Review – Deadly Spores And A Lover Scorned In Marvel’s Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #23
Doctor Aphra returns this week, trapped aboard the flotilla Accresker Jail as it hurtles toward a star. Between juggling exes, mind altering spores, and a prison revolt – the doctor is doing about as well as we can expect. Multitasking is Aphra’s specialty, but by the end of this issue, there are other forces in the galaxy that are about to come back into her chaotic life. SPOILERS AHEAD….
Aphra and her friends need off of Accresker Jail (I’m not going to miss typing that name when this arc is over), and her only hope is to trick Tam Posla into giving them a ride. She knows Tam is already after her after she got his partner Milvayne killed, but she also knows that there is someone he wants dead even more than her: Dr. Cornelius Evazan. In case you forgot, Evazan’s backstory is pretty dark, and he’s guilty of multiple mutilations done under torturous conditions for the subject. The late Milvayne happened to be one of those and Tam Posla pledged vengeance. Needless to say, with the prospect of getting satisfaction, Tam hits the hyperdrive pretty quick.
These killer droids aren’t going anywhere, and just as soon as they have finished another round of murders, they intercept the transmission between Aphra and Tam. Beetee and Triple Zero have decided to join the fun. In case you’re keeping score, that’s three individuals that want Aphra dead who are now on their way to Accresker Jail. I’ve used this analogy before, but Aphra seems to have the strange ability to paint herself into a corner. That’s my only complaint about Doctor Aphra: sometimes that galaxy far, far away seems awfully small. My complaints aside, a skilled investigator who wants her dead and two murderous droids. Good thing she doesn’t have a Sith Lord trying to track her down, too.
Add another sticky dynamic to Aphra’s necessary flight from Accresker Jail. The Imperials can’t simply disconnect from the flotilla, so instead they exit through the escape pods and let their ship slam into the jail. The prisoners are in full-on freakout mode and they also blame Aphra, since the Imperials are abandoning ship due to finding out about the deadly spores Aphra gave up during her interrogation. They are coming after Aphra and her crew, but the spores seemed to have sided with the good doctor, for the moment.
It’s intriguing how the connected the microorganisms of Star Wars are connected to the sentient beings. I’m among the folks who will be forever curious about what George Lucas’ cellular-symbiosis themed sequel trilogy would have looked like and I’m glad we haven’t totally forgotten about that microscopic universe in Star Wars. Granted, I don’t know if it’s worth a whole trilogy, but I wouldn’t mind those themes popping up, and Doctor Aphra seems like a perfect opportunity. In the above frame, Aphra reminds her colleague that the ghost is actually a complex, sentient fungus. However you want to say it, it’s proved to be a formidable force aboard Accresker Jail, and is taking out prisoners left and right.
There’s another set of troubled waters Aphra must navigate, and those would be the perfect storm of a former flame and current flame in the same vicinity. Tolvan is not too happy about hearing Aphra essentially used Sana, and suspects that’s what Aphra has been doing with their relationship. This isn’t petty jealousy on Tolvan’s part. When it comes down to it, there aren’t a lot of reasons for her to trust Aphra, and she may very well be at the point where she questions if her infatuation with the doctor has been worth risking her career in the Empire. Aside from her Imperial proclivities, I feel sympathy for Tolvan, who has made herself very vulnerable because of Aphra, and is now at a difficult crossroads. She seems very down trodden in this issue.
We were lead to believe that Accresker Jail was headed straight for a star, but it’s not. Instead, the Empire has decided the last flight of the prisoners will be straight into Tiferep Major, a planet sympathetic to the Rebel Alliance. Sure, it’s no Death Star blow, but millions will be killed and the Empire will have dealt a massive blow to the Rebel Alliance– as well as send a message to the rest of the galaxy. Doctor Aphra comes up with a plan to disable the gravity field that holds the flotilla together, while Tolvan simply tries to order her Imperial subordinates to redirect Accresker Jail. The Imperials think she is an imposter, and disabling the gravity is going to be a chore. As Tolvan rages angrily, Aphra and Sana have a moment together.
I really want to know more about the relationship between Sana and Aphra. We got a glimpse, but it seems like Aphra caused some real damage to Sana. Aphra apologizes, but Sana will have none of it. She’s very much an emotional casualty of Aphra’s hijinks around the galaxy, and I suspect this will be one of the pivotal moments in Aphra’s slowly awakening morality. All Sana can do is say she hears Aphra’s apology to her, but she doesn’t accept it. I’ve no doubt Aphra means it, but sometimes it’s just too late for an apology. Sometimes all you can expect from those you’ve hurt is for them to listen, and that is all the solace they can provide your guilt. Artists Kev Walker, Marc Deering, and Java Tartaglia did such a great job with Sana during this scene. My favorite moment of the issue, to be sure. Tender moment indeed, but as Tolvan watches from the distance, she mistakes it for something else, and decides her loyalties to Aphra may be misplaced.
Back to that spore business. We finally get an idea of what this organism does. It was awoken by touching the mind of a Jedi and the kyber crystal within the lightsaber. I wonder if there were any midchlorian conversations going on. Once it got a taste of the goodness, it tried to find other hosts, but was unsatisfied with the criminal minds it touched in Accresker Jail. Now, it searches for another host it can infect, but is having a hard time because there are no minds like the Jedi left in the galaxy. It goes through all the heads of Aphra’s crew and sizes them up. When it deems someone an unworthy host, instead of passing them by, the organism decides to kill them. Aphra is still itching to get a hold of that lightsaber, since we know Force artifacts fetch a pretty penny at this time in the galaxy. Especially lightsabers. Her crew pulls her away and they make for the lone escape pod that has yet to be jettisoned.
Just as Accresker Jail gets close to Tiferep Major, Tam Posla shows up. As someone who champions himself an enforcer of justice, I imagine he’s going to do his best to keep this thing from smashing into the planet. It’s a nice setup for the end of Accresker Jail.
While Aphra and Sana were having their moment, Tolvan started to record a message. In the final pages, we get to hear that message, and it’s Tolvan telling Vader she knows everything. Tolvan knows about Vader’s plans to overthrow the Emperor and rule the galaxy with his son. I think it’s safe to say the Dark Lord of the Sith and Doctor Aphra are about to be reunited!
I loved this issue. Lots of technobabble and canon tidbits for a canon nerd like me. Writer Simon Spurrier also does a great job slowing down the cacophony of action in a dire situation for great character moments. This is one of the better Doctor Aphra issues I’ve read in a while and it’s setting up the next two issues of this arc beautifully. This issue is at it’s best when things are quiet, and I like to enjoy those moments in Doctor Aphra when I can, because I think it’s going to get pretty noisy going forward.