Review: The Hunt for An Ancient Technology Begins in Marvel’s Doctor Aphra #6
Well, Chelli Aphra catches the attention of all the wrong people. Whether it’s Sith Lords or murder droids, the doctor ends up tied to whatever terrible fate they’re heading toward. As a result of her previous encounter with Ronen Tagge, Aphra is hunted by the power Tagge family, who do not forgive and do not forget. Lady Domina Tagge will decide Aphra’s fate, but it might not be as simple as being blown out an airlock or incinerated by a blaster. There are always ancient secrets to go looking for in a galaxy far, far away. SPOILERS AHEAD….
The first issue of this new arc, “Headhunted”, opens with Aphra waking up in an unpleasantly familiar confinement – the airlock. Chelli Aphra is freshly caught bounty and on her way to be delivered to Lady Domina Tagge. The new art by Ray-Anthony Height; Robert Gill; inker Victor Olazaba; and colorist Rachelle Rosenberg is quite a departure from the first arc. Not a complaint, just took me a second after reviewing the previous issues before diving into this one. As the bounty hunter’s ship is about to dock, we flashback to learn how Doctor Aphra found herself in this predicament.
Lady Domina Tagge is busy and not as concerned with her nephew’s recent death as we might think. Instead, she’s multitasking a multitude of family business. While her assistant takes down instructions, a holonet program about a technology from the past catches her attention. We’ll learn a little more about this later but it’s intrigued her enough she realizes she’ll need someone to seek it out. Instead of killing Aphra out of revenge, the business side of Tagge sees other opportunities, as well as uses for the doctor.
We jump ahead a little bit in the timeline to see Aphra relentlessly pursued by several bounty hunters. Word of Lady Tagge’s steep price spreads quickly across the galaxy and even Aphra’s old friend Black Krrsantan can’t resist. Though I don’t think that’s the end of their friendship, because Aphra doesn’t tend to take things personally. I’ll bet she’ll have a surprise for him in the future, as well. The resourceful doctor is able to evade most every bounty hunter until an old acquaintance with a good eye joins the chase.
Sharpshooter Just Lucky caught up with his old teammate. He’s in some sort of debt with the Tagges, which seems to have carried over from Ronen to Domina Tagge. Lucky is working with an insect-like bounty hunter we met on the first page of the issue, whose name we don’t know. Whatever Lucky’s debt is to Lady Tagge, his companion is about to become very rich. The bounty hunter stuns Aphra with a neurotoxin, knocking her out to where we’ll eventually find her. Once delivered to Tagge, Aphra wastes no time making an escape of her own, by grabbing swiping the neurotoxin from the bounty hunter and turning it against them.
Aphra begins hostile negotiations but realizes quickly why Domina has brought her in. The two of them sit down to work out an arrangement. Aphra learns pretty quickly Domina doesn’t tolerate having a blaster pointed at her.
Domina activates a shield around Aphra, not only protecting herself but also cutting off oxygen from the doctor. While Aphra struggles for air, she remembers Vader blowing her out of the airlock. The lingering trauma from Vader’s attempted murder pops up enough to remind us Aphra is human. By this point we know that, but it’s a good reminder to readers who may just be tuning in. Beneath the confidence and snark, there is a human who feels her feelings. I like to be reminded of that, too. Domina’s tactic helps them reach an understanding and they restart their conversation, with a little less obvious hostility.
The ancient technology, from the Nihil, is being developed by a seeming rival, Beol De’Rruyet, to create a faster than light speed propulsion for interstellar travel. If Nihil sounds familiar to you, that’s because they’ve been announced as villains in the forthcoming High Republic titles. As mentioned before, due to the pandemic, the High Republic was pushed back from it’s original fall release, so it makes sense these issues of Aphra are teasing breadcrumbs from those stories we’ve yet to read. If you want to know more about the Nihil, there’s a great article by Dan Brooks over at StarWars.com. We will most likely learn more about them in future issues, but the only thing Domina Tagge is concerned about is this technology falling into rival hands and ruining her family fortune. She wants Aphra to get it for her, but the doctor knows she’s going to need some help from someone she trusts.
Sana Starros is back!!!! So happy these two will be sharing more adventures. This is also the first time since Sarah Kuhn’s excellent audiobook, where we learned their relationship was much more serious than previous issues hinted at. I’ve been excited for the possibility of these two working together and it looks like “Headhunted” will deliver. This will also mark the debut of Sana in this period between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back and I’m very interested to hear what she’s been up to since we last saw her in Star Wars #59.
A very start to this new arc. Writer Alyssa Wong assembles some impressive characters and an intriguing plot. More Aphra is always something I’m pleased Marvel continues to deliver. It should be interesting to see how her exploits potentially bookend threads from the High Republic stories. One thing to note, there are no scheduled Doctor Aphra issues beyond the next one, which doesn’t drop until late January. Still no word why that is but I suspect it may be to give breathing room to the slew of High Republic titles on the horizon or how they might tie-in to future issues of Doctor Aphra. Whatever the hiatus, I’m confident the doctor isn’t going anywhere and we have a lot to look forward to.