by Ryan Desaulniers
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
When Doctor Chelli Aphra came onto the pages of Star Wars comics, the character intrigued me. Anyone who can be Vader’s servant and still walk out alive must be a worthwhile addition to the universe, and her rivalry with Leia in the “Rebel Jail” storyline cemented her for me as one to watch. But as we move through her solo title, I’m beginning to wonder how much faith is being placed in her character to carry this series without other big name-stays in the SW canon.
I really enjoy the basic scheme in Doctor Aphra 9: Aphra pits a whose-who of scum and villainy against each other in a bidding war for her newly acquired crystal containing the technopathic consciousness of the ancient Jedi, Rur. She plans this event elaborately, creatively, and with charm, using pomp as a smokescreen for how comprehensive her machinations really are.
Aphra and her crew get this nice full-page splash, and I really do like this crew, I just can’t help but feel like the eponymous character comes across as more of an after-thought in this issue. The two kooky droids get the best quips and humor, Black Krrsantan gets to be the physically capable one, and the milieu of bounty hunters and pirates add the color. Dr. Aphra sets up the event and then explains what it is, but we don’t see her do much aside from being clever, making her feel like a more two-dimensional supporting character than the leading woman.
Also, I was hoping that more of this arc — thus far not featuring any Luke or Han — might pass with the focus on Aphra to build her legacy and character on her own before looping back in with the big names of the universe, but the last page, the only other full-page in the issue, reintroduces Vader into the title. I understand their storied history, but it makes me feel like the creative team or the ones above them really do not believe in the Doctor as a character who can stand on her own.
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?
It is a shame that Doctor Aphra seems to be struggling to work on her own. I haven’t read any of her solo book yet, but this was always the risk with Aphraa – she was created for a very specific purpose as a supporting character, and not all supporting cast members are supposed to be leads. I’m hoping that when I get roudn to reading this, I disagree, as I think this is what Marvel should try and do more of with Star Wars.
I would love to see Marvel create characters like Quinlan Vos, Dass Jenir, Zayne Carrick and Cade Skywalker. Leave the Star Wars Universe richer, with new leads and their own supporting cast members (even if it took a bit of time for things to really work for Dass Jennir. It was only when Ember Chankeli turned up that the Dark Times cast truly came together). I’d hoped that Doctor Aphra could be the start of that.
Honestly, what I think I would really see Marvel do is cancel all their Star Wars Ongoings except the main one, and replace them with relaunches of Dark Horses’ Star Wars: Republic, Star Wars: Empire and Star Wars: Dark Times (and add a brand new one, Star Wars: Resistance). And then use these books to give the writers to tell whatever Star Wars story they like, creating their own epics with whatever characters they wanted, including brand new characters. Each book has a defined time period, and you could, for example, have Gillen/Soule write Empire/Dark Times for as long as he wants to tell Doctor Aphra/Darth Vader stories, then hand the book off to someone else, to write whatever they want. Would love to see what some of Marvel’s great writers would do, with this sort of book. Because even if Doctor Aphra isn’t working entirely as well as it should, imagine how much easier it would be to create great leads with rich supporting casts if they don’t have to be supporting cast members of another book first.
Also, the difference in dresses between the cover and the panel you showed is quite hilarious. It seems like there was a change in ideas between the cover and the completed issue. I have to say, the dress she wears in the actual comic feels much more Aphra