of a technomonster. Tolvan’s stormtroopers soon fall prey to the beast, but Aphra and Tolvan get some flirting in before Aphra’s team defeats the monster. Once the mission is done, Aphra debriefs Triple Zero and discovers that Wat Tambor kept some of Triple Zero’s memories before sending his matrix to quarantine, which they must now recover from Hivebase-1, which was a key part of the Tarkin initiative. The issue concludes with Aphra attempting to recruit her team for a mission to Hivebase-1 and the revelation that Tolvan infiltrated the team by using the pelt of one of Aphra’s mercenaries as a disguise.

Doctor Aphra #16 - Standoff

The Changing Tone of Doctor Aphra

Whether she appeared in Darth Vader or her own series, Aphra has always carried a comedic element. However, with the addition of Si Spurrier as a writer, the tone of Doctor Aphra has shifted a bit towards the more ridiculous and zany. This issue is rife with examples of this new tone for the series.

First, take the exploding Tookas. In the previous issue, Aphra claimed to have created one as a clone of a pet she had as a child. However, these pets are also a secret weapon as each is a bomb waiting to be triggered by the phrase “snugglebum oogiewoogie.” On the one hand, this is clever, but on the other, it is hard to take this seriously.

Aphra’s team of mercenaries also contribute to the new tone. When Tom Posla, a former law enforcement officer, believes his headless, yes headless, boyfriend was killed by a techno-monster on Skako Minor, he puts aside his law and order philosophy and engages a murderous frenzied pernsonality…which he quickly snaps out of when he realizes his boyfriend, Caysin Bog, is in fact not dead. Furthermore, he writes off the whole thing as losing his temper.

Later, Tolvan and Aphra find themselves cornered by the same monster. After briefly arguing about whose fault this entire situation is, they laugh off the discovery of the techno-totem poking Tolvan in the back that started this mess before the sobering realization from Aphra that they “are literally going to die.” Just a little later, they begin making out under the belief that the monster is about to kill them for good.

Add to these examples Aphra shooting Rexa, Triple Zero’s cyborg representative, after she discovers Tolvan alive, and her subsequent attempts to distract the team by encouraging them to “looty looty loot.” This is a far cry from the serious tone complimented with comedic moments with which the Doctor Aphra handled Aphra’s encounters with Tolvan and the Empire in the Citadel of Rur or the gangsters of the galaxy and the Empire while auctioning off the Rur crystal. The comedy has become a focus rather than an element.

This might be a phase for this story arc, but if it represents the new tone for the series, it is unfortunate. Doctor Aphra proved Marvel could tell compelling stories without relying on the major characters from the films. However, the storytelling and new characters with the accompanying character development might be taking a back seat to humor.

Tolvan’s Affections

Lieutenant Tolvan has no idea what to do with romance. While watching Aphra on the video transmission from the deactivated droid, she notices Aphra’s new bracelets. When they arrive on Skako Minor, she is mesmerized by the mere sight of Aphra. Later, after the technomonster corners them, she picks then of all times to compliment Aphra’s hat. Finally, Tolvan tries to get Aphra’s name in order to better protect her from the Empire. Her awkwardness is somewhat endearing. Tolvan has been a stiff Imperial officer all her life. She simply doesn’t know how to handle her affection for Aphra.

Doctor Aphra #16 - Tolvan

Aphra’s New Mission

Aphra’s discovery that Triple Zero is missing his memories is the second worst discovery she made this issue. The absolute worst discovery she made was the location of those missing memories. Wat Tambor quarantined Triple Zero’s matrix in one place, and the Empire put his memory elsewhere. Now she must lead her dysfunctional team of misfits in a raid on a station that serves as the gravity anchor for a “billion-strong swarm of acid larvae.” In addition, she has a spy amongst her crew as Tolvan seemingly skinned Glast Omeera and used his pelt as a disguise, which prompts another journey into the absurd. That she did it so quickly is one thing, and that nobody noticed is another.

Concluding Thoughts on Doctor Aphra #16

Doctor Aphra #16 isn’t a bad issue. However, the shift in tone is jarring for this series. It began a few issues ago and continues down hill on a trek to absurdity. Humor is an essential part of Star Wars, but it has always been a complimentary piece of the franchise. While a series that focused on the more absurd would be welcome, it is preferable that it not come at the expense of Doctor Aphra.

One of the highlights of the issue was Triple Zero. He is incomplete without his memories. The droid has no idea what his former bodies were, who he killed, and what schemes he was involved in. The story possibilities have unlimited potential. What will happen when he gets those memories back? Will he discover he had some past experience that made him a more efficient killer, or will he discover that his appetite for death and mayhem were sated somehow? This feels like a story line with a twist as a payoff. Getting to the conclusion should be fun.

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