The Joy of Star Wars: Doctor Aphra 10 is the Supporting Cast

by Mark Mitchell

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

I’m beginning to sound like a broken record, but Kieron Gillen and Kev Walker’s Star Wars: Doctor Aphra 10 once again illustrates that the joys of these Star Wars comics are frequently not in their ostensible stars. Chelli Aphra as a character is interesting enough to do no harm, but the real highlights of the issue are the supporting cast; Toov and his Iron Lung of The Future, the Ezaraa and their delusions of grandeur, BeeTee and Triple-Zero’s turning their boredom into dangerous tinkering, each is much more interesting than the mechanizations of the plot.

This isn’t a knock against Doctor Aphra 10. Gillen and Walker clearly devised the issue as a showcase for their colorful cast, and they succeed in that regard. The previous issue even ended with the promise that Darth Vader will be crashing the party soon, but his presence isn’t missed here at all. But I do wonder if it’s a problem on a larger level that many of the current Star Wars books feature main characters that feel a bit beside the point. Because while it works out great for casual readers like myself who can drop in and out of series without missing much, it also points to a more troubling trend in Star Wars comics. I’m loathe to point to the old Expanded Universe as a positive example of anything, but it was at least fearless in going gonzo every once and a while. Star Wars as a multi-billion dollar Disney-owned cross-medium enterprise is happy to play it safe, but the blandness in the comics limits the possibility of engaging with them on an emotional level.

The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?

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4 comments on “The Joy of Star Wars: Doctor Aphra 10 is the Supporting Cast

  1. It makes sense that the main cast of most of the Star Wars books wouldn’t be allowed to change too much — certainly so long as they’re working in the spaces between the established canon of the movies — but you’d think this would be the one series that wouldn’t have that problem, precisely because Doctor Aphra doesn’t feature in the movies at all. Still, I suspect a lot of what this series is for is exploring the Star Wars universe outside of the core Star Wars cast, so I can see using Aphra mostly as a vehicle to taking us to strange corners of the universe and introducing totally bizarre characters.

    • I am really wondering if Doctor Aphra has the problem that Aphra’s story is already over. She can’t really change as the one story that she could truly be a part of is already over. She may not have the movies holding her back like the main Star Wars book does, but she does have the Darth Vader book. And the Darth Vader book hangs over Aphra like the moves hang over the Star Wars cast. Hell, Mark mentions the problems with the original Expanded Universe, and a big part of that was the fact that even stories after the movies were shackled by movies (and to a lesser degree, the THrawn Trilogy). Just because it takes place after doesn’t mean that the character can’t still be trapped.

      I guess, considering her roots, an Indiana Jones style archetype who exists primarily as a vehicle to tell a wide range of stories aorund is not the worst way to showcase whichever part of the Star Wars Universe Gillen wants to. That archetype has a long history of being used as an achor for whatever else you want to tell. But the best versions of this character also had a little more, something that made them more than an archetype in someone else’s story.

      I don’t mind the main Star Wars book for being what it is. If you think of the original Star Wars trilogy as the three most important episodes of a long, episodic serial, I do like the idea of using the Star Wars comic to tell us the rest of those episodes, the episodes that exist primarily toa ct as fun adventures. The Marvel Star Wars line’s great strength is how well it masters that sort of pulp storytelling. I’m actually slightly worried about Gillen taking over with his promise to make the book more like Darth Vader, because despite Darth Vader being one of the best comics around, I worry can’t tell that sort of story, focused as it is on the arc of the characters and the way thigns change, on the main Star Wars cast.

      But yesh, as Mark said, the old Expanded UNiverse took its chances to go gonzo. ANd I’d argue they were the best moments. What made the Expanded Universe so frustrating was how enslaved ti was to the movies, but as soon as they started telling stories about random characters that weren’t in the movies, in unusual contexts like spy dramas, westerns or noir detective stories, the Expanded Universe was at its strongest. Free from the constraints of everythign and taking the chance to push the boundary, you had interesting situations, compelling characters and all that sort of stuff. Soemtimes, they messed these things up royally, but a character like Quinlan Vos or Jax Pavan had potential because they were written entirely to be their own characters first, free from teh movies influence (hell, the writers of Quinlan Vos would complain about how Lucasfilm loved the characters so much that they put Aayla Secura in the movies and planned to put Quinlan in. The movies actually disrupted their own plans for those characters)

      As I said last month. Cancel everything but the main Star Wars book, and release Star Wars: Republic, Star Wars: Dark TImes, Star Wars: Empire and Star Wars: Resistance. And then let writers loose in the respective timeframes, to write whatever they want with new, fresh characters.

      I cna only imagine Gillen doing an amazing Dark Times series. Something about that period between ROTS and ANH feels rich for a writer like Gillen

  2. This is definitely an arc that, at least so far, is more about exploring the culture and the underworld around Aphra, but we still get some insights into her character — it seems significant that she auctioned her trinket off to the school who both offered her access to their findings AND threatened to blackmail her over her falsely gaining her title, instead of to the highest bidder. I’m not sure the FULL significance yet — she’s probably equally interested in the findings as she is not losing her title, but both show that she still cares about things other than money — but there is meaning there. And the first arc of this title helped us learn quite a bit about Aphra in terms of her family and backstory.

    Maybe this book isn’t the DEEPEST exploration of its title character, but it does a better job than, say, Poe Dameron

    • Poe Dameron confuses me. If the arcs were longer, the length of the minis, it would be of comparable quality to the main book and the minis, though clearly the weakest. Just a book telling a series of pulp narratives with Poe.

      But with Poe being little more than a charismatic performance at this point, the book feels weird. Poe doesn’t feel like a character you can write a book about until at least the Last Jedi. Soule quite simply lacks everything needed to give the character an emotional core, because he’s still waiting on Rian Johnson to provide it

      Unfortunately, while Rey and Finn have those emotional cores, their sroeies aren’t conductive to prequels because a big part of their stories is that nothing happened to them until the movie, unless we want a Finn, Space Janitor series. I wonder how different the Poe Dameron series would be if the choice to have Poe survive the TIE Fightet crash wasn’t a last minute decision and Abrams got to develop him as a character, instead of leaving that to Johnson

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