Comic Review – Chelli Explores an Ascendant Temple with the Spark Eternal in “Star Wars: Doctor Aphra” (2020) #29

The Spark Eternal arc continues in this month’s issue of Star Wars: Doctor Aphra, out today from Marvel Comics, and I can say that I definitely have not yet grown tired of this storyline, as writer Alyssa Wong is still finding new ways to keep things fresh and interesting.

Doctor Aphra, vol. 2, #29 begins with a flashback to “long ago” (I had initially assumed that the creation of the Spark Eternal happened around the same period as The High Republic stories, but those two paths have yet to cross) on the planet Pyrr IX, where Miril– the leader of the dark-side-replicating cult called the Ascendant– arrives for a meeting with her former partner, a Twi’lek named Ilith.

Then we flash to the “present” (the period set between the events of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi), where the still-Spark-possessed rogue archaeologist Dr. Chelli Lona Aphra has arrived at the same location. But as of last issue, Chelli and the Spark have struck a deal– they will share use of Aphra’s body during their current quest. So Chelli teams up with the evil artificial intelligence (along with droids Triple-Zero and BT-1, who help them break in by using their destructive instincts) to explore the Ascendant temple on Pyrr IX, which they find littered with ancient corpses. The Spark gifts Chelli with the augmented-reality-like ability to electronically peer into the past by looking around the temple in the present, and together they witness the events that led to the carnage around them. We learn that Ilith sought to enhance the Spark Eternal by imbuing it with a balance between the light and dark sides of the Force, against Miril’s better judgment, and we see how the Sith invaded and slaughtered the Ascendant in the temple much like they did in the one underneath the university on Bar’leth.

Meanwhile, Sana Starros and her crew deal with rival archaeologist– and wannabe Sith– Kho Phon Farrus, who may hold the key to Aphra’s rescue thanks to a device known as the Fermata Cage (see Charles Soule’s Star Wars: Hidden Empire miniseries for more on that), but reveals that they may have to deal with, or at best dodge the presence of, Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine in order to use it. Chelli’s ex Magna Tolvan also mentions that she may have some useful information thanks to her recent bonding with Aphra’s electro-tattoos, and assassin Just Lucky observes that this convoluted plan is shaping up to be “a mess,” to which Sana replies, “It always is.” Back on Pyrr IX, we see the rest of the events that played out there long ago, concluding with Ilith’s untimely death, while in the present the Spark Eternal uses a fragment left behind to regain full control of Aphra’s body. But the biggest gasp in this issue comes on the final page, where we discover that the Spark is headed to the creepy Amaxine Station from The High Republic and The Rise of Kylo Ren. Boy, am I psyched to see that thing again– and at an intriguing mid-point in the larger Star Wars timeline rather than just on opposite ends. What more will we learn about this mysterious locale in the coming months? I’m pretty excited to find out, and I’m also incredibly glad that Alyssa Wong (along with capable fill-in artist Natacha Bustos) is still churning out excellent, compelling stories in one of my favorite comics set in A Galaxy Far, Far Away.

Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #29 is available now wherever comic books are sold.

Mike Celestino
Mike serves as Laughing Place's lead Southern California reporter, Editorial Director for Star Wars content, and host of the weekly "Who's the Bossk?" Star Wars podcast. He's been fascinated by Disney theme parks and storytelling in general all his life and resides in Burbank, California with his beloved wife and cats.