Review – Retribution For A Double-Cross In Marvel’s Doctor Aphra Annual #3
It’s that time of year again. The third annual of Doctor Aphra is an entertaining tale that keeps you guessing until the end. We are reunited with the husband and wife duo, Nokk and Winloss – monster trappers and hunters extraordinaire. Though most of the story is centered around their dealings with a dubious bartender, Doctor Aphra is still along for the ride. It’s quite a departure from the regular Aphra series but if you’re a fan I think you’ll enjoy it. SPOILERS AHEAD….
The annual opens with Aphra discussing how seemingly insignificant events can cause major ripples in the course of events for the galaxy. I’m not quite sure where this takes place, but it seems to be well after her last encounter with Nokk and Winloss. She goes on to tell the tale of how Nokk came to be a trapper and met Winloss. For refusing to kill a baby Wookiee, Nokk was expelled from Trandosha and her entire family slaughtered. This happened under the orders of a fellow Trandoshan named Skikkesk. She moved on but never forgot. We realize Aphra’s monologue is directed to Nokk, who is watching it on a tablet at the Mos Eisley Cantina.
Aphra has a proposal for Nokk. The doctor claims to have tracked down Skikkesk and is ready to give him up in exchange for working together. What Aphra wants is nebulous but Nokk understandably wants retribution. It’s suggested she agrees but we’re still not certain what that is. Writer Simon Spurrier does a good job of keeping us in the dark but I have to say this story becomes a bit confusing in parts. There’s a payoff, so be patient. Doesn’t hurt to go back and re-read a couple pages if something is unclear. This story doesn’t do a lot of backtracking. Some may think the Mos Eisley Cantina is a bit of fan service but I was glad to see a classic location.
Winloss orders two more drinks from a bartender named Shrem. He asks Shrem if he’s seen Doctor Aphra but the bartender lets him know its not good practice to reveal information about customers who most likely don’t want to be found. Changing the subject, Shrem warns Winloss not to go after Skikkesk. Winloss suggests the decision is already made and reveals their marriage has been shaky so he doesn’t want to cause anymore trouble for them. When Winloss mentions Aphra says she knew people in the Cantina Shrem becomes alarmed and we see through his memories that he does know her. Through his mind’s eye we see the two of them fleeing from a large group of Jawas. Winloss remains under the assumption he doesn’t know Aphra. He asks Shrem for a favor – to watch one of Nokk’s pets, a pygmy-esque scurrier for a few hours. For a handful of credits, Shrem agrees. Winloss and Nokk depart and are gone for much longer than expected, but they are replaced by a new customer.
Black Krrsantan returns. Upon making quite an entrance, we learn Jabba the Hutt is not happy with Black Krrsantan. The Hutt crime lord doesn’t like the idea of the Wookiee bounty hunter going out on his own. There is a price on his head and these unfortunate folks in the frame above pay the ultimate price for trying to collect. The rest of the Cantina patrons go about their business as Black Krrsantan dismantles his attackers. After their bodies are disposed of, Black Krrsantan approaches Shrem and takes in interest in the Scurrier.
When Black Krrsantan tries to go for the small creature, the bar’s security systems activate to dissuade him. We learn the Wookiee wants to get back in Jabba’s good graces and the scurrier in Shrem’s care is a rare breed. We learn the reason they are rare is because Jabba eats them morning, noon, and night and he’s recently exhausted his supply. Shrem doesn’t agree to sell it to him but says he’ll try to convince Winloss and Nokk to let him have it. When Aphra’s name is brought up by Black Krrsantan, Shrem experiences another flashback.
However their partnership ended, it looks like Shrem abandoned Aphra, so now we know why he’s so nervous when her name comes up. Black Krrsantan still pesters Shrem about giving up the scurrier. Shrem is concerned what would happen to the reputation of the Cantina if he sold Nokk’s pet, but reassures Black Krrsantan he has a plan on how to broker a sale. When Winloss returns, Shrem offers him a hundred credits, but the trapper is more concerned about the well-being of his marriage than money. So, Shrem proposes he give the couple the location of Skikkesk, unaware it was offered by Aphra. Winloss agrees to trade the scurrier for the location, so my guess is whatever deal he and Nokk made with Aphra fell apart. The trappers set out for Skikkesk, but later Shrem attempts to contact Skikkesk before Winloss and Nokk arrive. Aphra’s not the only one Shrem double-crosses.
Shrem’s too late, as the duo arrive to claim revenge on Skikkesk. He doesn’t realize Nokk and Winloss are attacking Skikkesk, so instead he ponders on what to do about this valuable scurrier. In a predictable pattern, Shrem decides he’ll present the scurrier to Jabba himself and reap the reward. Shrem has now double-crossed Aphra, Winloss, Nokk, Skikkesk, and Black Krrsantan. He better hope whatever price Jabba pays for the small creature is worth it because he’ll have a target on his back from several folks.
When Shrem arrives at Jabba’s palace, he sees Black Krrsantan, Winloss, and Nokk are waiting for him. They’ve been working together, under Aphra’s direction, to unmask the location of Skikkesk. They manipulated Shrem into giving it up by making a common rodent seem more valuable than its actual worth, knowing he’d double-cross them. Shrem doesn’t trust them and proceeds to present the scurrier to Jabba. The Hutt seems excited to eat the helpless creature but as he lifts it to his mouth, the scurrier spits in his face. Jabba is not amused and decides to skip his meal and instead give one to his rancor – Shrem and Skikkesk fall into the pit below as Aphra reminds us readers about ripple effects of small events affecting larger ones.
It would be interesting to see these three work together again, whether it’s under Aphra’s guidance or not. With the series set to end later this month, we’ll probably have to wait until the new Doctor Aphra is launched in 2020 for the possibility of seeing them again. With these three have shown up a lot in recent arcs so I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw them again.
This annual certainly isn’t required reading. I can tell Simon Spurrier had fun writing this and this is probably a way to say goodbye to the characters. The art in this issue from Elsa Charretier, and colorists Edgar Delgado and Jim Campbell, is not my favorite of the Aphra books, but it’s still well done and there are some good frames. I liked the set-up for the double-cross of the double-crosser and Aphra helped these past adversaries because she felt bad about the way she’d treated them. When faced with some of the more immoral choices she’s made, Aphra feels true remorse and wants to try and make-up for it in some way. That was my favorite aspect of this issue. Doctor Aphra continues to grow.