REVIEW – A Race to Canto Bight in Marvel’s Doctor Aphra #4
Doctor Aphra returns this week, trapped in the Catacombs of Vaale after a double-cross, with one half to the Rings of Vaale on it’s way to Ronen Tagge. Tagge’s been following Aphra’s every move, determined to add these ancient rings to the ashes of every other priceless heirloom he destroys for kicks. Lucky, who turned on Aphra to deliver the ring to Tagge, has reasons of his own to be concerned. And as usual, our favorite archaeologist in the galaxy far, far away could very well be one-step ahead or several steps behind in her contingency planning. SPOILERS AHEAD….
Well, Aphra’s not exactly taking Lucky’s betrayal in stride. As he prepares to depart for his rendezvous with Ronen Tagge in Canto Bight, Aphra and the rest of her crew are trapped deep in the catacombs. Lucky didn’t intend to harm Aphra, he has his own reasons for turning on them. This offers Aphra and her crew little solace, as they begin looking for a way out. Professor Eustacia Okka still doesn’t trust Detta, the other member of the team who double-crossed them, but Aphra has no time for it. Time is of the essence and they need a way out…quick!
Into the garbage chute…well, kinda. Deeper in the catacombs lays a maze of tunnels Aphra hopes they can navigate. Not long after they begin their journey, the group realizes they’re walking in circles. Remember, the city is constructed of bone. When Eustacia analyzes it, she learns it’s alive and singing at a frequency capable of manipulating brain waves. This is one of my favorite settings we’ve seen Aphra in so far. I love the supernatural, “haunted house” elements writer Alyssa Wong adds to this arc.
So the architects were lost to their own creation! The supernatural element is somewhat debunked but still…trapping the architects in an eternity of stone is pretty creepy. Luckily, trusty droid Teeay leads them out of the tunnels before they join the architects. I’ll never get tired of droids saving the day in Star Wars.
Tagge’s last act is to destroy the Lost City of Vaale. I know we’ve seen some pretty awful villains over the years in Star Wars comics but so far I really, really don’t like Ronen Tagge. Everyone knew the rotten, spoiled rich kid growing up and that’s Tagge. He’s a bully and just wants to step on people for his own amusement. There is no motivation other than to destroy the galaxy’s history for a cheap thrill and a laugh. At least most Star Wars villains believe in something. Tagge just sucks.
Meanwhile, on Canto Bight, Lucky delivers one of the two rings to Tagge. He expects to take a pay cut, but Tagge expected an audience for the rings destruction – Eustacia – and her absence reduces his offering price even further. Lucky is stuck because he needs the money and Tagge’s lured his younger brother to Canto Bight. Not very subtle here, so I’ll take a guess his brother is in some sort of gambling debt and Lucky is trying to bail him out. Fortunately, Lucky finds his brother on the casino floor and he’s fine…for now.
The Lost City of Vaale isn’t the only thing Tagge wiped out. Aphra’s beloved Ark Angel III got caught in the blaze and is no more. Black Krrsantan discovers a High Republic-era ship. It’s unclear whether this ship belonged to the Jedi or is just indicative of the era. Originally, all High Republic content was slated to be coming out around this time before COVID delayed it. This makes me wonder if we’ll be seeing the Rings of Vaale or other elements of this arc in High Republic stories; or, if Aphra will be visiting archaeological sites or history from the events of forthcoming stories and that’s the intention of dropping this Easter egg here. Whatever the case, this ship catches her eye and I think we have a nomination for Ark Angel IV. Eustacia is irate her life’s work has just been reduced to rubble, but Aphra has a plan to prevent Tagge from winning.
Aphra and company arrive at Cantonica, declaring themselves to draw out Tagge’s goons. The High Republic ship doesn’t seem to put up much of a fight but we quickly learn getting caught is part of Aphra’s plan.
After they’ve been boarded and restrained, a very eager Tagge greets them. He’s thrilled to have Aphra and Eustacia in his hands, likely a mixture of anticipation they know where the other ring is and he gets to destroy both rings in front of brilliant minds who know their value. Whatever their fate, this is where we leave Aphra until next time.
The stage is set for the finale. I’m a little disappointed we didn’t get to explore the catacombs and Lost City of Vaale a bit more. Again, it makes me think these might reappear in High Republic-era stories and us loyal readers will get the payoff. This series overall has been excellent and this penultimate issue in “Fortune and Fate” serves that purpose in setting up the final issue of the arc. Writer Alyssa Wong makes up for any redundancies in the story with her excellent take on the characters. The art by Marika Crest and colorist Rachelle Rosenberg has been perfect for this series, throwing in some eerie elements but also not making the reader feel claustrophobic in these catacombs and tight corners. Doctor Aphra continues to shine as a consistently great story and this sets the stage for an exciting conclusion. Remember, if Ronen Tagge gets both rings, he could become one of the most powerful beings in the galaxy. Yikes!