WARNING: The following contains spoilers from Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #17, on sale now from Marvel Comics.
For better or worse, Star Wars has always been about the Jedi’s conflict with the Sith – the pure and natural Force verses the corruption of the Dark Side. That conflict was the only focus, and stories often portrayed non-Force-users as less important. Luckily, some of that stereotype has been lessened with Star Wars: Rouge One and some other projects. However, that begs the question of what could a non-Force-users do if they were jealous over not having the Force. That question is being answered in the Star Wars: Doctor Aphra comics.
Over the past few issues, series has introduced an ancient Dark Side cult known as the Ascendant. The unusual part was that the cult was made up of non-Force-users, who used technology to emulate the affects of the Dark Side with catastrophic affects. That latest issue -- Doctor Aphra #17, by Alyssa Wong, Minkyu Jung, Rachelle Rosenberg and VC’s Joe Caramagna -- dove into some of that technology.
Doctor Aphra #16 sent Aphra and Sana Starros looking for Ascendant tech on behalf of Domina Tagge, when they found Aphra’s contact dead and a ring of severed arms on the floor. That issue ended with a dark figure coming out of the shadows with what appeared to be a lightsaber. It fueled some Luke Skywalker rumors, but the latest issued showed that the dark figure was an entirely new character.
It was a non-binary character named Kho Phon Farrus. Aphra knew them and immediately remembered how they were obsessed with being Force-sensitive -- to the point where they spent their life dressing up and pretending to be a Sith. Farrus’ life was changed, though, when they found out about the Ascendant and their Force-emulating technology. They already had multiple pieces, and Aphra and Starros wanted the tech for Domina. So, the three spent most of the issue fighting, but Farrus had a huge advantage.
Farrus’ used her Ascendant technology and showed exactly how the cult emulated Force-sensitivity. Farrus didn’t use it this time, but she had a thought dowser. It was a powerful piece of tech that simulated an evil version of a Jedi mind trick. Aphra had previously encountered a thought dowser, and it was terrifyingly affective. Along with that, Farrus’ weapon also imitated Force powers. The Whip of Sorrows was an energy weapon that could absorb energy and release it again in a massive burst, not unlike a Jedi’s version of Tutaminis combined with a Sith’s burst of lighting. Farrus’ final piece of tech emulated telekinesis. By having placed magnets on the severed arms, Farrus was able to hurl them at Aphra using some menacing fingernail-claw-things.
So, the Ascendant seemed to have pretty much everything covered because their technology could do almost everything that a true Jedi and Sith could. From a practical sense, the tech made the need for Force-sensitivity overrated, if not obsolete. However, the Jedi and the Sith alike saw the danger in the Ascendant because, ultimately, imitating Force-sensitivity with cheap tricks made a mockery of the Force itself. So, the two groups may have even worked together to destroy the Ascendant. Either way, for better or worse, their technology remains and could continue to be a threat in the franchise going forward.
As the issued ended, Farrus escaped from Aphra and had a brief villain monologue, hinting at their plans to defy death with some additional technology. Then, the Archivist from the Crimson Reign comics made contact with Farrus. She wanted an update on something called the Spark Eternal to use in Crimson Dawn’s fight against the Empire. Based on Farrus' plan and the name of that last piece of technology, that could be how the Ascendant tried to conquer death. After all, every Dark Side cult has to try and live forever at some point.
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