– Spoiler Review –
The first issue certainly had me split in halves (see what I did there) over whether or not to continue reading the series, but Darth Maul issue #2 introduces some old, dearly missed faces and contains a surprising flashback that have me actually excited for more.
When Maul first showed up on Star Wars Rebels, he was seemingly stranded on Malachor, an ancient Sith world where a giant battle between Jedi and Sith went down many, many years in the past (and had Knights of the Old Republic fans very excited), but how did Maul know about the planet? Turns out, as revealed in a flashback sequence I was not expecting to see, in the earlier stages of Maul’s training from Darth Sidious, the Sith Master took Maul there for a field trip/history lesson/anger lesson. Sith field trips require the apprentice to acquire knowledge just like the ones you went to in grade school, but Sidious literally shoves the anger and pain from the dead Sith on Malachor down Maul’s throat in an eerie and strange sequence…so maybe not like the ones in grade school, but any complaints you had about your field trips are null and void considering no one forced you to consume the dust of ancient dead Sith. It’s a pretty brutal sequence, as Maul essentially suffers the pain of those who had died long ago, but it’s also an interesting lesson Sidious is teaching Maul as the aftermath from the events on Malachor gives the Sith a mantra that sounds suspiciously like something that would lead to Darth Bane’s Rule of Two (who still canonically created that): “Far above, far below. We don’t know where we’ll fall. Far above, far below. What once was great is rendered small.” While the mantra is Sidious’ way of telling Maul they’re just as powerful in the shadows as they were when there were thousands of Sith (i.e. learn to be patient for their revenge), him experiencing the brutal pain suffered by thousands of fallen Sith is a somewhat interesting way to motivate his seething hatred for the Jedi and his basic need for vengeance. I think Cullen Bunn writes a good Maul at this point of his life, but whether or not the character’s angsty desire for vengeance is compelling ends up being a whole different story. While the Malachor bit I mentioned above certainly helps give Maul motivation, it pales in comparison to the real weighty motivational stuff that comes from the deaths of those he cares about like Savage Opress and Mother Talzin later in his life, and his red haze dialogue isn’t the part of this series that keeps me flipping pages due to its singular, uninteresting tone. Thankfully, some new players spice things up a bit…
I had thought we’d be meeting Cad Bane and Aurra Sing next issue since they grace its cover, so it was a nice little surprise to see both of them (and two other bounty hunters as part of Bane’s crew) being a big part of this issue. Both Cad Bane and Aurra Sing are a sight for sore eyes, as they add a great new dynamic to the series so it’s not all angry Maul and give us a glimpse at these two fan favorite characters in a different era. We know next to nothing about Cad Bane still, other than he’s a fantastic bounty hunter with a slick and cool demeanor, and I’ll be happy if it stays that way once his time is done in the series, and that’s ditto for Aurra Sing (who already had an expanded, but now Legends history as an ex-Jedi Padawan) as her mystery keeps her compelling, too. I appreciate how quickly they both are leery of Maul, as it fits with their lifestyle/characterization to always be cautious of everyone besides themselves, and I can’t wait to see how they tie into the story going forward. In fact, at this point I’m a little more excited for their parts than anything Maul gets up to, but maybe that’s because we know less about them than we do Maul.
While we’ve only JUST met Eldra Kaitis, the Jedi Padawan captured by the Xrexus Cartel, I’m already hoping she doesn’t end up dead as it looks like she’s gonna have a fun and feisty attitude, which might make her a more formidable opponent than Maul realizes. I’ve racked my brain for scenarios to how she gets to survive this series that canonically makes sense, ranging from Maul turns her from the Jedi way but she stays with the light side to she fails and gives up entirely, but I have a funny feeling her ultimate fate here will be one I didn’t think of and I can’t wait to find out what it is.
