In Review: Darth Maul #1

This Sith is on a disturbing quest that will have fans trembling in anticipation.

The covers: I was able to find sixteen different covers for Marvel’s initial outing for Sidious’s original apprentice. The Regular cover is by Rod Reis and it’s a slick cover of the Sith with his double bladed lightsaber behind him in his right hand as he gestures toward the reader with his left. It’s a move that looks right out of Ray Park’s fight book. This is how people think of Maul when his name is said. The Star Wars 40th Anniversary cover is by Terry and Rachel Dodson showing the scene where Luke is bartering for Artoo from the jawas from A New Hope. Luke is in the center of the image with the famous droid and the jawas, while in the back are Threepio and Uncle Owen. The Dodsons never disappoint and this is one to track down. The Action Figure Variant cover by John Tyler Christopher shows a faux Kenner action figure of a vinyl caped Maul with his iconic lightsaber having points similar to the original Luke action figure. The card the figure is mounted on is a sensational take on Maul in close up when he locks sabers with Obi-Wan in Episode I. I’m a huge fan of Christopher’s work, so I’ll be on the lookout for this one. There’s also a Darth Sidious Action Figure Variant cover by Christopher that features the Sith wielding two red lightsabers, again with the points similar to that of the original Luke’s. The image on the card shows the antagonist as he appeared in Episode I. This also is awesome and yet another I have to find. There’s an Animation Variant cover that shows the title character as he appeared on the Clone Wars and Rebels television series. He’s close up, holding his lightsaber particularly close to the reader. Maul is sporting a terrific snarl. I couldn’t find a credit for who the artist is, but the artist is deserving of praise. I used the Movie Variant cover for the image accompanying this review. This features Ray Park holding his lightsaber against a newly created background and it looks great. There’s also a Movie Textless Variant cover that features the same image as the Movie Variant but without the text. This is one to find. The Rafael Albuquerque Variant is very atmospheric with Maul holding his saber above his head, fully cloaked, looking down at the reader, which will probably be the last sight that he or she sees. Great coloring on this one, with heavy use of purple in the background and blue in his cloak that compliment his reds and blacks very well. There’s also a Rafael Albuquerque Textless Variant which has the same art without the text and it’s also one to find. The first sketch cover is the Rod Reis Sketch Variant which is a grey toned cover, looking more like a black and white cover, and it shows that Reis’s work is just as exceptional without colors. The Mark Brooks Variant cover is a stunner and is the piece that I would like to see on a poster, print, or tee shirt. Maul is riding his cycle that he used on Tatoonie in The Phantom Menace. He’s topless, is sporting his saber, and is accompanied by his three probe droids. He looks absolutely maniacal and would scare anyone to death who saw him like this. Brooks has really outdone himself! Michael Turner is responsible for the Aspen Comics Color Variant that has a bust shot of a cloaked Maul in some spectacular colors. This is a great, moody piece. There’s also an Aspen Comics Sketch Variant that shows Turner’s art before colors were added. Turner’s work is awesome and his loss continues to be felt in this cover. A starkly colored Maul grins with his saber held before him on the Unknown Comic Books Variant. This was created by Michael Walsh and it’s a strong piece. This looks like a propaganda piece. Ashley Witter does the Fried Pie Variant which has Maul spinning his blade in a corridor. The lights in the ceiling have been hit because sparks are falling upon him. The sickly green and yellow used in the background increase the sense of dread the Sith is emanating. Excellent sense of motion in this image. The final cover I could find is the Wonderworld Variant by John Tyler Christopher that features not one, not two, but three action figures. Maul, Vader, and Kylo Ren are exposed in a white plastic tray, pulled out of a white envelope that’s sporting stamps that feature images of Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan, and Han. Christopher continues to crush these covers. Overall grades: Regular A+, Star Wars 40th Anniversary Variant A, Action Figure Variant A+, Darth Sidious Action Figure Variant A+, Animation Variant A-, Reis Sketch Variant A, Movie Variant A+, Movie Textless Variant A+, Albuquerque Variant A-, Alburquerque Textless Variant A, Brooks Variant A+, Aspen Comics Color Variant A, Aspen Comics Black and White Variant A, Unknown Comic Books Variant A-, Fried Pie Variant A, and Wonderworld Variant A+

