Review: A Cruel Obsession and A Quick End in Marvel’s Doctor Aphra #5
Doctor Aphra is no stranger to being cornered. She’s been there with the worst people in the galaxy but Ronen Tagge is such a slime ball he might even give old Sheev Palpatine a run for his money. At least Sheev has some reverence for galactic history, while Tagge is determined to destroy the most rare of antiquities for his own amusement. He’s finally attained the Rings of Vaale and is ready to destroy them in front of Doctor Aphra and her team of archaeologists. After a game of cat and mouse through a haunted city and a daring escape aboard the High Republic-era Archangel VI, Tagge and Aphra look to end their time together. And Tagge clearly doesn’t know the good doctor as well as we do. SPOILERS AHEAD….
Tagge snatched up the whole gang and brought them to his penthouse on Canto Bight. Rose Tico’s assessment of Canto Bight stands strong, thanks to transient citizens like Ronen Tagge. Aphra, Detta, and Eustacia can’t help but study the rare art Tagge sprinkled his penthouse with, as if they were superfluous knick-knacks. Eustacia is not quite as taken with the artifacts as Aphra because she knows why Tagge wants her present. She’s been looking for the Rings of Vaale a good portion of her life, lost her career looking for them, and their destruction will hurt her the most. Tagge not only gets off on destroying priceless heirlooms but also the grief it brings the ones who appreciate them.
Tagge reveals his family connection to the rings. He’s had one of the Rings of Vaale the entire time, inherited through the Tagge family. He references it’s delivery via an infamous space pirate (I’d love to know who) and how his family used it as a symbol for greatness. The family attachment to the Rings of Vaale means nothing to him. For Ronen, nothing is sacred when compared to the cruel thrill of destruction. Eustacia and Detta are desperate to stop him by calling him out for what he is, a wicked child, but Aphra has a different approach.
Aphra appeals to what sense of vanity Tagge may have. She reminds him he’s great in his own eyes but the rest of the galaxy thinks he’s a joke, especially his own family. Just as rings in another beloved fantasy story use the promise of ultimate power to corrupt, Aphra’s easy to weave a tale of mythology about the Rings of Vaale on the spot. Tagge may be a spoiled brat but he’s not Aphra’s fool. He suspects she’s pulling a fast one on him and demands more proof. Aphra tosses Eustacia into the vaporizing chamber, suggesting Tagge try to vaporize her while in possession of the rings, as they will supposedly protect her. The demonstration is an easy sell for Ronen, because even if Aphra is lying, he’ll still have destroyed the rings. My question: Wouldn’t Eustacia just use the Rings of Vaale and become the most powerful being in the galaxy since she has both? Don’t mind me, Eustacia is thrust into the vaporizing chamber and Tagge activates it, not noticing her trusty droid, Tee, is slicing into the computer system.
The demonstration is effective, as Ronen immediately snatches the rings back to harness their powers. Ronen is ready to embrace their powers, even though he admits he doesn’t fully understand them. Becoming god-like in the galaxy far, far away is the first priority, but as Ronen’s distracted by the promise of power, Aphra makes her move.
Aphra ends Ronen’s aspirations quickly, tossing him into the vaporizer and slicing into it’s controls. She charges it to maximum temperature, determined to end Ronen’s rotten life and his disposition for destroying rare artifacts. Tee helped Eustacia’s vaporization, but he won’t be there to help Ronen. Detta stands guard, handling Tagge’s guards while Aphra primes the vaporizer. Detta deals with them but Eustacia is still conflicted about destroying the rings. Aphra convinces her there’s no time and they need to end Tagge now.
All of Canto Bight takes notice, including the last of Tagge’s crew, as well as Lucky and his brother. Lucky is determined to head back into the wreckage and leaves his brother behind.
While Detta and Eustacia mourn the loss of art, Aphra and Black Krrsantan know it’s time to go. Before the penthouse collapses on them, they make a break for the Ark Angel VI.
Back aboard the ship, the team regroups and discovers they all secretly stashed a few artifacts in their pockets before breaking out. The three of them mourn the loss of the rings and everything they experienced at Vaale. They are worried the story of the city and the rings will be lost forever but Eustacia lets them know Tee was able to record a good amount of data. The story of Vaale will continue, as the three of them seem to have formed a new team. It’s unclear if Eustacia and Detta will return to University of Bar’leth. Eustacia lost her tenure due to her obsession with the Rings of Vaale, so she has good reason to return. I’m hopeful they’ll spend a little more time with Doctor Aphra, especially since Eustacia is aware there will be consequences from killing Ronen Tagge.
Meanwhile, Lucky has returned to the ashes of Tagge’s penthouse, and he’s found the Rings of Vaale. Something tells me this is just the beginning of his story and we haven’t seen the last of the Rings of Vaale. The last we see of him, he retreats back into Tagge’s penthouse, looking for other artifacts to add to his collection. This has all the makings of a great villain origin story. Speaking of potential new villains…
Word of Ronen’s demise has reached his aunt, Lady Domina Tagge. Judging by the next issue’s cover (below), Domina Tagge is about to cause Doctor Aphra a lot of trouble. I’m certainly intrigued!
Not a bad conclusion to the “Fortune and Fate” arc. As much of a slime ball as Ronen was, he made my skin crawl more than I ever feared for Aphra. I have a feeling Domina Tagge will be a lot different. This arc was a great way to introduce the new series and writer Alyssa Wong has setup a lot of exciting possibilities. I suspect we’ll be seeing some intersection with the forthcoming High Republic stories, as well. We also know the galaxy is less than a year away from the end of the Empire, so I’m fascinated to see where Aphra ends up at that pivotal moment. This issue wasn’t my favorite of the arc but I’m looking forward to what will follow. And the return of Sana Starros!