Star Wars: Doctor Aphra
|Star Wars: Doctor Aphra|
Issue #1 cover (December 2016)
|Publication date||December 2016|
|No. of issues||40 + Annuals #1-3|
Star Wars: Doctor Aphra is an ongoing Star Wars comic book series from Marvel Comics which centers on Doctor Aphra, a morally questionable, criminal archaeologist previously in the employ of Darth Vader. Set between Star Wars (1977) and The Empire Strikes Back (1980), the series was created by writer Kieron Gillen and artist Salvador Larroca, who introduced the character Doctor Aphra in the Star Wars: Darth Vader comic series. Doctor Aphra debuted on December 7, 2016. It is the first ongoing Marvel Star Wars comic focused on an original character not from the films.
Between the events of Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, Doctor Aphra has escaped death at the hands of her former employer, Darth Vader, but remains in hiding from the dangerous Sith Lord. She resumes her illicit trade of ill-gotten artifacts to pay off her enormous debts, accompanied by the "murderbots" 0-0-0 and BT-1, Wookiee bounty hunter Black Krrsantan, and eventually Vulaada Klam, Aphra's sidekick later in the series.
Doctor Aphra first appeared in Star Wars: Darth Vader #3 (March 2015), created by Gillen and Larroca. In the story, she is recruited by Darth Vader to aid in his schemes, also appearing in several issues of the Star Wars comic series in a crossover with the Darth Vader comic in 2016. Vader attempts to kill Aphra in the last issue of Darth Vader, but she escapes. Increased sales of Darth Vader #3 convinced Gillen of Aphra's instant popularity, and he called the character "a big part" of the unexpected success of the Darth Vader series. Gillen said he wanted to do the Doctor Aphra series to explore "what makes her tick and why she's doing what she's doing".
The new series was first teased in September 2016 as Star Wars: Classified, before its official announcement as Doctor Aphra in October 2016. Editor Jordan D. White expressed Marvel's excitement at the continued use of the character, saying "We love Aphra so much. We were overjoyed that she found a way to survive the wrath of the Dark Lord." The series debuted on December 7, 2016. Gillen wrote issues #1 to #13, and then cowrote #14 to #19 with Simon Spurrier. Spurrier took over for a departing Gillen as of #20. Larroca and Kev Walker shared the artwork for issue #1, with Walker doing it alone for #2 and #3, followed by Walker and various other artists rotating in and out of the series.
Spurrier said of the series:
The particular beauty and the particular attraction of something like Aphra is that...we all grew up with Star Wars and we all love that world and we recognize it and we respond to its particular aesthetic and its particular vibe. But at the same time, Aphra is very much in her own funny little niche and off doing her own thing and, yes, occasionally overlapping with stuff in the wider universe in a way that always feels like a cute Easter egg rather than a continuity obstacle...She's the thing that allows us as comic creators, especially in a shared universe, to tell very different, very unique stories that you just couldn't necessarily get away with, with any of the more mainstream characters and groups.
Regarding Aphra's sexuality, Gillen said, "Star Wars doesn't really have the terminology that we do either. One of the things we wrote inside the first arc was that homophobia as we know it doesn't really exist in the Star Wars universe. No one raises their eyebrow, no one seems surprised when it happens. It's kind of just something that’s there, so the way that they process sexuality has got to be different anyway, and how they choose to identify, as well." Of Aphra's relationship with Magna Tolvan, Gillen added:
When I invented Tolvan, I was explicitly thinking...This hard-bitten, kind of very serious kind of person chasing down this more whimsical person and the sexual tension. That was the thing. I wanted to have this sexual tension between the person being pursued and the person who is doing the pursuing. And, of course, the flip of it is, Aphra's the person who's also pursuing Tolvan. Kind of like, I want to arrest you but also I'm crushing on the person trying to arrest me. That struck me as a really cool dynamic.
Impact and reception
The Doctor Aphra series is the first ongoing Marvel Star Wars comic focused on an original character not from the films. Bria Lavorgna of StarWars.com called Doctor Aphra "one of the coolest characters in Star Wars right now." Alan Scherstuhl of Slate wrote of the series, "The stories, like Death Stars, tend to explode, but unpredictably so, with escalating twists, striking moral quandaries, and only occasionally anything like a truly happy ending." He explains, "Besides the vigorous storytelling and startling twists, the Doctor Aphra comics...fill in shades of gray that are otherwise missing from Star Wars' moral spectrum." Jesse Schedeen of IGN called Doctor Aphra "Marvel's riskiest Star Wars project to date", but noted that "the distance from the movies gives Doctor Aphra a greater sense of freedom in terms of tone, style and plot possibilities." Schedeen described the series as "very much like a Bizarro Han Solo story with a dash of Indiana Jones thrown in", and noted that it "thrives on its dark sense of humor."
Gillen said in April 2018, "[Doctor Aphra] was the number two trade in February. A completely new character selling that well is shocking in comics. That kind of response is enormously impressive, as it doesn't happen often." The series was nominated for Outstanding Comic Book at the 30th GLAAD Media Awards.
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