In Review: Star Wars: Age of Republic–Darth Maul #1

Another Must-Own Darth Maul tale that will thrill fans.

The covers: Though the book only states three different covers, there are five to track down if one is a fan of this Sith from Episode I. The Regular cover by Paolo Rivera has the dark apprentice looking to the right, his double bladed crimson lightsaber held in his right hand, while his left is open to, perhaps, use the Force to ward off the attack from an unseen foe using a blue blade. There’s also a blast of pale green energy coming at him from the left. There’s a lot of action on this cover that looks good and it’s always neat to see Maul in action. The Luke Ross and Nolan Woodard Variant is a much more moody piece with Maul hunched over holding his ignited weapon in both hands. The cover is colored heavily with reds, making the title character absolutely sinister. I especially like how his yellow eyes pop on this. This is excellent. A solid surprise is the Mike McKone and Guru eFX Variant. The surprise isn’t how good this is, because with both of these talents one knows the visuals will be good, but that it connects to the Star Wars: Age of Republic — Qui-Gon Jinn #1 cover. A full figure of Darth Maul holds his left hand out to the reader, while his right is behind him holding his lighsaber. He snarls at the reader and looks absolutely fierce. Behind him is a red colored background with a small stripe of blue on the left. Several Droid tri-fighters fly down from the top center, while several Jedi fighters speed along the bottom right to the bottom left. Just inching in from the top left is the engine of a Naboo fighter. This looks great. The Iain McCaig Concept Design Variant features an illustration of the villain done in preparation for The Phantom Menace. The image I found online for this cover is a little different from the physical copy I purchased: the cover is pulled in tighter to the character, making it a true bust shot, rather than including all of his chest. I love this. The Photocover Variant features Ray Park in his iconic role. This bust shot of Maul has him with his cowl up and his hands at his waist. I love photocovers and this is one I’ve got to track down. Overall grades: Regular A, Ross Variant A+, McKone Variant A, Concept Design Variant A+, and Photocover Variant A+

The story: “Ash” begins in the lower levels of Coruscant where thief Zek Peiro has a helmeted figure approach him. This figure says, “The Kaitis Cartel received word that the security for the Scarn transfer was increased. They prefer to ensure they actually acquire their pre-spice.” Jody Houser has Maul disguised as he accompanies Zek because the Sith is the Kaitis Cartel (What awesome reason for how it got named!) and he wants to learn if this thief might be Force sensitive. The two go on their mission and really cool things happen, ending with a surprise on Page 8. Unfortunately Maul’s activities haven’t escaped Darth Sidious, who chastises his pupil. Maul is eager for them to attack the Jedi, but Sidious tells him that his training isn’t complete. They journey to Malachor where Maul undergoes something amazing. I was very happy to return to this world and was extremely pleased by what the pair find upon their arrival. It’s on Pages 13 – 18 that make this a must-own issue for Star Wars fans. It’s rare to get inside a Sith’s head (with the recently concluded Darth Vader going there in Issue #25), so to have this shown is extraordinary. Houser makes these pages something fans will be discussing for some time. The final two pages are a great resolution with the last page’s final dialogue killer. Marvel, get Houser on a monthly Darth Maul comic. The opening action sequence was great and the reveals on Malachor fantastic. Overall grade: A+

The art: Luke Ross crushed the visuals on the four issue Darth Maul miniseries from last year and I was very happy to see him on this book. He nails the Sith’s look in every panel he appears. The book opens with Zek in a long vertical panel. His posture adds immensely to his character and I like that his face is in shadow or not clearly shown on the first page, making his character sinister. If one hasn’t figured out from the dialogue that Maul is the narrator on the opening page, the vicious smile that ends the page will identify him. The settings on this opening are fantastic. Every page on Coruscant transports the reader to the lower levels of this city world and it looks fantastic. When the pair of criminals are shown leaping in silhouette it’s great — all that’s missing is music. The point of view on the fourth page is cool because it’s from the pair’s perspective looking down on their victims. Page 5 is composed of several panels all at different angles, which enhance the frantic action and show how intensely Maul is watching Zek to see if he is using the Force. Page 8 is cool not only for the violent action, but by only showing Maul’s hand in the large panel — that’s all that needed of him to demonstrate his power in this panel. Sidious looks great with only his eyes shown from under his cowl’s darkness. The clothing on 13 took me aback, as much as it did the lead, and I loved his reaction at the bottom of the page. Maul’s growing anger was great, with his emotion on 16 excellent. I’ll admit being a little disappointed that the first three panels on 17 are silhouettes, but Ross was right for doing so because he’s able to communicate what’s occurring without going graphic. Page 18 is scream worthy. The penultimate panel on the last page is awesome for who is shown, the point of view, and the slight ability that’s demonstrated. The close-up that ends the book is beautiful. I just love the intensity that Ross can create in Maul. Overall grade: A+

The colors: A good pairing with Ross’s art are the colors by Java Tartaglia. The sedate blue-greens that open the book connote something sick or unwell, which is exactly what the underworld of Coruscant should feel like. Using stark reds for Maul’s narration boxes is the perfect way for the reader to realize who is speaking. The dirty blonde hair on Zek has him stand out against the darkness of the location. I like how on Page 5 Maul and Zek’s fights get different colors for the backgrounds; using colors to show off the different fighters is very slick. This also allows the two close-ups of Maul to explode when they occur. The dark violet backgrounds that accompany Sidious and Maul’s dialogue adds an unnatural visual element to them. The oranges used for the two flashbacks age panels nicely. Notice how on 13 – 17 oranges are used for shocks that Maul experiences, while panels when he goes into action get a strong crimson outline. The color of his lightsaber blade was also a subtle nod to what’s going on. Overall grade: A+

The letters: This book’s text is crafted by VC’s Travis Lanham and contains scene settings, dialogue and narration (the same font), and two sounds. I LOVE the scene settings on this book and wish that other Star Wars books employed them. The dialogue and narration are the same font, only differed by the shape and colors of the balloons and boxes that contain them. I’ve said it before and I’ll continue to do so: they are two different forms of communication so the text should visually be differed from one another. Sadly, there are only two sounds in this book. There are ample opportunities for there to be many, many more in this issue, but it’s not Lanham’s decision to create them. I wish Houser had given more for Lanham to do. Sounds are a good chunk of the fun in Star Wars films. Overall grade: B

The final line: Another Must-Own Darth Maul tale that will thrill fans. The story has a sensational opening, teasing events hinted at in film Solo, while the action on Malachor is killer. The visuals are outstanding, with Ross and Tartaglia doing beautiful work on this horrific Sith. The only ding is the lack of sounds that would have truly captured the auditory element of the films. This book is recommended for all Star Wars fans and could be the gateway in creating new ones. Dear Marvel, can we get this team on a monthly series? — PLEASE! 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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