When I was first introduced to the eccentric Doctor Aphra in the original Darth Vader run she was for me an instant hit, an Indiana Jones-style archaeologist with a quipster wit, an amoral compass, and the perfect foil to Vader’s terrifying presence – someone with no sensible fear of him at all. Always with Aphra I was left laughing out loud as Vader served the role of her reluctant employer, but was also on the edge of my seat, asking the same question after her and Vader’s every interaction: so now is he going to kill her? But Aphra was ultimately able to escape Imperial entanglements and has since returned in swashbuckling style with her very own series.
Doctor Aphra and The Enormous Profit is the second volume in that series, collecting issues #9-13 plus the Doctor Aphra Annual in a single paperback. The story revolves around the mysterious Rur crystal, a powerful artefact containing the disembodied consciousness of a long dead Jedi, that took centre stage in The Screaming Citadel. Aphra being Aphra seeks to sell the crystal to the highest bidder, and to this end gathers together some of the galaxy’s most wanted to auction it off in a deep space retreat. But thanks to the meddling of her self-styled murderbot companions Triple-Zero (specialising in etiquette, customs, translation and torture) and BT-1 (specialising for the most part in blowing things up), things fail to go as planned, made infinitely worse by the unexpected arrival of a certain Sith Lord.
Despite being confined largely to one location, the palatial Sorca Retreat, The Enormous Profit is packed full with everything you could want in a Star Wars story – a grab-bag of exotic aliens, nefarious antagonists, daring heroics, and even a lightsaber battle. It’s a fast-paced caper from start to finish, outrageously funny, and bursting with character. Aphra continues to be infectious, and the fantastic Triple Zero and BT-1 deliver perhaps their most delightfully villainous performance yet.
The icing on the cake is a one-shot story from the Doctor Aphra Annual, focusing on the ruthless Wookiee bounty hunter Black Krrsantan. Here we gain insight into how Krrsantan came to be, peeling back the shaggy exterior to discover some of the motivations behind the apparent monster, and watch the Wookiee let loose. It’s incredible fun, and kicks off what is ultimately an exceptional graphic novel.
As a long-running fan of Marvel’s Star Wars comics I cannot recommend Doctor Aphra enough. To my shame this is the first time I’ve paid attention to the series and I’m very glad I did. It’s obvious the characters introduced in the first Darth Vader run were simply too brilliant to ignore, and with that series shifting gears to focus on Vader’s formative years, The Enormous Profit proves them well-deserved of stories of their own.
Star Wars: Doctor Aphra, Vol. 2: The Enormous Profit is out now from Marvel (£14.99, p/b, 9781302907631)