REVIEW: ‘Doctor Aphra,’ Issue #20

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Doctor Aphra #20

Though still technically part of the Crimson Reign event, Doctor Aphra #20—written by Alyssa Wong, inked by Minkyu Jung, colored by Rachelle Rosenberg, and lettered by VC’s Joe Caramagna—feels like a self-contained story, and not in a good way. Doctor Aphra #20 is published by Marvel Comics.

With the assistance of Sana Starros, Doctor Aphra has tracked her former classmate and Ascendant fanatic, Kho Phon Farrus, back to the University of Bar’leth, a place both Aphra and Farrus have a complicated history with. But both have good reason to want to return, as they seek the Spark Eternal, the ultimate piece of Ascendant tech.

The concept of Doctor Aphra #20 is excellent; the ultimate showdown between Aphra and Sana and Kho feels long overdue. And now, after a long messy process, they’re all face-to-face with the Spark Eternal. Both Aphra and Kho aren’t afraid to fight dirty to get what they want. This issue could have been an interesting fight between the two, moving the story forward and revealing what the Spark Eternal will do.

Unfortunately, Doctor Aphra #20 feels like a whole lot of nothing. I understand wanting to keep readers guessing, wondering what the Spark Eternal is and who will win in an all-out brawl between Aphra and Kho. But this story feels dragged out beyond its lifespan. I wanted to be done reading, not because I was eagerly anticipating what would happen, but because I was bored. These are interesting characters, and Wong has good ideas. But the execution was far from optimal.

Flashbacks are fine when used effectively, but it felt like they took up valuable story time here. While the segway from the flashback into the present was well done, the flashback was unneeded. Readers already know that the Spark Eternal is underneath the University of Bar’leth and that Iglan’tine Nos is trying to reveal it. Previous issues covered this.

Instead of rehashing previous events, I would have loved for Wong to expand more on the ritual for summoning the Spark Eternal. Or if Wong revealed why Iglan’tine Nos is interested in it. It clearly goes beyond purely academic reasons, but what are they?

Another letdown with this issue is the art. Jung’s art is good from a technical standpoint, but the scenery is very dull. There’s not much that can be done during the flashback—a lecture hall at a space university is still just a lecture hall—but the ruins of the Ascendant cult had potential. They were a cult obsessed with using technology to replicate the force. They were prominent when the Sith reigned over the galaxy. There’s so much potential for what their sacred space looks like.

The reality of it, a blue-green cave with an altar, candles, and some red symbols, is disappointing.  Sure the altar design is neat, but that’s a tiny part of the entire scene. So much more could’ve been done to enhance the setting visually. The art team is very talented, and it would’ve been great to see them go all out.

Doctor Aphra #20 is walking the same line as previous issues, creating a stagnant story without a way to keep readers wanting more.

Doctor Aphra #20 is available now wherever comics are sold.


Doctor Aphra #20
2.5

TL;DR

Doctor Aphra #20 is walking the same line as previous issues, creating a stagnant story without a way to keep readers wanting more.