Review – A Wretched Hive of Scum and Villainy in Marvel’s Doctor Aphra #12
Chelli Aphra and Sana Starros dive deeper into the criminal underbelly of the galaxy far, far away. In the service of Domina Tagge, they pose as handlers of a disgraced Tagge family member, gaining access to Crimson Dawn’s nightmare criminal ball. What are all these gangsters, bounty hunters, and assassins after? A big chunk of carbonite containing the most notorious of smugglers, Han Solo. We also know a certain Sith Lord has staked the Empire’s interests in reclaiming Solo to lure Luke Skywalker into Vader and the Emperor’s clutches. Lots of colliding interests and SPOILERS AHEAD….
Aphra and Sana waste no time boarding the Vermillion, Crimson Dawn’s flagship. The criminality present is like nothing either of them has ever seen. Jabba, Black Sun, Vukorah and the Unbroken Clan, and even the Emperor’s advisor Sly Moore shows up. Moore’s appearance causes concern for Aphra, wondering if a certain Sith Lord might not be far behind to help steer Imperial interests. Sana notes most people in the room want Aphra dead but that doesn’t dissuade the galaxy’s most infamous archaeologist from gathering the intel Domina Tagge wants about Crimson Dawn.
Aphra’s first mark: Data crystals on one of the Black Sun leader’s neck. By spilling her drink on the Falleen dignitary, Aphra quickly implants her own slicer into the elaborate necklace, enabling her to harvest whatever data might be useful (and profitable). Sana urges caution, knowing very well the odds of a shootout amongst so many killers are high and it’s likely most blasters in the room will be pointed directly at them if the shooting starts.
Just Lucky and Ariole Yu arrive, unaware of Aphra and Sana. They’re hot on the trail of their former mentor and traitor to Wenn Delphis’ Sixth Kin, Crae. It’s complicated for both of them. Crae not only raised them, he taught them all their skills. For the duo, Crae is more than a simple mark, they are bringing down family. Both of them compartmentalize their feelings, reminding themselves he betrayed the Sixth Kin. Their conflicted feelings aside, they have to be careful, for Crae is a highly skilled assassin.
Meanwhile, Aphra and Sana continue assessing the room at the bar when a mysterious, hooded stranger confronts them. Aphra suggests from the stranger’s voice they are a Clone. The stranger dodges the question, only hinting he’s an ally they’ll need at some point. An easy guess…this is Boba Fett planning to steal back Solo. The stranger doesn’t give Aphra and Sana much of choice when he proposes they help him or he’ll announce their presence to Crimson Dawn and everyone else who wants Aphra dead.
The task is simple, provide a distraction for the stranger. What they intend to do? Unanswered but again it’s pretty obvious everyone in the room wants a piece of Solo. Just as the arrangement is made, the auction begins.
My goodness, if ever there was a story begging to be told it’s what happened between the last time we saw Qi’ra and where she is now. #MakeSolo2Happen, anyone? Regardless of Disney+ series hopes, Qi’ra is here, ready to sell her former friend and lover to the highest bidder. There must be a bigger plan at work. Once the bidding starts it’s easy to equate how many enemies Han’s made in his time by the credit amounts shouted toward the auctioneer.
Lucky and Ariole catch up with their former mentor and guardian. He’s interested in talking but they come out swinging. While the auction continues to ratchet up credit sums for Han Solo, the fight intensifies. Crae has no trouble keeping both of his former students at bay. I’ve enjoyed following Lucky and Ariole along so far but this subplot seems more like a distraction and I don’t see how this will connect to War of the Bounty Hunters. It’s interesting but I wish we could focus a bit more on Sana and Aphra. I have faith in writer Alyssa Wong to thread this together but it feels like this could have been saved until after the massive event, which in it’s own right tends to convolute the stories of each series’ main characters.
Wow, Jabba wasn’t kidding when he threatened Han in A New Hope. The Hutt crime lord manages to even outbid the Empire in his quest to possess the carbonite-encased smuggler. Just as Aphra’s about to spring the distraction from her mysterious stranger, Darth Vader enters the fold, commanding the auction to a halt.
Writer Alyssa Wong and artists Minkyu Jung, Victor Olazaba, and Rachelle Rosenberg do an excellent job portraying the trauma Aphra still carries and her fear of Vader. In case you’re new to Aphra, the Dark Lord blew Aphra out of an airlock after she tried to double cross him (In her defense, the double cross was the only way she’d survive her service to him). Aphra’s carried this fear for a while but this is the first time we’ve seen such a visceral representation. Author Sarah Kuhn does an excellent job portraying it in her audiobook, Doctor Aphra, and writer Alyssa Wong certainly connects to that description here. Unable to spring the distraction for the hooded stranger, Aphra simply decides to run. We’ll have to wait until next time to see if she’ll be reunited with Darth Vader.
This is definitely one of my favorite issues in the War of the Bounty Hunters event. And it’s much better than the previous, Durge cameo issue. Wong is getting back to the characters and how their stories contribute to the ever expanding event. I’m so curious about Crimson Dawn and I’m glad the team working on this comic get to write and draw Qi’ra. Please, please get Sana, Aphra, and Qi’ra in the same room. The cliffhanger ending makes me very nervous for the doctor and Sana but they’ve gotten out of worst. Let’s hope for the best until we meet them again next month.