Doctor Aphra #38 Review

by Dennis Keithly

Aphra’s past emerges once again to complicate her life on multiple levels. Plus, Doctor Aphra #38 proves working for Darth Vader is a difficult career path.

 This review contains plot points for Doctor Aphra #38.

Doctor Aphra #38 Cover

Doctor Aphra #38

 Writers: Simon Spurrier | Art: Caspar Wijngaard | Colors: Lee Loughridge | Cover Artist: Ashley Wittier | Lettering: VC’s Joe Caramagna | Assistant Editor: Tom Groneman | Editor: Mark Paniccia

There are some aspects of Doctor Aphra’s life that she simply cannot put behind her. Despite her best efforts, Darth Vader and the Empire is one of them. At the end of Doctor Aphra #36, the Dark Lord caught up to her once again after she foiled an assassination plot directed at the Emperor. So, Aphra managed to gain a reprieve from the mark the Empire placed on her, but she ended back in Imperial service under Darth Vader in Doctor Aphra #37. Immediately, she began plotting her escape from this predicament. First, she managed to put Vulaada out of harm’s way on a mission to scout a potential Rebel base. Then her father appeared at an archaeological site potentially occupied by the Rebellion and now Vader has him set for questioning. This is just the beginning of Aphra’s current difficulties in Doctor Aphra #38.

Old Alliances Revisited

Aphra’s father has an uncanny knack for getting into trouble. Really, it is an Aphra family trait. Whereas Aphra gets into trouble because her greed gets the most of her, her father gets into trouble because he can’t resist exploring and seeking answers. Essentially, they each are victim a different type of greed. Plus, neither knows when to quit. Actually, it might be more accurate to say they know when to quit, but they simply can’t help themselves.

Regardless, Aphra’s father’s exploration of ruins once used by the Rebellion landed him in his current predicament. Aphra does her best to convince Vader to spare him, but to no avail. Then the interrogators arrive. It is none other than Triple Zero and BT-1. They were last seen in Doctor Aphra #31. In that issue, they had finally parted ways after Aphra and Triple Zero had the proximity bombs in their heads deactivated. Triple Zero and BT-1’s quest for independence didn’t go as planned though, and Doctor Aphra #38 reveals they were rounded up by the Empire, exposed to a memory wipe, and put into service as interrogators. Given Triple Zero’s fondness for inflicting pain, this is definitely not good for the senior Doctor Aphra.

Doctor Aphra #38 Interrogation

Old Family Conflicts

Just as with many other issues of Doctor Aphra, Doctor Aphra #38 is about relationships and family. Aphra has always had a complicated past with her parents. Her mother was estranged from her father after he couldn’t focus on anything other than his work. Ultimately, this estrangement and relocation to a backward world resulted in Aphra’s mother’s death. This then caused further complications between Aphra and her father. Abandonment issues are among the many issues Aphra that influence Aphra’s behavior.

Despite her issues with her father, she argues and reasons with Darth Vader to save his life. When that doesn’t work, she argues and reasons with her father. Eventually, he realizes that Vader wants information about the Rebellion. Because he has no sympathy for them, he willingly tells the Empire everything he knows and saves himself from Triple Zero’s worst techniques in the process.

Eventually this leads to a heart-to-heart discussion between Aphra and her dad. The interrogation lead to an investigation of the Asteroid Helix 13-v. It is a site that holds some significance with the Force. However, the Rebellion was only passing through, but they left clues behind as to their next stop. When the investigation is over, Vader directs Aphra and her father to return via a shuttle, but he instructs BT-1, who is watching them, to eliminate one before they get back to base, which leads to an interesting father-daughter chat.

Living Life

Aphra resigns herself to the fact that one of them won’t survive the trip. So, she tries to raise the issue with her father about who should die. The senior Aphra doctor might not have a lot of social grace, but he attempts to console Aphra in his unique way. He tells Aphra about a ritual he witnessed and how he wished Aphra had been there. Next, he asks Aphra what she has been doing. Aphra spills a long list of activities that come off like a confession. Readers of the series should recognize what she is talking about: hijacking a Rebel flight school, getting swallowed by a Shadowfang beast, activating a hellhulk guardian, and a long list of other adventures.  

Aphra is pouring out her adventures to her father, but they are all regrets. This includes falling in love, presumably with Tolvan, and ruining it. She cries as she recites this list. Aphra is heartbroken by her past and the disaster left in her wake. When her father has the opportunity to condemn her actions, he doesn’t. Instead, he tells her that she has lived life. She made mistakes, horrible ones, but in the end she lived, learned, and above all, she never stopped feeling. He concludes by telling her that he is proud of her, perhaps for the first time. Then, he elects to sacrifice himself to BT-1. Despite his parenting flaws, and there are many, he finally makes the right move.

Doctor APhra #38 Vader

Not So Fast

Before the senior Doctor Aphra can carry through with this act of fatherly-love and sacrifice, the shuttle is attacked. The Rebellion has caught up to the shuttle, captured it, and infiltrated it. They successfully stun all the stormtroopers and Aphra’s father. The big reveal is that Tolvan is leading the mission. She isn’t happy with Aphra either. As the issue concludes, she orders her troops to find Aphra and kill her.

Concluding Thoughts on Doctor Aphra #38

Si Spurrier keeps turning out fascinating stories about Doctor Aphra. Her dysfunctional relationships with her family and allies also rise to the top and make for entertaining reading. Aphra is a survivor. She is always looking for the angle that allows her to get out of whatever mess she created for herself. It is clear she is looking for the out that is her situation in Doctor Aphra #38. She probably didn’t anticipate the Rebellion intercepting her shuttle.

There are two other issues worth discussing in Doctor Aphra #38. In the prior issue, Aphra stranded Vulaada, her ward, on a remote planet. In this issue, Vulaada finds a holo-recording that explains Aphra left her behind for her own good. Vulaada is better off without Aphra. The issue is that she is stranded. Furthermore, some species of sand sharks is closing in on her location. Once again, Aphra had great intentions, but they weren’t well thought out. This is certain to create issues for her in the future.

Vader has a brush with his own past as well. On the Asteroid Helix 13-v, he encounters a Force altar. The ghosts of the asteroid try to frighten him with images from his past. In response, Vader destroys the altar and remarks he isn’t the lost boy that would be frightened by such things anymore. Aphra overhears this. Although she helped discover that Luke was the pilot that destroyed the Death Star, she still doesn’t know his connection to Darth Vader. She may have stumbled upon something that is very dangerous for her to know.

Doctor Aphra #38 has a great pace and flow. There is enough discussion and action spaced throughout to keep the reader interested. The cliffhanger ending begs for a resolution in Doctor Aphra #39. Si Spurrier’s run on Doctor Aprha may be coming to a close, but he is going out strong.

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