Star Wars: Doctor Aphra Volume 4: The Catastrophe Con – Si Spurrier, Kev Walker, Marc Deering & Java Tartaglia (Marvel)

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Now this is more like it! I’ve enjoyed the escapades of the “rogue archaeologistTM” Doctor Aphra since she first turned up in the new line of Star Wars tales but was on the verge of checking out after the last instalment seemed to have lost some of the original lustre that made her so appealing. Never fear though as this new accumulation of antics has it all in spades. Literally everything. Everything and everyone is thrown at it and utter mayhem ensues with, as ever, our anti-heroine plonked right in the middle of it all. The action – and there is plenty of it – kicks off right away with Aphra and her fellow inmates aboard a vast prison ship that is being towed through the galaxy and forced in to the ranks of a platoon of prison soldiers. Recounting an attack on a rebel ship to her Imperial overlords, the adventure begins and oh Lordy, what an adventure it is …

Rather than give away too much plot details, how about a few pointers as to what’s going on in the busy pages of this manic missive? Aphra’s current lover is a high ranking Imperial woman called Inspector Tolvan, who against her better judgement, cannot resist the charms of the narcissistic, selfish Doc. She’s here, all conflicted and that, as to whether she can pull rank and get Aphra out. In flies Sana Starros, Aphra’s ex, on a mission from the Rebel Alliance to also extract the incarcerated Doc. Awkward or what? Everyone’s favourite tin pot terrors 0-0-0 and BT-1 aren’t far behind showcasing some delightful Freddy Kreuger-esque customised finger slashers and an arsenal of blasters. Like a darker version of 3P0 and R2 who prefer torture and destruction to chatting to Cloud City computers and moisture evaporators. Let’s not forget that Aphra is still being pursued by Tam Posla a righteous bounty hunter who strikes a Boba Fett gone Boys Scout cord, for the death of his beloved partner. Yep, he’s on his way too. So, it’s all kicking off on this flying heap of a junked up detention facility and well, as if that’s not enough, it might just be haunted! Yep, there’s a ghostly apparition who may or may not be someone from the Doc’s past … or it may be something completely different.

The need to escape is hardwired in to Aphra and when that need is accelerated for reasons I’ll not detail, trust me, it’s bonkers, the Doc and her new pal, Lopset – a shape changer(!) – must navigate the whole crazy mess to escape. It’s never easy though and love, treasure and the sheer thrill of causing chaos are a heady concoction to our heroine. It seems there’s a new team on this book now and it is a huge improvement the previous story arc. The artwork is far grittier as befitting the tone of the tale. The pace is hectic and the atmosphere is a mix of claustrophobia and carnage. The clock is ticking and every single strand of this book’s last few volumes comes careering and crashing to a chaotic climax that, as you are catching your breath, throws in yet more twists and turns and well, a proper Empire Strikes Back ending … When’s Volume Five out? I demand more of this glorious pandemonium! Marv Gadgie

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