Any apprehension I had over Luke Ross’ work is completely gone by the end of this issue, as he and Nolan Woodard have crafted a very underworld-like vibe to the proceedings, but can also dive quickly into a creepy Sith training vibe at a moment’s notice. The visuals for Maul’s nasty Force vision/dream/experience/dead people’s dust eating trip made Maul’s overwhelmed feelings of fear and dread palpable, while younger Cad Bane/Aurra Sing models like appropriate, and Tek-Tek’s torture of the protocol droid allowed them to do “gore” without actually doing gore. Plus HOLY FORCE, THERE’S A HONDO OHNAKA CAMEO!! The entire spread where we first see the inside of the Xerxus Cartel’s party has tons of cameos, but the most exciting to me was Hondo. There’s also Grakkus the Hutt (identified by the metal legs), the Pykes, Black Sun, and even the Moogans (who sold some crappy tea to Mandalore in TCW). This seems like the perfect place for all these characters to be seen, especially all at the height of their power before the Clone Wars breaks out, and I really enjoyed picking out all the cameos.
Here are a few other things:
- Star Wars Rebels‘ third season put Maul on a collision course with Obi-Wan Kenobi on Tatooine and it all came to a head over the past weekend in “Twin Suns.” Check out my review to learn Maul’s fate and how it was a truly exceptional moment not to be missed, doing Maul’s story justice while handling Obi-Wan with true panache. There’s also some Maul inner thought dialogue in the beginning of the issue that foreshadows this episode and I’m curious if that worked out coincidently or if it was actually planned!
- I’d love to have seen this story from Cad Bane’s POV, him as the title character basically, as then the series would play out with him working alongside Maul without really knowing who he is; It would give Maul a great sense of mystery and project a more fearful representation of the character, because if you imagine Maul coming and going as he pleases and we’re not following his POV, readers and thus Cad Bane would have no idea what he’d do next or how he’d mess around with Bane’s plans to fit his own Sith-ly purpose. Or we could just have a Cad Bane series to just have a Cad Bane series, no Maul required.
- The other two bounty hunters were really intriguing as well, especially because they were both of a species we just don’t see enough. First one is Vorhdeilo, a Culisetto, which looks like a giant mosquito and that comparison is rather apt considering he wants to drink the blood of those they kill this issue (the species is first seen in a quick shot in Maz’s Castle in The Force Awakens); the other is Troo-Trill-Tek aka “Tek-Tek,” a Chadra-Fan (those little rat looking dudes) who has a funny passion for torturing droids (just imagine if he met Triple-Zero and BT-1!!). While considering we’ve never seen them before means their fates are up in the air, I hope they survive because it’s nice to have a little more bounty hunter variety.
- Not only were the new bounty hunters a nice addition, the gangsters of the Star Wars universe got a bit of an upgrade from their usual Hutt, Falleen, and/or creepy new alien species with Xev Xrexus, a glamorous, posh-looking, and slightly older human female. Variety is always welcomed in a wide-open galaxy like Star Wars and it’s nice to have more than three or four species type-casted as gangsters.
Thanks to this second issue, I’m hoping the bounty hunters and more flashbacks with interesting ties to other parts of canon continue to stay at the forefront of the Darth Maul series because they’re what’s bringing me back for more, while the Padawan hunting aspect of the series finally takes form.
+ Cad Bane, Aurra Sing, the other bounty hunters
+ Flashbacks with some fun surprises
– Compelling Maul isn’t quite here just yet
Aphra (#1-6) | And the Enormous Profit (#9-13) | Remastered (#14-19) | Annual: #1
The Screaming Citadel (crossover of Doctor Aphra and Star Wars on-goings)
Black Squadron (#1-3) | Lockdown (#4-6) | The Gathering Storm (#7-13) | Legend Lost (#14 – 16) | War Stories (#17-19) | Legend Found (#20-25)
Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith
The Chosen One (#1-6) | The Dying Light (#7-10) | The Rule of Five (#11-12)
Vader (#1-6) | Shadows and Secrets (#7-12) | The Shu-Torun War (#16-19) | End of Games (#20-25) | Annual: #1
Vader Down (crossover of Star Wars and Darth Vader on-goings)
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) | Out Among the Stars (#33-37) | Ashes of Jedha (#38-43) | Annual: #1 | #2 | #3
The Last Padawan (#1-6) | First Blood (#7-12)
Jedi of the Republic – Mace Windu (miniseries)
Captain Phasma (miniseries)
Darth Maul (miniseries)
Han Solo (miniseries)
Rogue One (adaptation)
Obi-Wan & Anakin (miniseries)
Shattered Empire (miniseries)
Princess Leia (miniseries)