Doctor Aphra #32 Review

by Dennis Keithly

Aphra explores her maternal issues as she trains a would be apprentice in  Doctor Aphra #32.

This review contains plot points for Doctor Aphra #32.

Doctor Aphra #32 Cover

Doctor Aphra #32

Writers: Simon Spurrier | Artists: Wilton Santos & Caspar Wijngaard| Inkers: Marc Deering & Don Ho | Colorists:Chris O’Halloran & Stephane Paitreau | Cover Artist: Ashley Wittier | Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna | Assistant Editor: Tom Groneman | Editor: Mark Paniccia

Aphra is not the most stable person. As both the Darth Vader and Doctor Aphra series have demonstrated, she has impulse issues, relationship problems, and ethical issues aplenty. Her inability to maintain a healthy relationship has been detailed in numerous issues of Doctor Aphra, and she has gone so far as to use a Bor to convince a former lover she murdered Aphra. Her estrangement with her father was detailed previously in the series. In Doctor Aphra #32, the focus of Aphra’s aberrant behavior switches to her mother.

Good Old Mom

Doctor Aphra #32 isn’t the first time that Aphra’s mother was mentioned. In fact, that happened back in Darth Vader #10. While running a mission on Naboo for Darth Vader, Aphra told the story of how her mother was murdered by raiders on their farm. Aphra’s mother never received another mention until now.

The story starts with a flashback. Doctor Aphra #32 explains what finally caused Aphra’s mother to leave her father. Lona Aphra finally realized that Korin, Aphra’s father, was obsessed with the potential of the Ordu Aspectu. Lona imparts this wisdom on her daughter: “Obsessives, idealists. They think things are simple when they’re not. If they don’t bring down trouble on themselves, they bring it down on everyone else. But–you can’t hate them for it, Sweetie. Some of them you might even love.” Considering the type of woman Aphra grows up to be, this must be comforting advice. What isn’t so comfortable is that Lona admonishes her daughter to not cry. In her words, tears area a giant sign of weakness.

Regardless, Lona realizes that Korin’s obsession with the Ordu Aspectu will bring ruin on himself and their family. He is largely oblivious to everything around him except for his research. This is demonstrated when he looks up long enough from his project to notice that Lona and Aphra are gone. Despite the speech Lona gave Aphra behind his back, he assumes they left on an errand. Korin’s research hasn’t brought ruin upon him yet, so therefore, it is likely to strike Lona and Aphra. For this reason, Aphra’s mom takes Aphra and leaves for the frontier.

Doctor Aphra #32 - Lying Low

Aphra’s Maternal Instinct

In a surprising development, Doctor Aphra #32 reveals that Aphra has a maternal instinct. She is mentoring Vulaada, a young woman or teenager (it is hard to tell) from the planet Milvayne from the previous story arc. Aphra nearly died in the previous story, but after lying low for a few months, she and Vulaada are off after an artifact. Despite her admiration for Aphra, Vulaada finds her methods insane. When Aphra comes across the sniper rifle of Oo’ob the Apostate (an artifact her father once showed her a hologram of), she comfortably falls back on her mother’s wisdom. However, she distorts its meaning. She uses that wisdom as an excuse to use Vulaada and even chastises her for crying about the danger. According to Aphra, Vulaada can’t hate her for her obsession. Obviously, that isn’t exactly what her mother meant.

Later, after they have retrieved Oo’ob’s weapon and returned to safety, Aphra thinks better of her actions and apologizes to Vulaada. So, the obvious implication is that she knows better, and she was just using her mother’s wisdom for not hating her father as justification for the way she treats others.

Return of an Old Flame

Aphra doesn’t have much time to enjoy her new archaeological find in Doctor Aphra #32. After apologizing to Vulaada, the Rebellion catches up to them. In an interesting twist, they are lead by an old flame. Matters take a turn for the worse when Aphra discovers that old flame is Magna Tolvan — the very woman Aphra convinced murdered her. The ramifications of this meeting are left for Doctor Aprha #33.

Doctor Aphra #32 - Oo'ob's weapon

Final Thoughts on Doctor Aphra #32

Doctor Aphra #32 has a great narrative structure. The story alternates between flashbacks and the present. In the flashback scenes, readers learn that Aphra’s tattoos were inspired by her mother’s similar tattoos. Readers also learn that Lona’s wisdom about self preservation in the face of idealists is misinterpreted, perhaps deliberately, by Aphra to justify her own selfish behavior.

The real achievement of this issue is providing a great explanation for the influences that shaped the person Aphra became. She has appeared in more than 50 issues of Marvel comics now. Her behavior, ethics, and personality have been the theme of many stories. Yet, this single issue paints a picture of the nature and nurture factors that ultimately shaped the woman Aphra became.

Finally, Si Spurrier’s narrative sequence excels by juxtaposing just the right moments from Aphra’s childhood with her attempts to be a maternal figure. No where is that more poignant than when Aphra and her mother are attacked by the raiders on their farm on Arbiflux. Lona takes a shot in the back and loses an arm as Aphra learns the raiders have arrived. On the next two pages, Aphra tries to make amends for her own maternal failures as the Rebels arrive in a series of very similar panels. Well done to the creative team. The previous story arc contained several plot lines, and even five issues weren’t always enough to adequately cover them all. Doctor Aphra #32 is much more succinct and direct. The story is crisp and precise. Spurrier taught the readers more about Aphra in this single issue than any other combination of issues to date.

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