Comic Review – Chelli and Company Finally Talk About Their Feelings in “Star Wars: Doctor Aphra” (2020) #31

I’ve got one more Star Wars comic book to get through from last week’s releases, and I may actually have saved the best for last, depending on how much emotional expression you like to have in A Galaxy Far, Far Away.

Star Wars: Doctor Aphra, Volume II, #31 by Alyssa Wong has a wonderful, eye-catching cover by artist Rachael Stott (Star Wars: The High Republic Adventures – The Monster of Temple Peak) and its contents are just as terrific– regular readers of my reviews will know that I tend to prefer talking over action in my stories, and this issue delivers talking in spades.

Doctor Aphra #31 begins after the events of the Star Wars: Hidden Empire crossover, with the title character– rogue archaeologist Dr. Chelli Lona Aphra– recovering from having been possessed by the evil ancient artificial intelligence called the Spark Eternal for an extended period of time. Regrouping on a planet named Hiorin in the Outer Rim, Chelli and her gang of frenemies, ex-lovers, and family at long last have a moment to go over recent events. But at first, Aphra (probably intentionally) mucks all that up by saying essentially “thanks but no thanks” for saving her. This angers almost everyone in the group, and rightfully so, to the point where Magna Tolvan (one of the ex-lovers, also ex-Imperial officer, now a member of the Rebel Alliance) heads out in a huff. The others make Chelli go after her, and the two finally let their true feelings spill out in a hangar. Meanwhile, archaeology student Detta Yao makes advances on occultist Kho Phon Farrus– I do think some of these characters are occasionally a little too forgiving of each other’s more homicidal tendencies… it’s not like Wong has forgotten that Farrus was introduced by going on a murderous rampage (it’s referenced right here in this issue) but maybe Detta just doesn’t care– and assassin Just Lucky actually proposes to his on-again off-again boyfriend Ariole Yu.

That’s an awful lot of emotional baggage being dealt with in one issue, and it almost feels like Wong is wrapping up character arcs for some of these supporting players before Aphra heads out on her own again, which is fine and works well for the time being. But that’s not all- we also get an unusually forthright heart-to-heart between Chelli and the scoundrel / smuggler Sana Starros (the other ex-lover), wherein Sana admits that she does indeed love Aphra, but doesn’t believe that Aphra is ready to love her back quite yet. So Chelli is left by herself in the wake of all this cathartic unloading, and then the comic cuts ahead to “sometime later,” when Aphra approaches Luke Skywalker (in her own less-than-polite way) on the planet Numidian Prime about going on an adventure together. That setup will payoff in the next issue, as promised by the cover of the upcoming Doctor Aphra #32, but for now I can say that I enjoyed the heck out of seeing all these characters bounce off each other and spill their guts about their thoughts and feelings after what they just went through. It’s a great way for Wong and artist Minkyu Jung to reset between arcs and get Aphra back to a place where she needs to find herself before moving forward.

Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #31 is available now wherever comic books are sold.