Doctor Aphra #17 Review

by Dennis Keithly

Aphra needs to get into a secure Imperial facility. So, she picks up a gift for the Empire.

This article contains plot details for Doctor Aphra #17.

Doctor Aphra Cover

Doctor Aphra #17

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

When you are a rogue archeologist answering to the whims of a psychopathic murder droid, life can be tough. That is exactly the position that Aphra finds herself if. Triple Zero continues blackmailing her by threatening to expose her continued existence to Darth Vader and the Empire if she fails to complete the missions he set out for her. Right now, Triple Zero wants his memory back. To get it, Aphra learned in Doctor Aphra #16 that she needs to infiltrate the R&D hub of the Tarkin Initiative: Hivebase-1. What better way to gain access to a secure Imperial facility than to show up with a gift? In Doctor Aphra #17, Aphra settles on a present for the Empire, and it just happens to be a certain green, Twi’lek Rebel general.

The Relentless Inspector Tolvan

Doctor Aphra #17 does more to develop Tolvan than Aphra herself. Aphra has long intrigued her. Her interest and intrigue was piqued long ago. However, in Doctor Aphra #15, she effectively inherited Inspector Thanoth’s files. When she attempted to research “Joystick Chevron,” as she knew Aphra then, she came across a coded and locked file. Using the methods available to her, she found that no less than Darth Vader had sealed the file related to Aphra. Since then, she set on a course to learn more about the rogue archaeologist.

Much like Aphra, Tolvan proves she has a fluctuating moral code. In the prior issue, Tolvan captured, killed, and skinned Glast Omeera, a cat like being working in Aphra’s crew. She used the skin to stow away on Aphra’s shuttle. She demonstrates no moral qualms about this. In her words, she “terminated a murderer and capitalized on a tactical resource.” In other words, she did her duty. Aphra challenges her and notes she isn’t all “black and white.” Of course, Aphra is attempting to save her own skin, but this challenge gives Tolvan pause.

Doctor Aphra #17 Tolvan

Tolvan on Order

That pause is momentary. Tolvan recounts a lesson from her mentor, Inspector Thanoth. Order has many meanings. For some it is all about power. For others, order is a craving so that it might be broken. Aphra freely admits she falls into this later group. And yet, there is a third group: those that are disciplinarians crave order “because they have none in their hears. And it scares them.” A career is a way of assessing one’s self-control. This is where Tolvan finds herself on the spectrum. However, she has a momentary lapse in her self-control and surrenders to the moment in accepting a kiss from Aphra. She quickly recovers though and threatens to shoot her potential love interest in the face if she doesn’t reveal her name, mission, and why exactly her records were deleted by Darth Vader. Talk about commitment to the cause. Before this theme is explored any further, a stray power surge shorts out Tolvan’s implants and knocks her unconscious.

Hera Syndulla – The Rebel General

Aphra and her team called on Hera and the flight school she ran out of a Lucrehulk battlecruiser under the false pretenses they wanted to join up with the Rebellion. The actual plan was to kidnap Hera Syndulla, the ace-pilot and Rebel general. The battleship served as a flight training school for Rebellion recruits, and she is the academy’s commandant so to speak. Any reader that also watches Rebels also knows she is high on the Imperial’s most wanted list. Therefore, she makes interesting potential trade bait for Aphra.

Hera’s appearance in this issue is a mixed bag. On the one hand, she is classic Hera. She is in control of her academy. She accepts no nonsense from Aphra’s team. When Posla reveals they aren’t actually volunteers for the Rebellion, Hera wisely throws them in the brig. She is rightfully suspicious. In addition, her reputation as an ace pilot is intact. In the opening pages of the issue, she simultaneously pilots six or seven X-wings against cadets.

Doctor Aphra #17 Hera

Hera Mishandled

Where the treatment of Hera falters is in her capture. Aphra and her team hid a stash of weapons in Bog’s neck stump (he is headless and decraniated after all). Bog ejected the weapons, which Sister Six then used to stun Hera and her Rebel allies. The entire scene was silly. So was Ponsa’s over the top reaction to the dishonorable conduct of his companions. By this time, Ponsa shouldn’t be surprised by Aphra and her team’s behavior. It is the norm.

Aphra is offering up Hera to the Empire all tied up in a neat little bow. Literally. No, literally. The final page of this issue shows Hera bound and gagged with a bow tied around her head. Perhaps this is making too much of it, but couldn’t they let Hera have her dignity? Considering her characterization in Rebels and the tone of the fourth season, this doesn’t seem an appropriate use of the character. They are humiliating a fan favorite for no real character reason.

The most notable character to appear in Doctor Aphra so far was Darth Vader. There isn’t a chance they would have subjected him to this brand of humor. Granted, Hera hasn’t achieved the same level of fame and popularity, but she is no minor character in Star Wars. This kind of humiliation is fine for the no-name rookie pilot panicking earlier in the book, but not for a major character in the Star Wars galaxy. She deserved better.

Concluding Thoughts on Doctor Aphra #17

As mentioned in the review for Doctor Aphra #16, the series experienced a shift in tone. There has always been an element of humor attached to this series. However, it is a sense of humor one would expect to see in Star Wars. Now, the humor is more prominent. In addition, it is zanier. For instance, despite the depth of character exhibited for Tolvan, she falls victim to a random power surge that leaves her making an agonized face, presumably for laughs. This may work for some readers, but Doctor Aphra is becoming more of a comedy than a space opera adventure. It is becoming much more difficult to take seriously.

Despite the fault in the humor, Doctor Aphra #17 had some redeeming qualities. Tolvan is a creation of this series. Much like Aphra and Sana Starros, she is proof that Marvel can contribute new, interesting, and worthy characters to the Star Wars universe. Hopefully this story arc is a diversion from the main path and Aphra and company return to their established tone and direction soon.

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