Doctor Aphra #8 Review (The Screaming Citadel Part V)

by Dennis Keithly

The Screaming Citadel concludes in Doctor Aphra #8.

This article contains plot details for Doctor Aphra #8, The Screaming Citadel Part V.

Doctor Aphra #8 - The Screaming Citadel Part V - Cover

Doctor Aphra #8 – The Screaming Citadel Part V

Writer: Kieron Gillen | Artist: Andrea Broccardo | Colorist: Antonio Fabela | Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna | Cover: Marco Checchetto | Assistant Editor: Heather Antos | Editor: Jordan D. White

The Fall of the Citadel

When part IV of The Screaming Citadel event concluded, Aphra just infected Luke Skywalker with an Abersyn Symbiotes. These symbiotes create a dangerous hive mind collective and were previously wiped out by the Empire. The Queen of Ktath’atn uses them to control her planet. As the strongest Force-user on Ktath’atn, Luke challenged the Queen for control of the hive. The pair then engage in a psychic battle of wills for control. When Aphra attempts to aid him with the crystal of Rur, Luke rejects the teachings of the essence of Rur and instead falls back on the teachings of the Jedi. Luke overcomes the Queen’s will and the will of the symbiote, and with the aid of Han and Leia, frees the people of Ktath’atn from the Queen and the Abersyn symbiotes as The Screaming Citadel concludes in Doctor Aphra #8.

Doctor Aphra #8 - The Screaming Citadel Part V - Aphra watches Luke and the Queen

Luke and the Force

An ongoing theme in Marvel’s Star Wars comics is Luke’s pursuit of Jedi teaching. In fact, Aphra played on Luke’s eagerness for a mentor in convincing him to join her on the trip to Ktath’atn. In past issues of Star Wars, Luke explored Obi-Wan’s journal and recklessly rushed after leads in the hopes of finding a Jedi to complete his training. The point is Luke never found a new mentor. At this stage of his journey, he is, in fact, very inexperienced, young, and brash.

Therefore, his psychic battle against the Queen is surprising. In addition to fighting against the Queen’s will, he combats the influence of the Eternal Rur. Aphra allowed Rur to communicate with Luke. She had good intentions. However, Rur was the same being seen in earlier issues of this series. He desired an Empire. The Eternal Rur attempted to influence Luke with the goal of controlling the Abersyn hive.

Despite his inexperience, Luke resisted Rur and the symbiote. He recognized the evil and wrongness of Rur’s suggestions. In addition, he responded that the Jedi are about “being,” “letting go,” and “feeling free.” Luke’s response to Rur demonstrates a maturity in the Force he lacks in The Empire Strikes Back. Furthermore, the deepness to his understanding seems unearned. There doesn’t seem to be a moment this lesson can be traced back to in which Luke “got it.”

Once Luke conquers both the symbiote and Rur’s influence, he then turns on the Queen and slays her with a slash of the lightsaber. More on that and Luke in a moment.

Doctor Aphra #8 - The Screaming Citadel Part V - Luke encounters Rur

Hive Mind Battle Royale

With the Queen distracted, control of the Abersyn hive mind was up for grabs. The Queen’s two most senior retainers immediately rush to assume control of the Queen’s minions. However, Han Solo fell under the Queen’s power when infected with a symbiote in the last installment of this crossover. Despite his inexperience, the Queen inducted him into the same level of the hierarchy as the Queen’s more experienced henchmen. Therefore, the Queen’s minions recognize him as a threat and rush to challenge him.

The ensuing fight pits the Queen’s guards against each other as Han and the Queen’s retainers struggle for control of the hive. Once Luke killed the Queen, Han assumed total control of the symbiotes and the hive. He was momentarily overcome with power before realizing he didn’t want it. Therefore, he simply ordered the hive mind out of existence. This was an efficient, but unsatisfying conclusion to this element of the story. It felt rushed. It didn’t help that he didn’t know what he was doing, but his first suggestion just solved the problem.

Doctor Aphra #8 - The Screaming Citadel Part V - Han Solo

Leia’s Lesson Learned

In part three of this story, Triple Zero taught Leia a lesson. In performing his duties, Triple Zero annoyed Leia with his bloody efficiency and ability to get things done. Triple Zero responded to Leia’s accusations by stating that he, in fact, was exactly what she wanted. Leia craved results and efficiency. Triple Zero provided exactly that, unlike Han and Luke. In addition, Triple Zero reminded Leia of her disdain for Luke and Han’s shortcomings.

The lesson struck a nerve and struck home. Once the dust settled on this adventure, Leia casually flirts with Han. When he asks what is wrong with the Princess, she responds, “Just a moment of being grateful for you guys.” She also responds to Han’s suggestion that he could get used to it that it won’t last. As Star Wars fans know from the films, this behavior doesn’t. Obviously, Leia appreciates Luke and Han, but the way she expresses that appreciation differs from this depiction.

Leia simply seemed out of character. More precisely, her mannerisms and word choice were off. She seems to sashay through the latter half of this issue with a hand always on her hip while flirting with Han and Luke. This isn’t the princess Star Wars fans know and love.

Forgiveness, or not, for Aphra

Sana was on the cusp of killing Aphra for the first four issues of this series. That sentiment compounded itself when Aphra ran out on Sana and the others in the last chapter. However, Aphra returned, and that was enough for Sana to forgive all her sins. She even pecks Aphra on the cheek and wishes her good luck. This is a much softer and kinder Sana than the one comic readers have come to know in the past two years.

Conversely, Luke has a harsher response for Aphra. First, Luke rejects Aphra’s offer of access to the Eternal Rur. Then Luke gives Aphra condescending speech about shortcuts. He punctuates that speech by telling Aphra, “Now stay the Hell away from me and my friends.” Nothing could sound less like Luke Skywalker from any part of his journey. This sounds much more like Han.

Doctor Aphra #8 - The Screaming Citadel Part V - Leia and Han

The Saturday Morning Cartoon Wrap-up

Overall, Doctor Aphra #8, the final issue in The Screaming Citadel crossover, felt like an episode from an old Saturday morning cartoon. There was way too much to pack into this issue. After four issues of story development, Kieron Gillen and Jason Aaron ran out of space to tell their story. Perhaps this is the explanation for the out of character moments experienced by Luke, Leia, and Sana among others. This issue attempted to resolve too many plot lines neatly without enough space. Much like a Saturday morning cartoon, the resolution arrived quickly and solved plot lines abruptly.

As for the series, The Screaming Citadel was a fun adventure. It certainly deviated from the norm when it comes to Star Wars stories. The gothic horror angle was refreshing. These are the types of adventures that Star Wars needs from time-to-time. The final pages provide the genesis of a sequel to this story; and therefore, it is possible Luke and Aphra, who is the expert on the symbiotes, will team up again despite Luke’s demand. Unfortunately, this resolution to the series landed with a thud after four quality issues.

Favorite Panel for Doctor Aphra #8

The best page of this issue features Aphra and her crew departing Ktath’atn aboard Aphra’s ship. Aphra remarks that Luke annoys her. In response, Triple Zero bluntly explains why he understands. Luke went through an equally traumatic experience as Aphra and yet he “remains a positive, delightful person, devoted to a better existence for all sentient life.” He then remarks how that must remind her of her own failings as a character. That was really funny. However, my favorite panel is the first one on the page. Aphra calls Luke a “judgmental piece of blond Tatooine bantha dung.” Given his out of character dismissal of Aphra on the previous page, I agree with her. That is the favorite panel of Doctor Aphra #8.

Doctor Aphra #8 - The Screaming Citadel Part V - Favorite Panel

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