Review – Join The Empire And Betray Your Lover In Marvel’s Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #35
Aphra and her team are preparing for a job which is something between a heist and a plan to stop the Rebel Alliance from using an ancient Jedi weapon called Farkiller – a unique assassin rifle capable of taking out its victims from a great distance. Sheev Palpatine is who the extreme group within the Rebellion plan on taking out. As Aphra makes her move to swipe this deadly weapon up, Magna Tolvan (now a Rebel officer) intervenes. SPOILERS AHEAD….
Tolvan knows Aphra well and suspected all along she’d go for Farkiller. These two have spent very little time together in the grand scheme of things but there’s no denying the bond they share is intense. The feelings they have betray the sensibilities each of them pride themselves on and that’s why I believe it will be a long road to any sense of normalcy in their relationship. Aphra fights the feelings she has for Tolvan to keep her sense of independence, protect herself, and also not commit to causes conveniently deemed moral by those who lead them. Tolvan betrays her sense of duty – once to the Empire, now to the Rebellion – which has always defined her, but her feelings for Aphra inexplicably (mostly to Tolvan) win. Tolvan doesn’t know Aphra that well, because the doctor always has a back up plan.
Black Krrsantan has been hovering in the vacuum outside the Rebel cruiser, waiting to make his move. Remember, the only reason Krrsantan is along for the ride is because Aphra is in deep with him. It’s important to keep the dubious nature of their relationship in mind as this issue proceeds, especially as more players enter the mix. Tolvan isn’t intimidated by a Wookiee, though. She quickly deflects his attack and actually turns the tables on him, holding a blade to the giant’s throat while underscoring to Aphra the job is over. Sensing this, Aphra decides to come clean and hope the display of honesty will get Tolvan to lower her guard.
Aphra explains the tricky morals of what the Rebel Alliance is planning, only she doesn’t realize it’s only a select few officers determined to take extreme measures. I know part of why Aphra has a problem with this is the loss of life because I truly believe she cares, no matter what she says. Aphra speaks with her actions more than her words. The case she presents to Tolvan is one of hypocrisy in the Rebel Alliance. Perhaps she’s trying to appeal to Tolvan’s highly objective and logical outlook on events in the galaxy. This revelation seems to spark something in Tolvan.
Aphra sees the vulnerability in Tolvan and decides to lower her own guard. I know, I know…this is super manipulative, but she’s cornered and I do think Aphra means these things. Some may see this as her teasing or manipulating Aphra, which is certainly true, but I also like to think she’s reminding her there are still feelings. Tolvan decides to turn a blind eye and let Aphra get away with Farkiller. The combination of presented hypocrisy and raw emotions sway Tolvan’s split second decision. Aphra is quick to spring into action, ordering her protege Vulaada to get their ship ready.
Whoa, I wasn’t expecting that! Much respect to artist Andrea Broccardo, inkers Marc Deering and Scott Hanna, and colorist Chris O’Halloran on this beautiful frame. Unfortunately, we don’t get more than the Solo-esque (but appropriate) response from Aphra. Though it may seem like a cheesy callback, Aphra’s acknowledgment of Tolvan’s love is a watershed moment for both characters. They’ve been on the fence about the depth of their feelings for so long, so it’s great to have one of them just come out and say it. Since Tolvan’s distracted by the moment, Black Kraasantan takes advantage of it and knocks her unconscious. Protective of his investment in Aphra, he swoops her up, grabs the Farkiller and carries her back to their ship, leaving the bewildered Rebels behind. We get a quick flashback to Aphra’s childhood, shortly after her mother was killed and a group of Imperial officers arrive to capture the raiders responsible. I was a little confused by this and assume its somehow demonstrating how Aphra has seen a good side of the Empire.
One thing I wondered about was how Aphra would evade a warrant the Imperials and a certain Sith Lord have on her head while trying to sell them this weapon. Well, she decides to use a similar tactic and goes for full disclosure. On a remote Imperial Communication Relay, officers detect this transmission from her but start to panic when they realize it’s being broadcast across the Empire. She’s seen the effects of propaganda, especially after what happened on the authoritarian planet Milvayne. Aphra announces her intention to present the Farkiller to the Empire at the communication relay, allowing it to be broadcast across the galaxy. Vader sees the message from wherever he’s at in the galaxy, and orders her to be killed as soon as she arrives at the relay. Just as he sends the transmission, the relay is jammed by an incoming vessel.
If it’s propaganda Aphra wants it’s propaganda she’s going to get. We met Minister Pitina Voor in the previous arc as the galaxy watched Aphra and Triple Zero run for their lives on Milvayne. I’m fascinated by the Empire’s weaponization of the media to manipulate their population. Palpatine seems to hold the minister in high regard, recognizing the efficacy of psychological control of the masses. I’m interested to see how the minister’s role evolves through the course of this arc.
We rejoin them a day later, on Centax 3, the third moon of Coruscant. They are in the heart of Imperial propaganda, the C.F.P, where the minister has arranged and impromptu presentation of Farkiller to the Empire. It’s a highly scripted bit of reality television designed to make it look like Aphra’s presentation to the Empire was of her own virtue and she wants nothing in exchange. We see the Empire’s Gallery of Peace and there are a bunch of relics from the Clone Wars. The minister declares the Emperor will be inspecting the weapon, as his Royal Guards arrive to collect it. As soon as the cameras are off, Voor drops the pleasantries and asks Aphra what she wants. After a brief and tense negotiation, the minister agrees to give Aphra a pardon and pay Krrsantan. Black Krrsantan collects his money and takes his leave, while the minister has more business to discuss with Aphra.
Behold, the nerve center of the Empire’s propaganda operation. The minister hints at a greater purpose for her and Aphra. She’s impressed with the doctor’s ability to hack their network, so she offers up a proposal.
Well now, I believe Aphra’s been a part of such things before. However, I’m guessing cyborg assassins and aspiring Sith Lords won’t play much of a role. If I had to guess, the minister is going to wreak havoc on the minds of Coruscant’s population. She suggests a coup. Honestly, this is such an original way to spin the “take down the Emperor” trope we’ve often seen in Star Wars. I’m looking forward to seeing what Aphra and Voor get into.
I loved this issue and it felt like writer Simon Spurrier packed so much in. A lot of these Aphra issues have been a bang for your buck in terms of content. The re-introduction of the minister is an interesting element to throw in, especially since we’re so far into this arc. I’ll be looking forward to the next two issues, but I’m very concerned about Tolvan. I can imagine she’s devastated, once again. I really wish Aphra would stop kicking her heart around.