– Spoiler Review –
The renewed focus on Darth Maul might have come a decade after his overly memorable introduction (and quick execution) in The Phantom Menace, but he’s proven himself to be a multi-dimensional character ever since, arguably the biggest reason for his continued existence to be worthwhile. While a lot of eyes might be focusing on the upcoming outcome of his big showdown with an old foe in season 3 of Star Wars Rebels, Marvel takes us back before it all started with the second Maul-led comic series, simply titled Darth Maul. In the end, neither issue #1’s portrayal of the younger, feral Maul nor its copious set-up make me want to recommend going out and buying this right away, though the potential for this series to be something more is hiding beneath the surface, just like the Sith themselves.
When this series was originally announced, writer Cullen Bunn promised Darth Maul would merge the various personalities of the character seen on screen into his take on Maul in a tale set pre-The Phantom Menace. So far in issue #1, the focus stays more on the feral, animalistic Maul we unforgettably met in the film rather than his more cunning portrayal in both animated series. This isn’t anything bad, in fact, it’s great to see Maul at the height of this power again (prior to being chopped in half, of course) and it re-establishes him as the blunt weapon Sidious originally planned for him to be in the opening stages of the crafty Sith Lord’s ultimate plans. Doing so helps readers differentiate this younger, less patient and wiser warrior from his more recent on-screen appearances, and sets the stage for his more instinctual habits and actions. But Maul as a simple, feral weapon, who wants nothing but to vent and revel in his anger isn’t all that terribly engaging to read, as it feels more like red mist than anything deeper about the character, so here’s hoping his other traits begin to show more in the following issues; Because if this series ends and we’ve not gained some new perspective on this unending, but evolving villain like we’ve gotten in The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels, then what was the point besides it just being a cool “Maul does Maul things” story? The story of issue #1 is all set up, diving into the conflict between Master and Apprentice and how said Apprentice feels about the anger bubbling up inside of him, while seeding the main plot of the series in its final moments. It’s the tale teased at the end that makes me actually look forward to the rest of this series, because I’m interested to see how his quest to destroy this Jedi Padawan goes, as well as what type of interactions they’ll have and what lasting impact she’ll have on him. Plus, since she obviously doesn’t warn the rest of the Jedi Order of her run-in with a Sith, either she dies by his hand, abandons the Order, or even abandons the Order and becomes an agent of Maul’s…or some other option I’ve not yet considered; I wouldn’t assume death quickly, as if there’s anything we’ve learned over the years, there are always more exciting options to choose. Either way, there is a potential for this series to get more intriguing and that’s enough to make me want to stick around for now.
While I was quite critical of Luke Ross’ work on The Force Awakens comic adaptation in 2016, I swept my negative reaction under the trash compactor and came into DM with an open mind…for which I was pleasantly rewarded. Maul as a character has always had an out of this world, almost comic book like feel to him, so he translates well into the pages of comics (something done just as well in the Son of Dathomir series). Likewise, Ross feels unleashed, as it were, this time not shackled by the restraints of what was already seen on the screen and he’s therefore allowed to be a little more free with his style. Nolan Woodard complements Ross’ art with a deep, dark, and almost brooding color palette, which fits with the tone and vibe of the Sith-focused story. Even if I wasn’t excited by the story just yet, at least the art has been worth it so far. Specifically, not only did I like the design of the weird orb pirate ships, but my favorite little moment in the issue is how Ross makes a callback to The Force Awaken‘s rathtar sequence by drawing a pair of boots the creatures left alone when eating their attackers in the issue, which is something they spit out after Han Solo fed them a Kanjiklub member in the film; Seems rathtars really don’t like the taste of footwear…which hey, I can’t blame them!
One-shot review “Probe Droid Problem” by Chris Eliopoulos and Jordie Bellaire – Count on these two to deliver the cuteness time and time again. Their latest one-shot, following on the heels of a tale where BB-8 was basically a cupid in Poe Dameron #1 and a Kenny Baker tribute in Star Wars #25, tells a tale about one of Darth Maul’s probe droids when he releases them on Tatooine during the events of The Phantom Menace. It’s a little confusing, but it’s a quick, simple story of finding friendship in the unlikeliest of places. These things are so inoffensive it’s hard to feel either way about their continued inclusion but I’ll always be glad to check the next one out.
Here are a few other things:
- Maul’s first foray into comics was the final arc to his The Clone Wars story, brought to life in 4 action-packed issues called Son of Dathomir. As enjoyable as the issues were, the series pretty much ends in the exact same place it started but with even more questions than answers, so thankfully Rebels is setting Maul on a much more interesting course: an encounter with Old Ben Kenobi on Tatooine! The current season of Rebels, and therefore said confrontation between old foes, will come to a end before this comic series even gets to its third issue.
- One of my favorite Legends novels was Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter and its overall tale has some slight similarities with the overall tale of this comic series: both involve Maul hunting a Jedi Padawan sometime before TPM as he must prove himself worthy of continuing in Sidious’ plans without inadvertently revealing their presence due to his brash and impulsive actions. If you really want more Maul in your life, definitely go out and get the novel, canon or not it’s worth a read for sure. And while I can’t recommend it as much as Shadow Hunter, I would say Maul: Lockdown might be down your alley too if you want the purely feral version of Maul quenching his bloodlust in a rather dark, grimy, and bloody prison-set beat down.
- It seems the planet where the rathtars are in the opening moments of this issue was first introduced in the story expanding levels of the LEGO The Force Awakens video game.
Will the potential of this series reveal itself to the readers somewhere down the the 5-issue line? Let’s hope so, as Darth Maul #1 doesn’t quite ignite just yet, but it sure looks good at least.
+ The potential waiting to be uncovered
+ Art really fits the story’s tone well
– Compelling Maul doesn’t show up yet
CANON COMIC REVIEWS:
#2 | #3 | #4
Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir (mini-series)
Skywalker Strikes (#1-6) | Old Ben’s Journals | Showdown on the Smuggler’s Moon (#8-12) | Rebel Jail (#16-19) | The Last Flight of the Harbinger (#21-25) | Yoda’s Secret War (#26-30)
Annual: #1 | #2
Vader Down (crossover of Star Wars and Darth Vader on-goings)
Vader (#1-6) | Shadows and Secrets (#7-12) | The Shu-Torun War (#16-19) | End of Games (#20-25) | Annual: #1
The Last Padawan (#1-6) | First Blood (#7-12)
Black Squadron (#1-3) | Lockdown (#4-6) | The Gathering Storm (#7-13)
Rogue One (adaptation)
Han Solo (mini-series)
Obi-Wan & Anakin (mini-series)
Shattered Empire (mini-series)
Princess Leia (mini-series)