Though Star Wars: Rebels has concluded it's run in grand fashion, we're not finished with some of the characters that the show has added to the Star Wars universe. General Hera Syndulla (the heart of Phoenix Squad as well as the heart of Rebels), is currently appearing in the ongoing Star Wars: Doctor Aphra comic.
WARNING: There will be SPOILERS from this point forward for Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #17 and #18.
Though we had originally thought the good General would be popping up for the first time in today's issue, she actually debuted last month. As part of the "Remastered" arc, Doctor Chelli Aphra encountered her while still under the leash of Triple-Zero, probably the nastiest protocol droid to ever appear in the galaxy far, far away. Set in the period between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, the comic let us know what Hera was up to during this period — she was training rebel pilots using an old Trade Federation capital ship. The not-so-good Doctor got the better of her, and Hera wound up as her prisoner.
Issue #18 is written by Kieron Gillen and Simon Spurrier, with art by Emilio Laiso and a cover by Ashley Witter. It continues the story from the previous issue, with Hera still being held prisoner by a character who is her polar opposite in many ways. Aphra is a true scoundrel who is only out for herself, and as we've seen time and time again, Hera is someone who believes in a higher cause. There is no love lost between these two, and we don't think Hera will be adding Aphra to her Kalikori anytime soon.
Aphra, Hera, and Aphra's team of misfits soon find themselves in the heart of the Tarkin Initiative, where the Empire has based all of it's crazy science in a post-Rogue One galaxy. The comic really lets rip with the easter eggs here, as experiments based in every era of Star Wars are mentioned — Rathtars get a namedrop, and there is also a mention of "Hutt Clone Troopers." If the excitement of that idea is too much to handle, just wait until the end of the issue.
Aside from those bonuses, we also get a tidy bit of info related to Rogue One and A New Hope. One of Aphra's team members, Caysin, is "decraniated." Put simply, he doesn't have a head. He has tons of cybernetic enhancements, and in this issue he reveals who put him in this position — Dr. Cornelius Evazan. The name might not be instantly familiar, but what might be familiar is that he has "the death sentence in twelve systems." That's right, it's that guy.
Caysin and his partner, Posla, tell the team that the enhancements (torture) took place in Jedha City, all before they had to evacuate when the Empire blew it to bits. This explains what Dr. Evazan (and his partner, Ponda Baba), were doing there when we briefly see them in Rogue One, and it also explains why we see a brief glimpse of Posla there as well. He was hunting for Evazan, and both he and Caysin still are. They don't know that Obi-Wan Kenobi has already taken care of Dr. "He Doesn't Like You," but it doesn't much matter — neither of them make it out of the issue alive.
Hera gets in several good shots about Aphra's selfishness throughout the issue, but Aphra manages to slip a line in about the Rebellion "brainwashing farmboys," which could be a reference to her adventures with Luke Skywalker during the Screaming Citadel crossover. Hera doesn't really have a retort for that, but soon enough she has a gun in her hands, and has it pressed to Aphra's back. Unofrtunately, that's also when a host of Tarkin Initiative operatives get the drop on them, led by an Imperial who looks like he took fashion tips from Doctor Who's Davros.
All of these extras are great, and the pairing of Aphra and Hera is fantastic— but one of the best parts of the issue has nothing to do with any of that. The ongoing romance (if that's the right word) between Aphra and Imperial agent Magna Tolvan is still twisting and turning, and it's fascinating to read. Hera witnesses a bit of it when she sees Aphra talking to Tolvan over comms, and she delivers the line of the issue, saying, "It's lonely being you, isn't it?"
The best news of all is that the crossover isn't done — the cliffhanger ending makes it clear that we have at least one more issue in store that will feature Hera. Not only is is a pleasure to have her matching wits with Aphra, but it also has us very curious as to where little "Spectre 7" is. Thanks to the Rebels epilogue, we know that Hera has already given birth to little Jacen Syndulla during this period — he's not seen or mentioned, but will we get a glimpse of the little guy by the time Hera has (hopefully) gotten the better of Aphra? Because of the very secretive nature of the Rebels finale, it is unlikely that we'll see him...but a mention would be fun.
Fun, but not essential — we're just happy to have General Syndulla back in our lives. Doctor Aphra #18 is available now, and we challenge you not to hear Vanessa Marshall's voice when you read Hera's dialogue. It'll never happen.