Doctor Aphra Annual #2 Review

by Dennis Keithly

Aphra takes a back seat in an issue that could only succeed because of her in Doctor Aphra Annual #2.

This article contains plot details for Doctor Aphra Annual #2.

Doctor Aphra Annual #2 Cover

Doctor Aphra Annual #2

Writer: Si Spurrier | Artists: Caspar Winjgaard| Cover Artist: Caspar Wijngaard| Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna | Assistant Editor: Tom Groneman | Editors: Heather Antos & Mark Paniccia

Aphra is a complex character. That goes without saying for anyone that regularly reads Doctor Aphra. First and foremost, she looks out for herself. However, she isn’t completely oblivious to the consequences of her actions on those around her. Every once in a while, her conscience gets the best of her. During the “Remastered” story arc, for instance, Aphra chaffed under Triple Zero’s control and regretted a great many of the actions she took that harmed others. Issues like that cause readers to pause when considering her character. And then along comes Doctor Aprha Annual #2. Aphra’s conscience takes a vacation when she hires some monster hunters for a job.

Winloss and Nokk

Star Wars has a new odd couple. Meet Winloss and Nokk. Winloss is a human hunter willing to do almost anything to make a credit. His wife is Nokk. Interestingly enough, Nokk is a trandoshan. However, she doesn’t fit the trandoshan stereotype. She has forsaken her people’s tradition of hunting for sport. Instead, she is a trapper. This is a key distinction. She carries her honor on her sleeve. She won’t hunt anything that doesn’t deserve it. She has scruples about hurting animals that haven’t hurt anyone. She is a nonlethal hunter. This causes some friction between her and her husband. In addition, where Winloss is a little more easy going, Nokk is stubborn and grumpy. Opposites attract.

Winloss and Nokk are brilliant additions to Star Wars. They break convention. For one, who would expect a romantic relationship between a human and trandoshan? Second, Nokk is a fascinating take on a trandoshan. Female trandoshans rarely, if ever, show up in Star Wars. Also, trandoshans are almost always ruthless hunters. Nokk keeps just enough common characteristics that readers will recognize her as trandoshan, but then her personality is tweaked just enough to make her an interesting character and memorable.

Doctor Aphra Annual #2 - Winloss and Nokk

The Job

Winloss and Nok find themselves on an outer rim world. Aphra hired them to hunt down a monster. She represents that her employer, apparently a big-time gangster, is attempting to “keep up with the Joneses” and wants his very own pet monster. Think Jabba the Hutt and his pet Rancor. It is what mob bosses are doing these days. Aphra tells them that it just so happens she has found the perfect monster that happens to reside in an ancient tomb protecting a priceless totem.

Aphra has a couple of requirements for the job, which in hindsight are fairly obvious clues. First, she tells Nok and Winloss that they can’t use blasters. Her boss won’t be pleased if the beast comes back with blaster damage. Second, they have to move quickly. Time is of the essence, but the reason that is so is vague.

Aphra accompanies Nok and Winloss by holotransmission. She has a fairly good idea of all the obstacles and traps the pair must overcome in the tomb. Although she claims her knowledge is the result of research, her speech betrays her. It is obvious that she has sent other hunters to the tomb before. Plus, she feigns zero interest in the priceless totem. This is very odd for a rogue archeologist that makes her living plundering priceless artifacts from tombs like these.

A Series of Twists

Doctor Aphra Annual #2 contains a number of well-done twists. First, Aphra reveals that they can’t use blasters because “it generates a resonance-absorptive shield.” In other words, if one fires too many shots into it, it will blow up. No monster retrieval, no pay. Even worse, anyone that blows it up is likely going down with it.

The next twist is that after Nokk and Winloss finally subdue this monster. Aphra refuses to pay them. She calls their bluff when they threaten to shoot and kill the monster. Aphra doesn’t buy it. After all, Nokk was carefully selected for her non-lethal nature. Aphra also knows that Winloss will follow Nokk on this one.

The penultimate twist arrives after Winloss drops the ruse that he will kill this monster. He throws away his weapon (which looks like a crossbow). Nearby is another hunter unafraid to use lethal force. Squoxx is a competitor and one of many hunters that Nok and Winloss find lying around in the tomb over the course of Doctor Aphra Annual #2. However, he was sent by King Prana. Although he took the same job from Aphra as Nokk and Winloss, he was actually working for King Prana all along (get the reference from The Force Awakens?). Prana didn’t want anyone having a better pet monster than him, so Squoxx was there to take this one out. He retrieve’s Winloss’s weapon and kills the beast before dying himself.

Doctor Aphra Annual #2 - Aphra emerges

The Final Twist of Doctor Aprha Annual #2

The death of the beast doesn’t sit well with Nokk and Winloss. However, they don’t have long to consider it. The beast’s belly suddenly bursts open with blaster fire. Doctor Aprha emerges in a null suit with a blaster in one hand and the priceless totem in the other. Aphra explains that the beast swallowed her whole while she was raiding the tomb. Therefore, she needed someone to risk everything to rescue her. Unfortunately, she didn’t know anyone that would do the job. So, she offered a fictitious deal to secure the monster for employer with the promise of a big payday for success. She had no problem finding takers for the job. The trick was getting someone to do it without using blasters. Once the monster was dead, Aphra was free to blast her way out without worrying about a discharge.

These types of hijinks are perfectly in keeping with Aphra’s character. Unlike Doctor Aphra Annual #1, it is difficult to determine exactly when this issue takes place in Aphra’s chronology. This story is certainly a break from the events of the current story arc where Aphra is attempting an escape from Akkresker Jail. Therefore, it is difficult to tell whether Aphra has experienced any of her various crises of conscience yet.

Final Thoughts on Doctor Aphra Annual #2

Si Spurrier did an amazing job with Doctor Aphra Annual #2. Although this is an Aphra title, the real stars are Winloss and Nokk. Despite the trick Aphra pulled on them, they come out ahead as Winloss picks Aphra’s pocket and steals the totem from her as she departs. Like the previous annual in this series, Aphra was a side character, albeit an important one that this issue requires. It simply wouldn’t work without her. This annual kept perfectly with her character.

Caspar Winjgaard debuts as artist for Aphra on this issue. His art is crisp and suits the story well. This is a perfect adventure for Aphra. Her predicament and solution are exactly what one would expect from her. Si Spurrier paced the story very well over 32 pages. It will be interesting to see whether Nokk and Winless re-emerge in a future Aphra story.

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