Dr. Aphra Is a Meanie & I Love It

Dr. Chelli Lona Aphra:

  • rogue archaeologist;
  • erstwhile supplier of goods and intelligence to Sith Lord Darth Vader and current acquirer/purveyor of rare (and horrifying) weapons;
  • partners with (re: indebted to) notorious Wookiee former gladiator, Black Krrsantan;
  • possessor of violence-happy droids Triple-Zero and BeeTee;
  • and, according to Beetee, ‘a genuinely horrible person.’

Oh, and even her own father notes that she has terrible taste in women.

Heck of a resume, yeah?

I just finished tearing through the first collected volume (singles 1-6) of Dr. Aphra, a character who debuted in Marvel’s Vader comics (which are awesome and you should read them but that’s a whole other post), and who has had her own comic since 2016. Though I’ve only read the first collection featuring writer Kieron Gillen and artist Kev Walker among others, I’m super impressed by the art and production quality, writing, and character complexity and designs. I won’t go into her Vader arc, or really much of anything specific to the stories I’ve read thus far. Instead, I’ll talk about why I love her and why I think characters like her are important. Firstly, just look at that description in the first paragraph–a resume of pure action-hero awesomeness. She is a scoundrel, wildly competent at her roguery too, and she is an exciting character to follow because of all these things she’s involved with.

Secondly, and to me more importantly, Dr. Aphra is a jerk. Yeah, I said it. She’s a real a-hole. She cheats (in huge ways sometimes), double-crosses, swindles, and yes, she shoots people. She even threatens her own father (who affectionately calls her ‘Boop’) but of course backs off because, as my fave panels so far show, even she has her ethical limits. And those limits are really important, as you see when she talks to her father–honestly, bitterly, and sadly–about the Death Star’s devastation of Alderaan. That does not change the fact that she is an anti-hero through and through, and does some terrible things and does them unapologetically.

Why is it important to me that Aphra (she’d be yelling, “That’s DR. Aphra to you!”) is a jerk? Good question, thanks for asking. >:D It’s because though media has been increasingly filled with exciting, diverse, and complex female characters (I mean, look at shows like Orange is the New Black, or The Expanse), I still have a lifetime’s dearth of female scoundrels, rogues, and meanies but not horri-baddies to fill. Women aren’t always the good guys, or even nice, wuuuuuut? And though I read comics to escape, I love seeing this particular type of reality reflected even in fantastical narratives–i.e., the fact that women are complex and fully realized in such a stunning variety of ways.

Indeed, so much of what I’ve read in recent Star Wars narratives feeds this mighty need of mine. Arihnda Pryce, whom I first met in Timothy Zahn’s new Thrawn book and in the comic adaptation of the same name, is power-hungry, driven, effective, able, and merciless at times. And thoroughly fascinating to me because of it . . . I cannot wait to start watching Rebels because of characters like her (yeah, clearly I’m behind the times on keeping up with my pop media). Even going a bit further back to the Clone Wars series, I was able to experience characters like Asajj Ventress (I freaking love her interactions with Ahsoka Tano), who is one of my favorite anti-heroes to date . . .and yes, I consider her that.

Dr. Aphra takes readers on an adrenaline-fueled, at times hilarious, and other times deeply sobering set of adventures, and at least in what I’ve read so far, her anti-hero’s journey has not taken away the very essence of her character–her self-focused and at times ruthless sense of survival. I hope this stays the case (I’m already reading the next collection), as this is a journey I’m so here for.

I could go on at length about Dr. Aphra and these other characters but I’ll end here with my gratitude to recent Star Wars narratives across various media for giving me so many new women characters to love (so many characters to love, generally) and I am so hopeful and excited for things coming down the road–I mean hyperspace lanes in this galaxy far, far away.