Doctor Aphra #33 Review

by Dennis Keithly

Aphra finds herself in the hands of Rebels and explores the definition of evil in Doctor Aphra #33. Plus, she has to own up to her past choices with Magna Tolvan.

This review contains plot points for Doctor Aphra #33.

Doctor Aphra #33 Cover

Doctor Aphra #33

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

In Doctor Aphra #32, Aphra started a journey through her past with her mother as she explored some maternal instincts of her own with her protege, Vulaada. Along the way, Aphra discovered a Jedi superweapon, and despite her better judgment, risked everything to get it. Just when it looked like she and Vulaada got away, the Rebellion showed up, and to Aphra’s shock and surprise, they were commanded by her ex-flame, Magna Tolvan. Now, in Doctor Aphra #33, Aphra discovers what she already knew: not everyone in the Rebellion has the purest motives, and evil really may be eliminating the choices of others.

Facing the Music

It shouldn’t be a surprise that Aphra’s past bad conduct came back to haunt her in Doctor Aphra #33. It always does. In an effort to preserve both her life and that of Tolvan’s, she used a Bor to change Tolvan’s memories in a manner Tolvan hadn’t authorized. To make things worse, she let Tolvan believe that she murdered Aphra in a petty tantrum of jealousy. Now, Aphra has to face up to that.

Tolvan is surprisingly forgiving. She admits that she missed and mourned Aphra and goes so far as to plant a gentle kiss on her head. Then she stuns Aphra into unconsciousness. Frankly, Aphra got off easy. She was fortunate that her mind alteration to Tolvan didn’t cause serious trauma. It still might have. Allowing Tolvan to think she murdered Aphra was one of the crueler solutions to their issue on Akkresker jail that she could have come up with.

Doctor Aphra #33 Tolvan

Defining Evil

Doctor Aphra #32 started a look back at Aphra’s life with her mother after they walked out on her father. That story resumes in Doctor Aphra #33. While unconscious, Aphra remembers a conversation with her mother on their farm on Arbiflux. Aphra’s mother objects to Aphra’s use of the term “evil,” and then when Aphra demands why, a long explanation follows. The gist of the Aprha’s mother’s explanation is that nobody is really evil in their own head, evil is defined by whatever fanatic is in currently in charge, today’s evil is tomorrow’s good, and in the end “evil is just a measure of how much your choices take away other people’s.” She does add one other point that all anyone can really hope for “is to do right by the people they love.”

This is a wonderful conversation. It suffers slightly as it is stuffed into two pages, but this is a comic book, and Si Spurrier couldn’t really afford to spend an entire issue on this one conversation. It does, however, come back up as Aphra talks to the Rebel officers whose custody she finds herself in. Another key point in the conversation is that “the ends justify the means” is typically a signpost that someone is acting in an evil manner.

The Lesson Applied

When Aphra regains consciousness, she finds herself in the custody of General Cracken and his droid, TZ-2. Cracken is in charge of Rebel Intelligence, and he is very interested in the Jedi superweapon Aphra recovered. In short, the weapon was capable of destroying things from light years away. It bore a striking similarity to the power of the Death Star. Cracken explains to Aphra that unknown to the rest of the Rebel council, Cracken hopes to reverse engineer the Jedi superweapon, known as the Farkiller, and used the technology to destroy the Emperor’s palace on Coruscant from half a galaxy away.

While Cracken explains this to Aphra, scenes from her mother’s thoughts on evil are spliced in. Aphra recognizes that Cracken has arrived at the “ends justify the means” stage of evil. Cracken’s plans would result in collateral damage: several thousand casualties. When the general attempts to recruit Aphra into their efforts, she decides “to do right by the people she loves.” That decision is made just as Tolvan returns from a mission to test the Farkiller. Aphra summons Valuuda and tells her they are leaving as Doctor Aphra #3 concludes.

Aphra and Mom

Final Thoughts on Doctor Aphra #33

Doctor Aphra #33 is a very well constructed issue. Aphra has dealt with evil in numerous guises over the past few years. Whether it was Darth Vader, Triple Zero, or Doctor Evazaan, she always seems to find it. Doctor Aphra #33 goes a long way in explaining how she could tolerate the evil around her. With the backstory of her mother from this issue, it is easy to see that she considered the Rebels just the next source of evil in the galaxy once they won they war. Therefore, what did it matter to her who she worked with?

Despite that, Aphra has struggled with her choices over time. That too is explained very well with this issue. It was always when she realized her actions eliminated someone else’s choices that she hurt the most. That was most apparent when she manipulated Tolvan’s memories. There is a lot more to this discussion that will likely arise in the remainder of the story arc. It can’t be coincidence that Mon Mothma is present in this issue. Even though Aphra never talked to her, Cracken points out that Mon Mothma would never approve his plan. This seems ripe for discussion in upcoming issues.

A mention to Aphra’s role with respect to Valuuda should be made. The first thing Aphra did after waking up from being stunned was ask about Valuuda. Furthermore, when Tolvan returned from her mission at the end of Doctor Aphra #33, Aphra immediately summoned Valuuda and told her they were leaving. This also came right after Aphra’s memory of her mother talking about doing right by the people they love. This is very telling and worth exploring in later issues.

Finally, Doctor Aphra #33 is very much a bridge issue, but it is a good bridge issue. The themes of evil and the role of choices are neatly laid out. Now, there are at least a few issues to explore how Aphra will react when agents of the Rebellion make a morally questionable choice.

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