An all-new story begins in Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #32, with writer Simon Spurrier and artists Wilton Santos and Caspar Wijngaard breathing new life into the ongoing series. Doctor Aphra has been one of my personal favorites in Star Wars comics, but lately, I admit that the series has lost a little bit of the luster it had at the hand of former writer Kieron Gillen. However, in one of the best issues in recent memory, Spurrier shows that the series is still in capable hands and that there’s still a lot of story left to tell about the shady archaeologist.
Aphra’s carefree attitude and unspeakable morals are without a doubt the two very things that make the character so ironically endearing. I love seeing Aphra being, well…Aphra. Just when you think that she’s going to have a change of heart or own up to her mistakes and do the right thing, she stays true to her corrupt morals and goes against the grain of the common trope that we all have come to expect – she’s no female Han Solo, and she’s never going to fight for any cause other than her own.
Despite her delightfully frustrating predictability however, the writing in this series is truly at its best when Aphra toes that fine line of staying true to character while showing the reader the subtle cracks in her hard exterior. Her humanity, though questionable, is definitely there under the surface, and the character shines when we get those secret glimpses from time to time. This quality is perhaps what makes this issue stand out a little more than the others.
Early on in the series, we met Aphra’s father, Korin, and we saw pretty quickly that in some ways, she’s a chip of the old block. But she was just different enough from her dad that I had to wonder what her mother must have been like. Well, this issue finally delivers on that question through a series of flashbacks revealing some important details on her relationship with her mother.
We know from previous issues that Aphra’s dad’s obsession with his work on the Ordu Aspectu drove a wedge between him and his family and that he had been estranged from his daughter for some time before their reunion. The flashback at the beginning of this issue shows us the breaking point – the moment Aphra and her mother, Lona, packed their bags and left her dad behind.
The sadness and regret of this moment is punctuated by the fact that Korin has no idea that his family has just left him for good, assuming them to simply have gone out for a little shopping. Without a second thought, he carries on with his work. It’s clear that this was not some spur of the moment decision and that Lona had been contemplating their departure for a while. She’s not angry, and she doesn’t hate Korin. She is simply resolved in her decision, knowing that he just can’t help himself. She refuses, however, to allow his obsession to continue to affect her and Aphra.
In another flashback, we see Lona and her daughter getting by on their own without Korin. Aphra has grown more and more frustrated since they left her dad, and she finally explodes, telling her mother how much she hates her for bringing her to this new place where nothing ever happens. Sadly, however, those would be the last words Aphra would ever say to her mom as she was instantly killed by a group of savage raiders. With this, let’s fast forward to the present storyline. Not only does Aphra have daddy issues, but she’s got some unresolved maternal issues as well, so I guess we can’t blame her for being a little bit messed up.
Having been shot and almost killed in the last story arc, Aphra has been laying low for a little while, but she refuses to do so any longer. Aphra takes a contract to retrieve an important artifact from an ancient shrine in the Outer Rim. As Aphra evades a series of traps, she uses her tech skills to turn the shrine’s droid defenses in her favor, using one of them to get the artifact, a mysterious cape that has no obvious significance (but probably does). I’ve made comparisons to this effect before, but Doctor Aphra has never felt more like “Indiana Jones” than she does in this issue. Aphra even has her very own Short Round in Vulaada, a girl who aided her on the streets of Milvayne in the previous story arc.
The duo have a fun chemistry, and the pairing is certainly one of the best aspects of the new story. Vu is desperate for a mentor, and Aphra’s maternal issues directly impact how she deals with the girl. Will she mirror her mother’s own example, or will she handle it in her own way? This dynamic is teased a little bit in the issue, but I look forward to seeing the relationship develop further in the future.
On their way out, Aphra sees another artifact that she’s heard about before…the weapon of the Jedi renegade, Oo’ob The Apostate, known as the “Farkiller”. The weapon is basically a sniper rifle that uses lightsaber technology – a weapon that both the Rebels and the Empire would no doubt like to get their hands on. When Aphra sees the weapon on its pedestal, there’s no question…she’s going to have it, no matter the danger that aquiring it will bring. She may have secured a two-hundred thousand credit payday with the cape, but this little baby would be worth millions.
After making it out of the shrine with their lives, the cape, and the Farkiller, Aphra and Vu are still not out of the woods. When a group of Rebels arrives wanting the Jedi relic for themselves, Aphra and Vu are on the run yet again. Vulaada’s beast is no match for the pursuing speeder bike, however, and the Rebels overtake them.
Surprisingly, her pursuer is the ex-assassin, Sister Six, a former colleague of Aphra, who is equally surprised to see her, given that her boss assumed the good doctor was dead. In fact, she believed that she actually killed Aphra herself in a fit of jealousy back at Accresker Jail, a belief that was due to a little mind manipulation at the hand of Aphra in an attempt to throw Vader off her scent. Yep, you guessed it, Tolvan is back, and she’s working with the Rebellion!
The new story is off to a good start, and I’m curious to see what Tolvan’s reaction to Aphra’s survival is going to be. There’s obviously some shock and relief initially, but those emotions could just as easily be followed by anger and resentment in the next issue.
Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #32 is available now at a comic shop near you or online at Comixology. Happy reading comic fans!