Star Wars: Doctor Aphra Volume 5: Worst Among Equals – Si Spurrier, Emilio Laiso, Caspar Wijngaard & Ashley Witter (Marvel)

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If, like me, your interest was waning after the previous missive of the initially marvellous mayhem that is Doctor Aphra’s exploits, go on, give it another go. Honest, you’ll ruddy well love it. Volume Five is a proper return to what made this series so, so good earlier on when our errant anti-hero was upsetting both Imperial and Rebel protagonists.  Opening up with a couple of completely new characters, Winloss and Nokk, an odd couple (Human) husband and (Trandoshan) wife Bounty Hunting team cavort about in a booby trapped cavern in search of their quarry, it appears Aphra is behind their hunt. Guiding them via holocam there’s frivolous fun and frolics aplenty. Adventure and comedy that whizzes by with the added twist that the Bounty Hunting couple actually have something of a moral compass. Yep, they are actually quite nice.

Doctor Evazan however, as any roguish space farer knows, is certainly not anywhere near being described as “nice”. Nope. Not at all. Neither for that matter, is the assassin droid 000 who is an evil negative version of our favourite golden protocol droid. For reasons that will become clear, Evazan has implanted explosives in Aphra and 000 that will detonate if they stray too far apart from each other. Great. An utterly vile and sociopathic assassin droid who specialises in torture and murder, and would like nothing better than to torture and murder our flying helmeted heroine and she cannot be anywhere but beside him. Narrated by Evazan and his Walrus Man side kick Ponda Baba who are viewing the action through Triple Zero’s eyes, one could ask why but it’s not for us to question the dire doc’s experimentation with ethics … just sit back and enjoy the chaos that ensues on the Imperial planet of Milvayne and wherever adventure takes them.

Volume Five of this uneven series is a huge improvement, in both art work and storytelling, on the last outing which seemed to be taking the good or bad – it’s never clear – Doc in a different direction chasing a different demographic. Aphra’s portrayed as much older here, and less, well, “cutesy” which is a plus for me. The worlds in which she careers around in, causing the usual round of merry hell, are rendered in suitably big, bold, colourful, over the top glorious Star Wars style that matches the mayhem wonderfully. Characters new and old come and go and then reappear as the breathless narrative runs riot across the wild escapades that turn in to a sort of Star Wars take on reality TV, just with added death, destruction and dastardly droid doings. Dr Evazan is a much under used devious deed doer and seeing him here being bad just for being bads sake begs the question why haven’t we seen more of the lunatic with the death sentence on twelve systems before in the extended universe?

I doubted this series had the legs to keep running through the Lara Croft/Indiana Jones in Space capers that it was trotting out but after this hyper speed hyper active instalment, I’m back on board though I do fear, just as Doctor Aphra is hitting her stride again, we may see the run coming to an end. Doctor Aphra is far too good a character to let go though and I’m sure she’ll be back if that’s the case. Volume Five is the best slice of wild and wonderful carnage yet. Glorious stuff. Marv Gadgie

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