Marvel’s Star Wars comic book storylines have introduced a wonderful array of new characters that have helped broaden the saga. One of the breakout stars among these new characters is Darth Vader’s new assistant in his self-titled comic, Doctor Aphra. A brilliant droid technician and archaeologist who may or may not have a certified doctorate in her field, Aphra has stolen the hearts of fans everywhere with her unpredictable humor and a complicated backstory that has unfolded into something much more than her introduction to the saga may have let on.
Regardless of what fate may await her in the vast expanse of the story, Aphra is the type of character that steals every scene she’s in. This is especially remarkable because she so often appears along well-established heroes and villains of the original trilogy, including her employer, Darth Vader. Her feats of technological prowess coupled with her unpredictable personality and make her a character worth watching throughout the pages of the Star Wars comics. But what makes her a standout character among a sea of new faces from various stories?
1. She’s Got a Way with Wordplay
While some readers might find Aphra’s thought process and reasoning a little, well, strange, Aphra’s sarcasm and the careful way she codes her words are a vital part of her character. Aphra’s past might still be a mystery, but for the attentive reader, her feelings are hidden in plain sight. In Darth Vader #10, while on a mission to extract information, Aphra shares a version of her past with Commodex Tahn, Padmé Amidala’s mortician. In it, Aphra details a raid by the Empire which ultimately killed her mother, who sent her running away. But in her telling — a story that carries a strange light of morbid hope — the young Aphra returns with an awesome cannon and does away with all the Imperials. Aphra’s words are often peppered with half-truths, and her sarcasm helps mask her fear in situations, which might explain why some of her quips toward Vader are so bold: she knows he can feel the fear on her.
2. Thinking on the Fly is Her Forte
While Aphra is something of a genius in her own right, her ability to think on her toes is what has kept her alive in situations where she was less than brilliant. She’s managed to stay alive on more than one occasion when Vader felt his use for her had ended, but it isn’t just her fast-talking that has set Aphra ahead. Aphra’s knack for droid repair most recently came in handy while she was escaping an attack on Sunspot Prison alongside Princess Leia and Sana Starros. After forming a tense alliance with the two — and an especially tense one with Sana, who Aphra shares an interesting past with — Aphra’s quick fix to a security droid provided the trio a way out, while the droid took out their attackers. While Aphra might have sooner left her newfound allies behind (they were, after all, her captors) her own personal genius saved her own skin for just a little longer.
3. She Never Throws Away Her Shot
Lining up somewhere behind Leia Organa as one of the best shots in the Star Wars saga, Aphra rarely misses her target, and when she does, she builds a bigger cannon so it doesn’t happen again. Aphra’s techno-wizardry when it comes to weapons has made her a critical part of Vader’s overall mission, and while being critical to Vader doesn’t make one indispensable, Aphra has taken her job pretty seriously. In fact, one of the few moments when Aphra’s skillful aim backfired on her (ha!) was during Vader Down in Darth Vader #13, when her own miscalculation mirrored the classically terrible luck of Han Solo, and they knocked one another out in the desert. Ironically, it is Princess Leia who destroys any hope of Aphra’s escape once the doctor wakes up.
4. Her Ship is Awesome
Aphra cruises around the galaxy in a unique starship known as the Ark Angel. Along with being a new addition to the roster of starship models in the saga, the Ark Angel is a massive beauty with a custom white-and-blue paint job that Aphra describes as a “heavy duty lifter.” The Ark Angel hasn’t quite gotten its due yet, but its massive size is a great fit for a collector like Aphra, who likely has more to hide (weapons and otherwise) than she lets on.
5. She’s a Space Archaeologist
There are plenty of job titles in the galaxy: Senator, farmer, smuggler, and guard are among some of the most widely known so far, which makes Doctor Aphra’s role as an archaeologist a unique addition to the lore. Look no further than Aphra’s first few pages in Darth Vader #3, as her introduction plays out almost parallel to the opening scenes from Raiders of the Lost Ark, to see exactly what kind of archaeologist she is. Aphra’s expertise rests within the field of ancient weaponry and tech, but her knowledge also assisted her situation when she, Vader, and her droids traveled to Geonosis to discover that the Geonosian Queen, in a twisted display of loneliness, had created a terrifying hive of altered B1 battle droids. Thanks to Aphra, a fully functioning army of assassin droids was on hand and under Vader’s command, leaving her time to bring the place down with the use of the Ark Angel.
Catrina Dennis is a writer and Star Wars die-hard. In her spare time, she tells stories, yells very loudly about soccer, and hosts a few very cool podcasts. Catch up with her on Twitter @ohcatrina.