Doctor Aphra #36 Review

by Dennis Keithly

In Doctor Aphra #36, all the cons around the Rebels’ super weapon come crashing down on the Empire. One rogue archaeologist was ahead of the game all along.

 This review contains plot points for Doctor Aphra #36.

Doctor Aphra #36 Cover

Doctor Aphra #36

 Writers: Simon Spurrier | Art: Wilton Santos; Cris Bolson | Inks: Walden Wong | Colors: Chris O’Halloran | Cover Artist: Ashley Wittier | Lettering: VC’s Joe Caramagna | Assistant Editor: Tom Groneman | Editor: Mark Paniccia

Doctor Aphra #36 accomplishes some great things. First and foremost, it made a fool of this reviewer, but more on that later. Second, it proved how brilliant a writer Simon Spurrier is. When this story began with issue #32, Aphra stumbled upon an ancient Jedi weapon that proved valuable to both the Rebellion and the Empire. By issue #35, Aphra had heard the Rebellion’s pitch to get on board with a project designed to assassinate the Emperor and decided to steal the weapon in the hopes of buying a pardon from the Empire. Her planned worked, except for the parts where it didn’t, and then it all went awry when Minister Pitina Voor, Chair of the Coalition for Progress and Imperial Propaganda and Misinformation confided to Aphra that she was planning to assassinate the Emperor. Confused? You’re not alone. Fortunately, Doctor Aphra #36 clarifies what is really going in a cleverly told story.

The Ambitions of a Bureaucrat

Doctor Aphra #36 begins with Minister Voor explaining her backstory. By understanding Voor, the reader has a better chance of understanding the entire plot around her. She began life as a minor princess that was married off to a senator on her eighteenth birthday. She endured the senator’s lack of ambition before subtly plotting his suicide by spreading rumors that Darth Vader was out to get him. Eventually, she harnessed her powers of persuasion, found a place in the Empire and rose to her current position of Minister and Chair of the Coalition for Progress and Imperial Propaganda and Misinformation. However, she isn’t satisfied. Voor learned over time that she had the power of persuasion, and she was good at getting people to do things without first resorting to violence. It is her gift.

Despite her successes at getting entire worlds to capitulate to the Empire without firing a shot, she despises the Emperor. In her words, “He is ruining everything.” In short, the Emperor won’t cooperate with Voor’s public relations propaganda and instead relies on terror to control the galaxy. Her gifts are wasted in his service. Therefore, he must go, and she has orchestrated a coup. Naturally, she intends to place him.

In just a few pages, Voor became a very interesting villain. Not only does she have a knack for public relations, but as she reveals her plan to Aphra, she reveals herself to be an expert strategic planner. She also has a point: how successful could the Empire have been if the Emperor did cooperate with her public relations initiatives? Bureaucrats are frequently the villains in works of fiction, but Voor has a unique place.  She is upset because, among other things, her public relations powers are wasted on an ungrateful emperor. That is good stuff.

Doctor Aphra #36 Rebels

Predictability

Voor’s entire plan relies on predictability. During Aphra’s time on Milvayne, Voor studied her closely. Later, in Doctor Aphra #36, she reveals that she knew the location of the Farkiller (the ancient Jedi super weapon), but she couldn’t just send Aphra after it without arousing her suspicions. So, she hired Aphra for a different job, and then let Aphra discover it for herself and let her greed take over. Then Voor let slip to the Rebels that Aphra had it. The plan then picked up steam and Voor knew the Rebels would never actually make their own Death Star. Instead, they would set a booby trap on it that would take out the Emperor when Aphra inevitably brought it to the Empire. Everyone had a role, and everyone did as they were predicted by Voor to do. Everyone except one person that is.

Aphra eventually saw through all of Voor’s machinations. She knew that Tolvan released her far too easily. She also knew the Rebels would never make their own super weapon. They neither had the resources nor the passive morals to do it. It wasn’t their style. Aphra outshines Voor at her own game and finishes telling the plot to her ward, Vulaada, while Voor watches, annoyed that Aphra wasn’t the least bit surprised. Aphra let everyone use her. She had plans of her own.

Turning the Tables

With Voor’s villain’s monologue out of the way, Aphra takes over for her and tells her what happens next: the Emperor gets shuffled off to safety, the co-conspirators are arrested, the relic is destroyed in transit, and the Rebels never arrive because they know their plan failed. The whole plot unfolds like a reveal from Ocean’s 11 with Aphra narrating the events as they happen. It turns out that Aphra hacked Voor’s camera and broadcast Voor’s speech, now a confession, to everyone. In the end, Aphra gets to prove she had a heart. Voor’s tactics ultimately lead to her mother’s death. Now, Aphra has her revenge. Of all people, Vader arrives to deliver the killing blow and then concludes Doctor Aphra #36 by informing Aphra the Empire has need of her.

Doctor Aphra #36 Emperor Palpatine

Final Thoughts on Doctor Aphra #36

Simon Spurrier is a genius. This reviewer completely bought into the Rebel superweapon angle of the story even though it seemed impossible and improbable. It was infuriating that the Rebels would resort to such tactics (although they seem to be up to something similar in Star Wars). They are the good guys after all. Their plan seemed like something Saw Gerrera would approve of, but he is long gone. Aphra went along for the ride, but she knew something was up the entire time. The reader is left with the rug pulled out from under them, and it is actually fun that way.

Darth Vader seems to have had a change of heart. Ever since he threw Aphra out an airlock, he has been on the verge of catching up to her multiple times and ending her once and for all. When Aphra resurfaced in issue #35, he ordered her killed on the spot. Aphra knows Vader’s intentions and that his son survives. She is a threat to him. The problem Vader has now is that Aphra is a known quantity in the Empire after broadcasting Voor’s treachery. If he is going to kill her, Vader will have to do so in a way that doesn’t unnecessarily alert the Emperor of Vader’s plans.

Doctor Aphra #36 is another excellent issue from Simon Spurrier. Kieron Gillen was a tough act to follow, but Spurrier has added another dimension to Aphra and capitalized on the foundation Gillen left for him. Aphra has a bright future with Spurrier at the helm.

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