Doctor Aphra #18 Review

by Dennis Keithly

In case anyone forgot, Aphra proves she is both smart and morally flexible in Doctor Aphra #18.

This article contains plot details for Doctor Aphra #18.

Doctor Aphra #18 Cover

Doctor Aphra #18

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

As far as sadistic droids are concerned, Triple Zero ranks near the top. After serving as Aphra’s servant, Triple Zero turned the tables on his former master by blackmailing her. Now he is the master. His current task for the rogue archaeologist is the retrieval of his memories. However, to get them, Aphra and her team must infiltrate Hivebase-1, the archive of the research and development arm of the Tarkin Initiative. Every rejected idea the Empire explored under the initiative is stored here. This includes Triple Zero’s long-lost memories. So, how does a scoundrel get access to these archives? Simple, she brings a gift to exchange. In this case, Aphra has famed Rebel General Hera Syndulla to present the Empire. Over the course Doctor Aphra #18, Aphra proves how smart she is, and that one is best served not being a member of her team.

Aphra Proves her Smarts

Sometimes for the readers, and frequently for those in Aphra’s company, it is easy to overlook how smart Aphra really is. Once Aphra and her companions secure docking rights at Hivebase-1, she tells Posla to either bring Hera with him, or leave her behind. Hera was intended as their trade asset with the Empire, but Aphra knows better. The Empire doesn’t make deals like this. Hera was just an excuse to get aboard Hivebase-1. However, Aphra instructs her crew not to give Hera a weapon and notes that Hera will turn it on her the first chance she gets. She repeats that order repeatedly. When Hera finally gets her hand on a blaster, the first thing she does is aim it at Aphra’s back and proves Aphra correct. However, when it comes to matters of love, Aphra makes questionable, at best, decisions, which Tolvan exploits later.

Doctor Aphra #18 - On Hivebase-1

Dubious Moral Choices

Aphra never wanted the team Triple Zero forced her to take. In the opening pages of the issue, Aphra assists with a repair to Caysin, a decraniated member of the crew. The decraniated were developed for Rogue One, and they were the project of Doctor Cornelius Evazan. In fact, Caysin’s romantic partner, Posla tracked Evazan down to Jedha just before the Empire destroyed the Holy City with the Death Star. Evazan had a cameo appearance in Rogue One, but he is better known for his lethal confrontation with Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi at the cantina in A New Hope.

Aphra’s offer to assist Caysin was really a cover for a modification. She sabotaged the cyborg. When the Commander of Hivebase-1 was informed of Aphra’s team’s presence, he reactivated all the monstrosities on the base. Aphra toggled an override in Caysin causing him to charge the monsters. Of course, he was slaughtered. This was all designed to manipulate Posla into transforming into a more murderous version of himself. Exactly what Posla is remains unclear. His helmet parted to reveal some sort of machine and weapons poured out of nearly every joint in his body. Is he a cyborg? A droid? Hard to say.

As an aside, the art decision for Caysin’s demise and Posla’s revenge were well done. Caysin’s death at the hands of the monstrosities is portrayed on most of a left-hand page. On the counter page, Posla enacts his revenge in most of a full page. Each of the pages are very well balanced. The monsters alternate between ridiculous and terrifying. The result is striking.

The Monstrosities on Hivebase-1

As previously mentioned, Hivebase-1 is an archive for all sorts of experiments conducted under the Tarkin initiative. When the Commander was alerted to the presence of Aphra’s team by Tolvan, he thawed them out. Some of these monstrosities are truly nightmares. For instance, there is a Wookiee with a railgun for a head. Hera is right to call them obscenities in the face of Aphra’s admiration, even if her admiration is the result of scientific interest. Other creations on the base include Hutt Clone Troopers and a rathtar mold with an interrogation droid. In some ways, this is reminiscent of the laboratory Darth Bane explored in the Legends novel Rule of Two. It also resembles Dr. Cylo’s creations from the first volume of Darth Vader, which was also written by Salvador Larroca.

In perhaps another nod to the old Legends novels, one of the creations looks like desiccated and decomposed stormtrooper. It is very reminiscent of the Death Troopers from Joe Schreiber’s novel of the same name: Death Troopers. One image appears at the bottom of a panel overlooking Aphra’s team just as the “rejects” are defrosted. Another appears to right of Posla as he fights back against the monsters. It may be a coincidence, but if not, it is a clever addition to Doctor Aphra #18. Dr. Cylo was famous for creating cyborgs and other technologically enhanced organic soldiers in the first volume of Darth Vader. For instance, one of his minions was a Mon Calamarian cybernetically enhanced with a body akin to that of General Grievous.

When this issue concludes, the final panel depicts the Hivebase-1’s commander an many of his soldiers. The station commander is himself a cyborg. In fact, his head is the only original thing left on him. The rest looks like part of a giant droideka. In addition to the more famous Death Troopers (the troopers decked out in black armor), he is also accompanied by cybernetically enhanced Hutts.

Doctor Aphra #18 - Tolvan

Tolvan’s Return

Magna Tolvan is the Imperial officer that just keeps fighting. The type has surfaced a couple of times now in Star Wars comics. Sergeant Kreel of the SCAR squad is another example. Each possesses an unwavering loyalty to the Empire. Despite Tolvan’s affection for Aphra, after subduing the Rebels aboard the Rebel training facility, the best she can do for Aphra is countermand the Empire’s order to self-destruct the ship. At the very least, it preserves Tolvan as a love interest for Aphra. However, Tolvan is struggling. In her mind, the right and honorable thing is her service to the Empire. Her heart wants Aphra though. As Hivebase-1’s commander and his forces surround Aphra as she attempts to recover Triple Zero’s lost memories, Tolvan reacts in shock and surprise when the commander orders Aphra’s death.



Although Hera made her debut in Doctor Aphra in the prior issue, her personality really shines through in Doctor Aphra #18. She makes several attempts at negotiation with Aphra’s crew, but all are to no avail. During their adventure, she adds several wonderful comments to the discussions. For instance, when Aphra questions Tolvan on why she contacted the Empire, Tolvan responds that Aphra did leave her with a communicator. Aphra responds that was for their private use so they could chat and flirt. Hera offers an observation, “…It’s lonely being you, isn’t it?” Priceless.

Doctor Aphra #18 - Aphra's Crew Captured

Concluding Thoughts on Doctor Aphra #18

Since the “Remastered” story arc began in Doctor Aphra #14, the tone of the entire series took a turn for the zany. Aphra’s crew was too ridiculous for belief at times. In addition, Aphra’s portrayal was over the top in many instances. Frankly, there were several events that were simply ridiculous. Doctor Aphra #18 resumes the tone that preceded this story arc. Although Hivebase-1 exhibits a large collection of “obscenities,” they are recognized for how ridiculous they are rather than portrayed as par for the course.

Aphra’s crew is steadily dwindling. Her new allies have perished one at a time over the course of the series. In this issue, Aphra’s team loses Caysin due to Aphra’s machinations. They also lost Aphra’s reprogrammed Droideka, Dek-Nil. Of all the members of the team, Aphra cared for the droid the most. Now, her team is left with Sister Six and Posla. Odds are that neither of them survives the conclusion of the story arc.

Doctor Aphra #18 was refreshing. The menagerie of creations on Hivebase-1 clearly set this issue in the same universe Kieron Gillen created with his run on Darth Vader. In addition, the tone of this issue managed a lighter, funnier touch without resorting to the same level of ridiculousness that plagued earlier issues in this story arc. As this is the fifth part of the story, the tale is likely wrapped un in the next issue. So, how will Aphra, and Hera for that matter, avoid Imperial detention?

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