'Star Wars': Who Is Doctor Aphra?

Introducing the latest anti-hero from a galaxy far, far away, set to star in her own Marvel comic book this December.
Kamome Shirahama/Marvel Entertainment
Introducing the latest anti-hero from a galaxy far, far away, set to star in her own Marvel comic book this December.

It was revealed yesterday that the previously classified new Star Wars comic book series from Marvel launching this December — following Star Wars, Star Wars: Darth Vader, Star Wars: Princess Leia, Star Wars: Lando, Star Wars: Chewbacca, Star Wars: Poe Dameron, Star Wars: Obi-Wan and Anakin and Star Wars: Han Solo — will be titled Star Wars: Doctor Aphra. For those in the know, this is good news. For those who aren't quite familiar with that character, read on.

One of the things making the Doctor Aphra comic book series special is that she's a character who debuted in Marvel's Darth Vader comic book, making the series the first time Marvel has released a Star Wars comic centering around a character who originated somewhere other than onscreen canon. (It's not the first non-movie character comic, however; Star Wars: Kanan focused on the character from the Star Wars: Rebels animated series.)

That she's graduated from supporting character to lead in less than two years speaks not only to Aphra's strength as a character, but also her popularity with readers. From her first appearance in 2015's Star Wars: Darth Vader No. 3, her snarky personality allowed her to fit in with the wider Star Wars universe — she had a Han Solo-esque charm, for reasons we'll get to soon enough — while standing out as a sidekick to the much quieter, more serious Vader.

Of course, Vader doesn't need a sidekick, per se; it was Aphra's occupation that drew him to her. A self-proclaimed "rogue archaeologist," she's essentially an inverse Indiana Jones obsessed with discovering weapons not to store in a museum, but to be used. It's a concept that makes her a fascinating anti-hero, but allows for some great set pieces as she gets herself into scrapes uncovering her latest treasure; the opening scene of Darth Vader No. 3, where the reader first meets Aphra, is a great example of this, showing her as a mix of highly skilled, over-confident and just plain lucky. Who could resist?

Kieron Gillen, the co-creator of the character with artist Salvador Larroca — and writer of the new Doctor Aphra series, which will be illustrated by Kev Walker — doesn't shy away from her inspiration. "My description originally was, 'Imagine Indiana Jones, how he goes about problems in that ramshackle kind of [way], but with his ethics inverted,'" he told StarWars.com. "That was kind of the core of it, I think … She’s kind of fun to be around."

Part of that fun is that she, by her very nature, illustrates a moral complexity somewhat unusual in Star Wars. Aphra is very clearly not a hero, nor even a good person — something demonstrated when she clashes with the Rebellion in issues of Star Wars — but she's not exactly a villain, either, despite being allied with the Empire. Think of her as an archaeologist version of the bounty hunters from The Empire Strikes Back, perhaps.

Star Wars: Doctor Aphra, then, is a monthly comic book with a female lead, centering on the anti-Indiana Jones in a galaxy far, far away. If that's not enough to get your interest, then perhaps the fact that she hangs out with evil versions of R2-D2, C-3PO and Chewbacca might grab your attention. At a time when Rogue One: A Star Wars Story's latest trailer makes that spinoff look more like earlier movies in the franchise instead of a step in a new direction, perhaps this might be the next generation Star Wars that fans are looking for, after all.

Star Wars: Doctor Aphra launches in December.