As usual, Doctor Aphra’s past is never far behind her. While tracking an artifact for the galactic oligarch Domina Tagge, Aphra and Sana find themselves tangled up with former classmate Kho Phon Farrus. Kho is on their path, hoping to unlock the secrets of an ancient dark side artifact, the Spark Eternal. With the war between Crimson Dawn and the Empire echoing in the background, it seems inevitable these three will somehow be drawn into it. For now, the path leads Aphra, Sana, and Kho back to where their story began, the University of Bar’leth. SPOILERS AHEAD….
We flashback to the teenage years of Aphra, when Kho arrives at the University of Bar’leth, a prestigious archaeological institution. Kho doesn’t have the proper identification and is in danger of not being let in. Aphra overhears this and sees the chance to make a new friend. She vouches for them, and Kho is permitted inside. Moments later, Kho finds out exactly what being friends with Aphra entails, and they’re dispatched to help break into a professor’s office – Sava Iglan’tine Nos, the head of occult archaeological studies.
The scheme wouldn’t be the last time Kho found themself at Nos’ door. Present day, Kho’s returned to find the last piece of the Ascendant, the Spark. Nos expects them, calmly waiting in a room filled with all sorts of artifacts you’d expect Sheev Palpatine and others would love to get their hands on. This isn’t a happy reunion between student and teacher, as Kho demonstrates they’ll do whatever they need to.
Meanwhile, Aphra’s having some unpleasant reunions of her own. Sana warns Aphra not to play with Domina. They’ve terrible consequences of handing over a powerful weapon like the Spark Eternal to Domina. Aphra does her best to stall, having just told Sana the Spark Eternal is capable of transforming anyone into a Sith. Though we don’t learn how the transformation occurs, this tracks with Kho’s impersonation of the Sith trappings. So curious if we are going to learn more about the Ascendant, the dark side cult responsible for the Spark Eternal’s creation, in the High Republic stories. Domina isn’t interested in the stalling tactics, so Aphra claims communication interference and cuts the transmission. I have a bad feeling about this.
Aphra and Sana aren’t the only ones employed by Domina Tagge. Boushh and his crew are dispatched with clear orders to bring Aphra and everyone involved back with answers. Sounds like this could get very messy. I’m excited to see Boushh in action, as we’ve only seen him once in the Forces of Destiny short. If he’s employed by Domina Tagge he’s likely just as ruthless and effective as the most notorious bounty hunters in Star Wars. And I’ll bet this isn’t the first time he and Aphra have met. Also, take a look at this crew! The art by Minkyu Jung and Rachelle Rosenberg sprinkles in all sorts of fun background elements, and this crew is the best of them. Can’t wait to see them all in action.
Nos and her studies made quite an impression on Kho. This reunion has been a long time coming. Nos leads Kho into a chamber below her study while the former student recites an Ascendant mantra. We learn Kho was nearly expelled because of Aphra’s scheme to break into Nos’ study. Nos reminds Kho how Aphra used them, letting them take the fall. Aphra stole almost everything, but not what really mattered. Nos reveals it gave her an opportunity to train Kho, to set them on the path they have been on, leading them right back to her. Like all great masters in the dark side, Nos plays the long game.
Aphra and Sana arrive at Bar’leth, but Nos’ security is on full alert to prevent no disruptions. Sana steps in and saves them both, as they rappel down into the cavern Nos and Kho descended into. A very strange class reunion is on the horizon.
Wow… This is pretty wild and looks like it’s right out of The Rise of Skywalker. The Ascendant Sanctum, containing the missing piece to the weapon, insuring Kho’s Sith transformation, was right under Nos’ study. She’s really taking a page out of old Sheev’s playbook of hiding in plain sight. Kho is pretty excited but confused about what’s next. As Nos inferred earlier, their path would always lead them back here.
And it looks like Nos has one last part of the plan to enact, just as Aphra and Sana arrive. We’ll have to wait until the next issue to find out what it is.
Still entirely here for the story writer Alyssa Wong continues to deliver. Though a weapon capable of transforming someone into a Sith is borderline silly, this is a galaxy where space wizards wield laser swords and empires are brought down by Ewoks. Wong continues to expand the lore of the galaxy far, far away, and the bizarre artifacts Aphra chases always have a great story behind them. Though this issue doesn’t have a lot of big moments, the introduction of Sava Iglan’tine Nos sets up some really cool possibilities and more stories about Aphra’s past. Can’t wait to see what she says when she spots Aphra and Sana. Only thing I’m anxious for…when is Crimson Dawn going to show up?