In Review: Darth Maul #2

The Dark Side is immensely strong in this book. Recommended.

The covers: There are always three: the regular, the variant, and the Star Wars 40th Anniversary Variant cover. The Regular cover is credited to Rod Reis, but that signature did not look right. So, looking online, the Internet has rightly shown me that this cover is by Rafael Albuquerque — thank you, Internet! Albuquerque has drawn an intense looking Maul holding out his double bladed lightsaber. Behind him is the pale image of Darth Sidious, Maul’s master. Great image with a really frightening image of this iconic Sith. The David Aja Variant is a take on a much used picture of Ray Park as Maul. This is a tight close up on Maul, in stark black, white, and red, holding his lightsaber ready. The credits have rightly been moved to the bottom left of the cover. This is nice, but looking closely at the image the lines aren’t clean on this, which does reflect Maul’s aggressiveness, but I prefer my art a little neater. The Star Wars 40th Anniversary Variant cover is by Paul Renaud and it is gorgeous. Luke is holding a lightsaber for the first time and looks upon it in wonder. Ben sits in the background, holding his beard, wondering if he’s done the right thing. Across from the Jedi master sits turned off See-Threepio. The top half of the image is the outline of Darth Vader’s helmet. This is fantastic and I have to find a copy for myself. Overall grades: Regular A, Variant B, and Star Wars 40th Anniversary Variant A+

The story: Maul is ignoring Sidious’s orders and is tracking down a captured Jedi Padawan, who is in the possession of gangster Xev Xrexus. He’s gone to Nar Shaddaa where a Zabrak tends bar. Upon his entrance to the establishment, every conversation stops as all look at the cloaked figure. Maul simply says, “Xev Xrexus.” The bartender responds, “…you’ve come to the wrong place. My customers don’t appreciate questions. Perhaps it is best if you just left…quietly…before you get hurt.” Maul repeats the name again and is tapped on the shoulder by some irate customers who don’t like him. The closest to him goes so far as to say, “Only people asking questions like that are Jedi. Is that what you are — some sort of Jedi lackey?” Maul grits his teeth in a snarl and then things begin to happen. Cullen Bunn has Maul narrating much of this book and it’s really interesting to see how Maul thinks things out, showing what drives his decisions. He has to make a quick decision on Page 4 and his reasons for abstaining from something make perfect sense. Page 7 shows how deadly he can be, even if he decides to mask his identity. Three characters reveal themselves on 8 and I was floored. Not reading Previews certainly has it’s benefits. I was happy to see the familiar characters, while the new character looks to be just as dastardly as the other two. A fourth character is introduced on 10 and he is a monster; his actions instantly classify as someone who walks a dark, dark path. What’s done to this new character’s victim is terrible. Bunn can go quite a way with torturing this individual more so than other characters, but it’s as haunting as watching the power droid tortured by EV-9D9 in Return of the Jedi. There’s also a three page flashback sequence showing how Sidious tutored young Maul. The best dialogue of the entire issue is found in the final panel of 18, which had me laughing and feeling as if it was all about to hit the fan. This was a terrific read. Overall grade: A

The art: What isn’t Luke Ross putting on each page? This book is lush with details in every panel. The first page contains five horizontal panels continually narrowing into Maul’s target, the barkeep. The buildings and denizens of Nar Shaddaa look incredible. It’s only the first page and Ross has won me over. The first panel on Page 2 shows Maul’s entrance and it’s as ominous as any illustration can be. The four tight close ups on Maul when he speaks, or reacts, are terrific, allowing the reader to feel the intensity coming off the Sith. The partial double-paged splash of 4 and 5 is an amazing action sequence, with bodies, debris, and bystanders falling before Maul’s wrath. His decision not to use something at the bottom of 4 is great, and it’s not coincidence that the last panel on 5 is the same size as those on 4 — this is a great use of using a panel’s size to create a memory. The reveal on 8, a full paged splash, is awesome, with two of those characters being instantly recognizable, while the new character’s species was identifiable. The action on 11 is chilling, as this has not been done before in a movie, television episode, or comic book. The flashback sequences brilliantly suggest, rather than clearly show, because it is sometimes better not to see the horror. The partial double-paged splash that’s on 14 and 15 is going to be reason enough for fans to purchase this issue, as memories flood into the apprentice, while the Master looks on, smiling. The partial double-paged splash that follows has some type of printing error on it, as the swirls on the staircase are not aligned. Panels three and five on 18 make me giggle, albeit nervously. The issue ends with a full paged splash of Maul’s target. She looks young and I’m worried for her future. This book looks great. Overall grade: A

The colors: Matching the beautiful artwork are the beautiful colors by Nolan Woodard. Colors bring the reader into the bar wonderfully on Page 1, starting with the bright rusty lights of Nar Shaddaa, transitioning to violet neon outside the establishment, which ultimate becomes the dominate color on the bar itself. Maul’s entrance is fantastically backlit by a strong yellow, creating dread and being reminiscent of the Tatoonie suns. The violet returns on 4 and 5 when Maul makes his move. When action occurs, the panels explode in orange and rusts, with it completing the horror in the final panel of 11. The lack of colors on 14 and 15 make the colors that are used seem like specters. The colors on 16 and 17 are a complete change from the pages that preceded it and give the setting a classical feel. The final page uses a color seen before in other mediums, but used here it most resembles how Maul must see the world. Excellent job by Woodard. Overall grade: A

The letters: VC’s Joe Caramagna creates scene settings, narration and dialogue (the same font), grunts, sounds, a yell, and two different types of droid speak. I’m still not a fan of this slender dialogue, which never lends itself to sounding like it was uttered by Peter Serafinowicz. There’s also some yelling in this book that does not receive a larger font than dialogue, nor is it italicized. Caramagna is capable of doing these fonts, so one can only assume he’s being told not to, which begs the question Why not? This is yet another example of Marvel’s Star Wars books continually coming up short in this category. Overall grade: B-

The final line: The Dark Side is immensely strong in this book. Excellent writing and detailed visuals make this a must own series. Recommended. Overall grade: A-

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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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