Comic Review – Chelli Investigates Some “Dark Droids” for Domina Tagge in “Star Wars: Doctor Aphra” (2020) #35

This week saw the release of issue #35 of Volume II of the ongoing comic-book series Star Wars: Doctor Aphra from Marvel Comics and Lucasfilm Publishing.

Doctor Aphra #35 begins a new arc for the title, and starts off on the Smuggler’s Moon of Nar Shaddaa, where pirates have brought a stolen prototype battle droid to sell to an unsuspecting Roadian buyer. During the deal, the droid suddenly comes to life and kills everyone involved, eventually ending up back in the hands of its creator Domina Tagge of the elite Tagge Corporation. We get a flashback to Domina’s youth designing the droid, which sort of resembles a Droideka, at the beginning of the Clone Wars. In the present, Tagge wonders how it was possible for the droid to come to life since its power cells were removed when it was put in storage, so she brings in our ne'er-do-well antihero archaeologist Dr. Chelli Lona Aphra to investigate. At first Chelli turns up her nose at the assignment, until she hears there’s hazard pay involved, and then Domina enlists her for another illicit task… essentially becoming her underling-with-benefits. I have to say I was not expecting that particular turn of events, but Aphra seems to jump at the chance to bed this wealthy aristocrat, and even comes across as kinda testy in the morning when Tagge says she doesn’t want romance or a relationship.

Next Dr. Aphra and the assassin Just Lucky are rocketing off to the planet Havel Prime to check out the Tagge Corporation’s warehouse, but first they make a pit-stop at the Zoulshaus nightclub on Galator III, where Lucky bows out of the festivities due to his commitment to the off-screen character Ariole Yu, but Chelli finds another body to take home with her that evening. We soon find out that this particular fling is a con-artist who has swiped the datacard containing the location and access codes to the Tagge warehouse… and it’s almost kinda sad to see Aphra spiraling so far out of control in her emotions after her confrontation with Sana Starros that she’s incapable of seeing the double-cross coming from a mile away. So Chelli and Lucky have to continue on to Havel Prime without the datacard, needing to hack their way into the warehouse, where they discover many more droids, not to mention the recently deceased bodies of the criminals who ripped them off. The cliffhanger ending of this issue comes with one of the other droids activating and our two protagonists finding themselves in great danger.

I liked this issue quite a bit, as it sees writer Alyssa Wong and artist Minkyu Jung still working at the top of their games, though like I mentioned above it distresses me to see a character I enjoy so much going through such obvious turmoil. I guess that’s the risk of becoming invested in a persona we’ve come to know across a number of years of storytelling at this point, and it’s also a testament to the talents of Aphra’s creators that I do care. This installment is also advertised as a crossover with Marvel’s current Star Wars: Dark Droids event, though how exactly these battle droids have become infected with the Scourge virus (if it indeed turns out that they have) has yet to be addressed. I’m liking the relatively fresh start here in the pages of Doctor Aphra and I’m eager to find out how Chelli will continue to be affected by that crossover.

Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #35 is available now wherever comic books are sold.

Mike Celestino
Mike serves as Laughing Place's lead Southern California reporter, Editorial Director for Star Wars content, and host of the weekly "Who's the Bossk?" Star Wars podcast. He's been fascinated by Disney theme parks and storytelling in general all his life and resides in Burbank, California with his beloved wife and cats.