I expected Doctor Aphra #22 to follow the showdown between Sana Starros and the Spark Eternal, but instead writer Alyssa Wong pivoted to show us the conflict between Aphra and the Spark Eternal from Chelli’s point of view, as the two beings jostle for control inside her head.
Any conflict between the two beings is rather one-sided in the Spark Eternal’s favor, but what we do get is another introspection of Doctor Aphra’s character, as the Spark Eternal gleefully delves through Chelli’s memories and comments on her personality and relationships.
At first I wondered how much insight these memories really gave us on Doctor Aphra, but some of the scenarios present a lot of food for thought. It’s also interesting to witness what’s happening in the real world, as the Spark Eternal is quick to get down to business while possessing Chelli’s body. By the end of the issue, a new development teases some intriguing confrontations in the upcoming issues.
It was interesting to kick things off with an old memory of Chelli’s on The Cosmatanic Steppes, a memory that she’s apparently quite proud of. The memory in question involves her shooting an ally in the back after their ship crashed on the planet, before taking an artifact from his smoking remains. Classic Aphra.
It’s a hell of a way to remind us that Aphra is capable of doing some really villainous things, but the difference here is that before, we’ve seen Aphra regret her actions. We know that she generally grapples with her desire to become a better person while resisting her innate greed, so it’s interesting to see that this is actually a positive memory for her.
Perhaps Chelli is proud of her own ingenuity to outsmart her ally, perhaps she remembers the artifact fondly, but either way this is a memory that we’d expect to illicit feelings of regret or shame, and the Spark Eternal makes it very clear that she’s proud of it. It makes you wonder if Doctor Aphra is even capable of redemption. Sure, she’s capable of heroic acts and I’m sure she’ll save the galaxy by defeating the Spark Eternal, but clearly she has a lot of work to put in before she can consider herself a good person.
It’s not the kind of hero that Star Wars usually likes to spotlight, and this series is all the better for it.
The second memory is a brief one, visiting her torture in the secret Imperial research facility by the Mairan, but the third memory shows us her first mission with Just Lucky. Interestingly, it was also the first time she betrayed him. Just Lucky has clearly been aware of Aphra’s loose morals for a while, we just never knew he’d been on the receiving end of them before. It makes his own betrayal back on the Rings of Vaale mission a lot more understandable.
The Spark Eternal then finds a much more recent memory of Chelli picking up the thought dowser and immediately sets off in search of the Crimson Dawn flagship Vermillion to find all the other artifacts it houses. That’s a development I didn’t expect, as I assumed the pair of them would remain underneath the University of Bar’Leth until Sana came back for them, and it’s a welcome one.
Aphra then flips the table and uses her memory’s thought dowser against the Spark Eternal, and we get to see its most recent memory – the day the Ascendants fell. Back in the temple underneath the university, we see the Ascendants desperately trying to protect the Spark from the Sith, who have arrived en masse to massacre them. At first I found it interesting that the Sith would see the Ascendants as enemies or rivals, but then it’s revealed that the Ascendants never worshipped the Sith.
Instead, they fought them. We knew that lacking Force-sensitive abilities, they decided to create technology that made them close to the Sith’s equals, but Aphra had us believe that they aspired to be Sith, not to defeat them. They seem like good people in the memory, so it’s strange that the Spark Eternal seems so evil. But then, that’s probably what happens when you create technology that tries to impersonate the Sith, and not the Jedi.
We witness a Chadra-fan called Miril protect the Spark Eternal with their last act, uttering the chant that we heard Kho Phon Farrus repeat a few issues ago to seal it away from the Sith. It’s a moment that should show some vulnerability in the Spark Eternal, but surprisingly it doesn’t seem to be all that bothered by the memory when it’s over. Instead, it’s eager to find the artifacts housed by Crimson Dawn and grow in power so it can take over the galaxy. That sounds like a dark side being, alright.
We then learn that Aphra hid some top-secret information in her old droids Triple Zero and BeeTee-One. It’s not clear what this information is, but the Spark Eternal is intrigued and requests that Crimson Dawn find them so it can learn it. I certainly didn’t expect to see those two crazy murder droids back anytime soon, but it’s been a while so I’m intrigued to see what their presence will add to the story; it will likely be plenty chaotic.
I’m not sure what this means for Sana and her team, who will likely return to Bar’Leth and find no one there. At the very least, they’ll have to spend an entire issue hunting down Aphra and the Spark Eternal (which seems to be the focus of the next issue), but it will be interesting to see what happens with the two returning droids added to the mix, and what their knowledge will bring.
This was an interesting issue, delving deep into Doctor Aphra’s mind to see what makes her tick and gaining some insight into the Spark Eternal and the Ascendants. There was certainly a lot to chew through, making it one of the more compelling issues in Doctor Aphra‘s current run.