The story: There are two stories in this oversized issue with the main story written by Cullen Bunn and the ten paged “Probe Droid Problem” by Chris Eliopoulos. The main story gives fans exactly what they want of Maul. Several men are walking through an inhospitable setting who’ve been hired by a “big game hunter” to “flush the prey to him.” Some slobber falls on one of the men’s heads and a rathtar rushes down and makes short work of them. Once the men have been consumed or torn apart, the hunter appears — Maul. He dives down on the beast, not with his lightsaber but with a wicked blade. Maul believes himself to be done with the hunt, but a pair of surprises provide him another outlet for his hate. What makes this story work is the reader’s ability to get within the Sith’s head. He’s got a lot of rage. A whole lot of rage. He’s not happy keeping to the shadows as instructed by his master, Darth Sidious. Before he meets with his master, Maul comes in very close contact with two individuals on Corruscant and Bunn makes it a very tense scene because readers know exactly what this monster is capable of. His dialogue with Sidious is great, providing some needed motivation for Maul and justification why he didn’t go public sooner. Maul is given a mission and accomplishes it, naturally, however, and this is where this first story’s premise comes from, he learns something even Sidious doesn’t know and he’s off to learn if his information is true. I enjoy seeing Maul in action, I love learning Maul’s thoughts, and I’m really excited to see where Bunn is going to take him. I really enjoyed this. The second story  by Eliopoulos is a terrific, mostly dialogue-free tale of the plight of one of Maul’s probe droids on Tatooine. It’s cute, funny, and only increases my fervor to see Eliopoulos to get his own one-shot to write. He captures the magic of Star Wars that will please fans of any age. This story could easily have a sequel and it would be absolutely welcome. Overall grade: A

The art: The visuals on this book are by Luke Ross. They didn’t start out as strongly as I would want in the opening but they improved considerably by the end. The book looks fine in the opening, Ross creates a swampy environment well, but it’s more suggested by silhouettes than complete illustrations. The first three panels on Page 3 are pretty rough, defeating the punchline visual of the third panel. When Maul leaps into action on the partial double-paged spread on 4 and 5 is a great shot of the title character, but his face isn’t seen and the lower half of his body is tough to identify, as his togs meld with his legs. The first panel on 6 is outstanding, with Ross making those creatures look more fearsome on the page than they actually appeared on film. There are two large panels on 7 and 8, but Maul is in silhouette, muting the character’s strength unfortunately. When the story moves to Corruscant, the setting improves greatly — lots of great structures and an excellent variety of characters. Maul’s ship looks outstanding as it’s violently moving through space: Ross does super work on explosions. Maul’s entrance into the final setting is spectacular. The bottom of 17 has a great action sequence that beautifully shows Maul in motion. The final page is a killer, literally: Maul is outstanding, the character with him excellent, and the final panel awesome. Chris Eliopoulos is the artist of “Probe Droid Problem” and he’s as outstanding an illustrator as he is a writer. His ability to create so many emotions for his characters that have no movable faces is uncanny. This work is amazing and, Marvel, please, please, please, give Eliopoulos his own one-shot! Overall grade: A

The colors: The Maul story is colored by Nolan Woodard and he does a great job. His ability to create luminous lights in the swamp, in the foliage and a few creatures, instantly makes the setting eerie. When the rathtar attacks, Woodward uses bright and dark oranges to make the violence more intense. I also like how he uses yellows to outline panels, making the layout of the panels stand out. When Maul appears on Corruscant, the colors go dark, as if his presence dims the entire world. This provided a great transition to his meeting with Sidious. When Maul is within his ship he’s bathed in red light that makes him incredibly ominous, and it’s carried over to the holographic projections before him. “Probe Droid Problem” is colored by Jordie Bellaire. Her colors greatly enhance the story’s settings, with her blues making the night so cool and the choice of pink being great for dawn. The colors used for the sounds, especially by one particular race, become much more audible with her skills. Both colorists are aces. Overall grade: A+

The letters: VC’s Joe Caramagna does the lettering for the Maul story, creating scene settings, dialogue and narration (the same font), sounds, and transmissions. The font used for dialogue does not suit some of the characters. The conversation between Maul and his master looks too lyrical, almost like Tolkien elves, with its thin linework. I’ve stated often how I’d like this to be a stronger font, to make the characters stronger, but it has yet to happen. Caramagna is excellent on the sounds, with the rathtar’s wails excellent. Eliopoulos is the letterer of his own tale, and the sounds are half the joy of this story. The dialogue of one of the droids is flat out funny. Overall grade: A-

The final line: I wasn’t pleased with the cover price, but after seeing that Eliopoulos got to do ten pages, I’ll gladly pay it. Darth Maul continues to shine as one of the most meancing characters in the Star Wars universe. This Sith is on a disturbing quest that will have fans trembling in anticipation. I didn’t think there were any more tales to tell with Maul, but I’ve been happily proven wrong. Overall grade: A

To purchase a digital copy of this book go to https://www.comixology.com/Star-Wars-Darth-Maul-2017-1/digital-comic/462191?ref=c2VhcmNoL2luZGV4L2Rlc2t0b3Avc2xpZGVyTGlzdC90b3BSZXN1bHRzU2xpZGVy

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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