I was surprised how much I enjoyed the recent Darth Vader series from Marvel. How the heck did a licensed book with limited story potential starring a bad guy, someone expected to lose, do so well?
The answer was writer Kieron Gillen gave the mostly-silent, nearly-unstoppable Vader a colorful supporting cast that acted as a dark mirror to Luke Skywalker’s own team of friends and allies.
As it is, the human member of Vader’s group, rogue archeologist Doctor Aphra has her own series, and the first trade, subtitled simply Aprha is reviewed here.
First off, giving Aphra a series at all shows some creative risk since she is, unlike the various other Star Wars books Marvel puts out, an original character to the comics and not from any film (to date). She is allowed more freedom to move and is limited to a known personality the way her old boss Darth Vader was. And she has the rest of Vader’s crew on hand in the form of psychotic droids BeeTee and Triple Zero and the incredibly dangerous Wookiee bounty hunter Black Krrsantan. And given her own profession, there’s a bit of both Han Solo and Indiana Jones to Aphra herself.
However, just having a potentially fun character doesn’t mean much if there’s nothing potentially fun for her to do. She owes Krrsantan money, the only reason he’s still hanging around, and she’s about the only person the droids listen to at all now that Vader’s no longer hanging around, but then her sole source of sneaky income disappears when her doctorate is temporarily removed. Her thesis had a problem to it in the form of she faked the whole thing to get back at a vengeful advisor, and when that’s revealed, she’ll have to work for the person pulling the strings to keep her from earning a living. Who is this person? Her own father.
Yes, Aphra’s father has had a lifelong quest to find the temple of a legendary Jedi splint group called the Ordu Aspectu. According to Papa Aphra, this group was a benevolent group eventually killed by the orthodox Jedi while pursuing peaceful ways to achieve immortality. But there’s no record of these guys beyond some legends, and Aphra herself is quick to point out they could have also been psychopaths the Jedi needed to put down because they were rather dangerous. The whole thing happened a thousand years earlier and there really aren’t any records aside from a few legends, and giving Aphra a father who’s obsessed with an old legend of religious immortality sure does seem to connect her once again to a certain Dr. Jones.
Naturally, things go wrong. Aphra is much more of a comic relief character than Vader was, so her adventures are as a result more lighthearted as she runs afoul of both her own crew and an Imperial officer, all while trying to ensure Vader never learns she’s still alive. The series is off to a promising start, even if it isn’t quite as good as Gillen’s previous series. Eight and a half out of ten murderous droid fantasies.