– Spoiler Review –
It’s still a bit of a shock that we originally left Maul separated in two pieces lying at the bottom of some seemingly endless shaft on Naboo to suddenly watching him wreak havoc on the galaxy in The Clone Wars. It was even more shocking when TCW was cancelled and somehow his fate continued to be up in the air. Thankfully, someone had the good sense to adapt his unaired/unproduced final arc in TCW into a limited comic series. And while the first issue isn’t grand, it is thrilling and certainly feels like an episode of the show.
For starters, note that reading Son of Dathomir (and this review) is heavy on spoilers for The Clone Wars, and while seeing the episodes with Maul isn’t imperative, you’d be pretty foolish to miss out on his surprisingly great and tumultuous return. If you don’t want to go head and watch all the The Clone Wars, here’s the chronological order of Maul’s appearances that are part of the backstory to this 4 issue run: 314 421 422 501 514 515 516 (the first number denotes the season and the next two denote the episode, so 314 is Season 3, episode 14). His swift rise to power, forming a Shadow Collective, brings about a series of events which change Mandalore, Death Watch, and Obi-Wan’s lives forever. And they also contain some of the best duels in Star Wars cinematic history, one with Maul vs Pre-Visla and the other being Maul and Savage vs Sidious. If you’ve missed out on that, you know you want to rectify that mistake immediately. Especially since Sidious wins, kills Savage, and stays Maul’s execution for more nefarious purposes. Hence the Son of Dathomir comic.
This first issue spares no time, picking up with not too long after the events in season 5, with Maul a prisoner of Sidious and thankfully the Sith Master quickly spills his plans for the undying Zabrak to Dooku (and us): root out Mother Talzin and snuff her out for good. Mother Talzin, a Dathomirian Witch, was another enigmatic and enthralling character from The Clone Wars. She irked Count Dooku to the point where he sent Grievous to wipe her, her tribe of witches, and Asajj Ventress off the playing field. Grievous seemingly succeeded, minus for sure Ventress, but Talzin’s fate was always unclear. She resurfaced in the ‘Lost Missions’ (the 6th season on Netflix) episode “The Disappeared Part II,” but again she was left possibly alive. However, it’s clear Sidious believes wholeheartedly that she’s alive and seeing his malice for her is delightful, as it’s fun to see him flummoxed by her power and dark magic.
Maul is out of prison before you know it, broken out by members of Death Watch still loyal to him. Being part of Sidious’ plan, his escape is easy and contains some of the droid humor TCW was known for (whether in a good light or bad). Barely allowed time to lick his wounds, Maul must face the full might of Grievous’ forces, who have been dispatched to Maul’s secret Shadow Collective base on Zanbar. Given express orders not to kill Maul, Grievous and his army lay waste to the Shadow Collective in some entertaining and action packed panels. And just as soon as the invasion starts, it’s over and Maul has escaped, setting up the first part of Sidious’ plan against Mother Talzin. The issue is fairly light on plot here, but full of fun, fast moving action. Lots of parts have been set in motion with the express purpose that we may finally see Talzin’s and Maul’s fates. It feels appropriate for the first episode of 4-parter on TCW, and could almost pass for an episode of the show even without the fortune cookie and newsreel beginning. While this is obviously from Son of Dathomir being adapted from the screenplays, it’s surprising to see how easily that translates into a comic issue.
Here are a few other things:
- It was initially weird to see Grievous and Maul together and it’s unfortunate that we weren’t allowed to see this battle on the screen. The art here does an adequate job showing the action, but Grievous having to hold back makes this a somewhat disappointing meeting.
- The darksaber remains one of my favorite weapons ever and its distinctive black swath when it’s swung is wonderfully portrayed in the panels of this comic. And by favorite weapon ever, I don’t mean just Star Wars, but all weapons ever.
- While both Stygeen, the planet where Maul is imprisoned, and Zanbar, the base of the Shadow Collective, are supposed to be secret, both are easily found by the other’s enemies. Maybe we should choose to use the word secret more sparingly?
- The prison Maul is held is seen again in the Star Wars Rebels S1 episode, “Rise of the Old Masters“
- UPDATE 7/9/16: Maul not only lives through this comic series, but he’s alive by the time of Star Wars Rebels, appearing in its second season finale, “Twilight of the Apprentice.” Didn’t see that one coming.
- UPDATE 4/10/17: But I did see this coming…and boy was it everything I wanted: Maul’s ultimate fate.
With the final panel teasing the fact that we may all know less than we originally thought regarding Talzin’s reasons for bringing Maul back, and this whole series teases some possible closure on those two characters, Son of Dathomir is looking like it could be full of interesting answers for long and new fans alike. Or it might not be, but for the time being with issue #1, it’s just a fun ride down The Clone Wars territory again.
+ Revealing Sidious’ intentions early
+ Enticing set-ups
– “Secret” bases/planets
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