Saturday Star Wars: Doctor Aphra Vol. 05 by Simon Spurrier and Emilio Laiso—Graphic Novel Review

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The good Doctor is back, and running for her life with her dearest pal, the homicidal protocol droid Triple-Zero. The two frenemies are in quite the bind–as soon as they grow further than 20 metres apart, the explosives implanted in their necks will arm, and go ka-BLOOEY!

Grizzly, but what’s a little blood, guts and blown-out logic matrices betwixt friends? Not much at all, I think!

Oh, and I shan’t offer you much in the way of amusing panels, since I borrowed this volume, and the next, from my local library.*

This was an interesting volume, continuing on from the previous paperback, when the human among these two lovely boys popped into Doctor Aphra‘s life and strapped a pair of bombs in her and Trip’s heads. Why would he do that, you ask?

The boys, together from 1977! (Doctor Cornelius Evazan, seated right, with Ponda Baba, seated left.)

This, then, is a struggle for survival on the planet Milvayne, which is built on the notion of law-abiding snitches. It’s not a good place for a psychotic murder-droid to be with; somehow it’s an even worse place for Chelli Aphra. Whether because of the bomb or because of the company, I shan’t say (it’s totally the company) but on the road to freedom, the two cross paths with robotics doctors, Imperials, mercenaries, some old foes come back to life-adjacent existence, and even capture the attention of one Minister Pitina Voor, of Emperor Palpatine’s own cabinet. This last one will be important next week, when I talk about Volume 6, Unspeakable Rebel Superweapon.

Doctor Aphra continues to embrace an irreverent, near-Guardians of the Galaxy tone, which juggles murderous humour with sombre questions of personal morality, loyalty and empathy — to some success.

What I enjoyed most about this volume the most was the character arcs both Chelli and Trip underwent; the antagonistic relationship between droid and archaeologist developed, and was written very well. Aptly named, Worst Among Equals does offer compelling proof as to how shifty a character the good Doctor is, while reminding the reader there’s an ember of decency somewhere deep inside the self-serving exterior Aphra has spent her whole adult life building.

Among my favourite quotes, spoken by Trip to Aphra, is this one:

Bonding. It’s too delicious.

I imagine–oh!–you see yourself in her[a young girl Trip and Aphra cross paths with,surviving in the underbelly of Milvayne]. Born survivors, unsure whether to flee the tyrants or take shelter under their skirts. I’m afraid I’m not the only one looking in mirrors today, Doctor. You do know she’ll betray you?

If you truly are remotely alike, it’s practically inevitable. Would you like to know the odds?

I have observed you for a long time, Doctor. Monster hunters and mercenaries…lovers and lords…I don’t think you’ve ever met someone you wouldn’t throw to the anoobas to save your skin.”

Trip, doing some psychoanalysis in-between murder.

This also included the second annual story, which introduces a pair of monster hunters, Winloss and Nokk, who make their return as supporting characters with a bone to pick with Aphra.

Read back-to-back with the next volume, I appreciated how much it set up for the thinner sixth volume. I appreciate Spurrier’s writing a little more in this volume than in The Catastrophe Con, which was a weaker trade paperback overall. This one earns that 4/5 star score on Goodreads with ease, where the previous one really struggled.

The line art is by Emilio Laiso (with Andrea Broccardo on issues #31), coloured by Rachelle Rosenberg. The colours are vibrant and inhabit well the aesthetic of the Star Wars universe. I preferred Kev Walker’s rendition of Aphra herself — his sharp lines better fit my image of her. Laiso’s art is more consistent in terms of overall quality; but don’t get too used to consistency in that department — the next trade paperback employs three artists, each one’s style different from the next!

I leave you with this panel:

What better captures Doctor Aphra than this? I know not.

*Support your bloody libraries, folks! Now more than ever.

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