I know that Darth Maul was all the rage when THE PHANTOM MENACE hit the multiplex, but there were more than a handful of us who felt short-changed by his rather simple theatrical introduction and his sudden disappearance from the screen universe. Who was this masked man? What story did he have to tell about the Force? Why was he dangled so prominently as a lead villain only to meet such a quick demise? Sure, lightsaber duels look great up there in the lights, but wasn’t there more to this red-and-black dude in the same way that there was more to Darth Vader? To Senator Palpatine? To Count Dooku?
If you’re like me in thinking that THE PHANTOM MENACE didn’t quite do the character justice, then this mini – SON OF DATHOMIR – might be precisely what you’re looking for. It may not answer all of the questions you’ve had since Maul first graced the screen, but it sure works very hard to flesh out the Sith apprentice beyond anything George Lucas gave his audience.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
From the product description: “Darth Maul has captured Darth Sidious’s new apprentice! Mother Talzin and Maul attempt to sway Count Dooku to their cause, revealing surprising facts about Maul’s past. But an attack by an elite Jedi strike force throws everyone’s plans into chaos!”
What tends to happen with many comic miniseries is that there’s usually a frenzy of action in the first few issues – plot development is usually fast and furious – before the inevitable slowdown around issue three so that readers can catch up, writers can set the pieces for the final act clearly in motion, and artists tie-up some respective loose ends. SON OF DATHOMIR is no different – the first two chapters saw some blistering, big-scale engagements between the opposing sides; and now – in order for things to be set right (in relative terms) – the action gets dialed back a bit as the Republic finally arrives on the scene. The Jedi suspect there’s a new alliance in the Axis of Evil (criminal elements of that galaxy far, far away, the Sith, and the Separatist forces), and they’ve even reached a conclusion which might inadvertently play into Darth Sidious’s hands. What’s a Jedi to do?
Because this is a script adapted from material originally intended to be a part of the animated STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS television show, there are a few ‘sequences’ which don’t work as well dimensionally as they probably would’ve in animation. Battle sequences don’t have the same sense of pace or rhythm when rendered on the page as opposed to being brought to life in motion. Consequently, there are a few ‘cuts’ between panels which don’t work quite as well as they should (i.e. characters awake, characters stunned in battle, then characters awake again). The ‘beats’ are there; however, they happen in greatly condensed narration, so it occasionally feels like something is lost in the translation.
Also – unlike the previous two issues – SON OF DATHOMIR (#3) ends up being fairly light on the Son of Dathomir himself, Darth Maul. Story development necessitates Maul having less face time here (i.e. Mother Talzin reveals her big secret; the Jedi investigation requires some space; etc.), and – for my tastes – that softens the impact for the central character. Maul has emerged as a much more interesting player in all of these events – he’s vastly more interesting in THE CLONE WARS than he was in THE PHANTOM MENACE, which reduced him to a brooding space-biker, tattoos and all. In fact, it’s safe to say that MENACE had him entirely in reactive mode, whereas SON has given him an evil mind all of his own. Shorter scenes means less impact, and #3 suffers just a bit because of it by comparison to what’s come before.
STAR WARS: DARTH MAUL – SON OF DATHOMIR (#3) is published by Dark Horse Comics. The story is written by Jeremy Barlow; the pencils are supplied by Juan Frigeri; the inks are by Mauro Vargas; with the colors by Wes Dzioba; and the lettering by Michael Heisler. For those of you raised on an island, STAR WARS is the creation of George Lucas. The issue bears the cover prices of $3.50, and that’s still the best price in town for original STAR WARS material so far as this longtime comics fan is concerned. May the Force be with us. Always.
RECOMMENDED. While there’s still a good deal of action in the issue’s closing pages, STAR WARS: DARTH MAUL – SON OF DATHOMIR (#3) is a breather: get yourselves caught up with modest recap because it certainly looks like the finale is about to be a no-holds-barred showdown between the forces of good and bad in this corner of the universe. Naturally, we’ll know for sure in thirty days, but it’s always terrific to have something to look forward to, eh?
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Dark Horse Comics provided me with a digital reading copy of STAR WARS: DARTH MAUL – SON OF DATHOMIR (#3) by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.
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