SPOILER REVIEW: Doctor Aphra #4: Fortune and Fate, Part IV: The Deal by Alyssa Wong
While enjoyable in the sense that it moved the story forward, there weren't really any new surprises in this issue and Aphra didn't exactly end up in super dire straits. I mean, it ended with a cliffhanger sure, but not the kind of cliffhanger that leaves you with your jaw on the floor and eyes wide. The interesting bit about the next issue is more, what is Aphra's plan to get out of this dangerous situation she's put herself and her crew in? Instead of, oh no what's going to go wrong next?! Perhaps the difference is that Aphra has agency in her current situation. She knows what she's doing and she's being purposeful with her actions. It's not the usual bad, crazy things keep happening to her as a consequence of her unfortunate decisions shtick that we all know and love. Which in a sense is uplifting to see for this character--she gets to, in some way, be in control of the situation for once. But I'm getting ahead of myself, let's talk about this issue, #4, first!!
At the end of the opening "crawl" we get reminded of the difficult situation that Aphra and, well, part of her new crew are in, "Unfortunately, Detta's double-crossed Aphra. Oh, and so has Just Lucky! It's a bit of a mess..." Yes, we left off last issue with TWO double-crosses--it was a wonderfully twisty turny ride. Just Lucky it turns out is working for the infamous Ronen Tagge (relative of Cassio Tagge) who enjoys destroying rare objects such that no one else can experience or enjoy them. Detta Yao is working for herself, presumably upset with the way she's been treated in academia at University. Aphra, Black Krrsantan, and Eustacia Okka (an old flame of hers from University who became a professor at the Shadow University and had her credentials revoked because she was researching the supposedly mythical Rings of Vaale) have Detta tied up...but Just Lucky got away with his thugs and the Ring of Fortune (one of the Rings of Vaale). So Aphra and crew are currently up a creek without a paddle...per usual.
We start off the issue proper with Aphra, Eustacia, Detta, Black Krrsantan, and the droid TA-418 trapped deep in the Catacombs of Vaale on Dianth courtesy of Just Lucky. As Aphra's crew makes their escape through the garbage chute and into the sewers, Aphra notices the walls have started pulsing and wonders if she's going crazy. But Eustacia makes an observation, "I had my droid run tests on the bone matter comprising the city. It's alive. And it's singing, emitting frequencies that target our brain waves. As it grows, it mutates and affects its surroundings, spreading its song. The Rings of Vaale didn't drive the people of Vaale mad--the living city did. It was designed to--the Architects' greatest security system gone rogue." Essentially, the Lost Architects of Vaale have become part of the city, their visages frozen in horror for eternity. It is incredibly creepy and disturbing.
SKIP this next paragraph if you don't want to be spoiled--it includes a pretty big moment in the issue that did manage to surprise me. The rest isn't that spoilery because there weren't really all that many twists and turns to be spoilery about.
Aphra's crew finally make it out of the sewers and straight into the Ark Angel!!! ...which almost immediately gets blown to pieces as Tagge's men annihilate the Lost City and everything around it. Remember when I said he destroys what ever he can't have? Well, he bears that out in epic fashion in this issue! And Eustacia is distraught as all get out over losing the proof that she wasn't delusional in her research.
Just Lucky and his thugs land at Canto Bight to pass on the Ring of Fortune to Tagge, but the vicious man is none too pleased that not only did he only get one of the two rings, but he also wasn't brought Eustacia Okka to watch the Rings' destruction. You see, he wanted to watch the horror on her face as the subjects of her life's work were disintegrated before her own eyes. I mean, this man is a piece of work, cruel, arrogant, and despicable in the nastiest of ways. Tagge goes on to remind them they only completed 1/3 of the job so they only get 1/3 of the pay, but they can enjoy a night on the town at a casino--the Crescent Royale. And then we find out why Just Lucky joined up with Tagge, his brother Pak is a bit of a gambler and tends to get himself in trouble. Tagge has essentially promised Just Lucky that he'll help the man get his brother out of his debts. And from the images we see of the two siblings, it appears Just Lucky has a lot of love for his brother and will do anything to help him. So I can understand his teaming up with such a terrible man but do the ends justify the means in this case?
Back on Dianth, Aphra and crew have just located a High Republic ship--amazing the number of places Lucasfilm publishing is able to throw in mentions of and references to the High Republic in preparation for next year's publishing initiative--that still works even though it's laid idle for centuries. After Aphra decrypts the source code for the message sent to them a couple issues back from Tagge to Eustacia's droid, they make their way to Cantonica to make a deal with the horrific man...
Despite my opening thoughts, there's still SO many questions running through my head over how the next issue will go and I am of course still very excited for it: Will Aphra be able to get her crew out of this situation alive?? Will she be able to acquire the Ring of Fortune for herself?? Where is the Ring of Immortality?? Will Tagge end up with both and become the most powerful being in the galaxy?? We'll have to wait until next issue to find out!!
SCORE: 7/10--This issue just wasn't as chockful of craziness as typical "Doctor Aphra" issues, something I've honestly come to expect.
"Doctor Aphra (2020-) #4, Fortune and Fate, Part IV: The Deal" written by Alyssa Wong, illustrated by Marika Cresta and Rachelle Rosenberg
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