As Crimson Dawn tightens its grip, we continue to learn many of their actors are unwitting. Domina Tagge intends to keep her family’s interests steady and away from any plans Qi’ra has — dispatching Aphra and Sana to learn more about an ancient Force-powered weapon, while she deals with the return of a nephew she believed dead. Like all powerful Force artifacts, there is never only one interested party. We learn of a new front Qi’ra may be gathering her agents to fight on, unconcerned with the light or dark side of the Force, only its power. SPOILERS AHEAD….
Everyone’s least favorite Tagge, Ronen, is back. While this doesn’t surprise Domina, she wastes no time reminding him who is in charge. After she dispatched another family member, the deceased’s shares of the family company are up for grabs, and she’s not worrying about her nephew trying to grab them — or dispatch her. I like to believe Domina would rid herself of a scumbag like Ronen, so she must see a use in him at the moment. Ronen’s curiosity turns toward Aphra.
Well, it’s not Magna Tolvan, as I predicted in last issue’s review. While there’s a bit of disappointment setting in as I write this, the intrigue for Kho Phon Farrus helps offset it. Aphra informs Sana that Kho is a fellow archaeologist and is obsessed with the Ordu Aspectu (a cult of rogue Jedi who used torture to channel the dark side of the Force… FUN!). Aphra’s all too familiar with the Ordu Aspectu, after watching her father chase their artifacts her whole life. Kho, however, takes the fixation to a new level by dressing like them and wielding what appears to be a lightsaber. Only it’s not a lightsaber, it’s a whip which can harness the power of whatever it touches, courtesy of the dark side cult of the Ascendant.
Reminder, the Ascendant are an ancient cult who are deemed too dark even for the Sith. Kho uses the whip to disarm Sana and temporarily disable Aphra. When Kho is about to finish the job, Aphra gives them pause when she asks for forgiveness for past betrayals. Stirring up remorse and regret, Kho hesitates, and Aphra takes advantage of it.
An aspect to love about this issue is Aphra at her best, worst self — manipulative and rubbing it in when she gets the advantage over her enemies. This Doctor Aphra puts aside the past and focuses on survival for herself and Sana. Domina Tagge made it clear their lives would pay their debts if they didn’t get her the Ascendant weapon, the Thought Dowser. Aphra’s not living in the past, she’s living for the future, no matter how short or long it is; Aphra will survive.
Kho suggests Aphra and Sana are in over their heads after they’re accused of essentially cosplaying as a member of the Ascendant. They reanimate some of the limbs and use them to keep Aphra and Sana preoccupied, making their escape. Sana will later discover there are magnets strategically placed in the limbs, so this is all an elaborate act. Kho seems genuine in their belief of being Force sensitive, no matter the self-delusion of hoax or Aphra’s ridicule.
Kho makes a grand escape, promising retribution once they’ve assembled the Ascendant’s weapons. Whether this is performative or not, the future will tell. The art by Minkyu Jung continues to dazzle, with several big frames like this in all the right places. This issue is very rich in both story and visuals thanks to the collaboration between Jung and writer Alyssa Wong. Doctor Aphra fans really have a lot to enjoy lately!
Though Aphra’s concerned about the power Kho might wield, Sana reminds her their mission is more straightforward. They can track Kho by searching an old seller’s contacts. Tagge will have her weapon, and they will surely meet Kho again. This time, Aphra’s looking forward to it.
Meanwhile, in another part of the galaxy, Kho regroups and makes contact with the Archivist of Crimson Dawn. The Archivist promises Kho will change the history of the galaxy if they can deliver these weapons. It makes sense Qi’ra turns toward the only thing the Sith were afraid to touch: the Ascendant’s weapons. However, I think this is some ominous foreshadowing about where this will end for Crimson Dawn. If the Sith won’t touch these weapons, there must be good reason, and we’ve seen what they can do to the ones who wield them through Aphra’s own experience. The war between Crimson Dawn and the Sith is about to get nasty.
The ties this story has with Crimson Dawn by Charles Soule don’t feel as heavy handed as the War of the Bounty Hunter event. And honestly, it’s much more fun. Writer Alyssa Wong tells this story with a lot of love for the characters and where they fit into the bigger conflicts of the galaxy. I find it much more logical Aphra would get caught up in this conflict. Whether she’ll find out she’s an unwitting pawn in Qi’ra’s quest to bring down the Sith remains to be seen. Not sure when we’ll get our answers, but I sure am enjoying the ride! Also, I feel like Wong is laying a lot of breadcrumbs for the High Republic stories we’ll get later this year. There’s a 150-year time jump backwards, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we’ll learn more about these Force cults that keep popping up.