Comic Review – “Star Wars: Doctor Aphra” Concludes (For Now) with a Touching, Poignant Finale in Vol. II, #40

Today saw the release of the 40th (and final) issue of Vol. II of Marvel Comics’ Star Wars: Doctor Aphra title, and below are my brief recap and thoughts on this climactic installment.

Doctor Aphra (2020) #40 begins with the not-terribly-surprising reveal that the title character– namely rogue archaeologist Dr. Chelli Lona Aphra– did not actually die at the conclusion of the previous issue. Instead, Aphra engaged remote access on the hyperdrive belonging to the Tagge flagship the Acquisitor and then managed to make it out alive via escape pod before the ship crashed at lightspeed into the planet Rocedila, eliminating the A.I. Scourge threat aboard. This is all told via a beautifully rendered (by artist Minkyu Jung and colorist Rachelle Rosenberg) four nearly wordless pages of action, which are followed by Chelli waking up on the surface of said planet and wandering toward the ruins of an ancient temple. Then writer Alyssa Wong cuts to Tagge Space, where a trio of Aphra’s ex-lovers (Domina Tagge, Sana Starros, and Magna Tolvan) are all recovering from the events of the Star Wars: Dark Droids crossover.

But once the space-dust settles on that particular misadventure, Sana decides she wants to go after Aphra, even though Domina insists there’s no way Chelli could have survived the devastating impact. But Starros knows better about Aphra’s tenacity, and we cut back to Rocedila, where the archaeologist makes a startling discovery: an ancient Jedi text, printed on actual paper in an honest-to-goodness book, which are pretty rare at this point in the larger Star Wars timeline. Here Chelli talks out loud to herself about what this find might mean for herself and her life going forward, but as readers we start to get the feeling that her character arc may mean she’ll find something more meaningful to do with the text (my guess is give it to Luke Skywalker, with whom Aphra remains acquainted). So some more inner monologue sees Chelli grappling with how she has indeed changed over the course of recent events, as she rushes outside grasping the book, and immediately encounters Sana Starros landing on the planet in her ship the Volt Cobra.

Aphra and Sana have a heart-to-heart about Chelli’s change-of-heart, and then we get an epilogue that sees them reunited with Magna, then stirring up trouble in a Canto Bight nightclub. It’s not quite the climax I was expecting for this series– especially given the kitchen-sink promise of the “A” cover, which includes a number of characters that do not appear within the contents of the final issue– but for once I was happy to be misled by such a thing. I’m always going to prefer more intimate, character-driven stories to knock-down, drag-out action setpieces with too much going on all at once, and the former works especially well here given what we know about the various players involved. Plus, there’s a tease of the bounty hunter Raslin Grace (who first appeared in the 2023 edition of Star Wars: Revelations) going after Chelli, and the promise that “Doctor Aphra will return…” on the final page. Which heavily implies that this comic will be back in some form before too long– news that I welcome with open arms. Ultimately this is a satisfying– and rather emotional– conclusion to the current run and an intriguing setup to whatever might come next for our favorite tomb-raider from A Galaxy Far, Far Away and her merry band of misfits.

Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #40 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.