If you ask around, you’re likely to get a good handful of reasons why folks enjoyed Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire trilogy so much. For one, Zahn demonstrated precisely how adept he was at characterization by bringing Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia, and all of the gang back to life in all new settings with all new circumstances. Also, Zahn rather deftly added a few new characters to the mix, giving the principles something new to work with while pushing the boundaries of the status quo. (i.e. Luke Skywalker? In love?) Lastly – and most important so far as I’m concerned – the author fashioned a terrific lead villain in the role of Thrawn, a die-hard military enthusiast who knew more than a thing or two about employing strategy to not only get what he wanted but what he needed to kick butt in any corner of the galaxy where he looked.
Dare I suggest that scribe Jeremy Barlow may be taking Darth Maul in the same direction?
(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 packaging: “With his Shadow Collective army stalled, Darth Maul calls on Mother Talzin for help and is sent reinforcements – the deadly Nightbrothers! Maul is ready again to take on the Separatist droid army, Count Dooku, and General Grievous – in a trio of simultaneous battles!”
To be honest, I wasn’t all that thrilled either when STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS actually brought Darth Maul back from the dead … but as we learned he wasn’t quite dead. As the story goes, he was kinda/sorta subsisting on all of the anger and hate that fueled his body in that netherworld (netherplace?); so it wasn’t really all that much of a logistical problem to reanimate the Sith. In fact, one could argue that the character was finally in the proper state of mind to do something with all of that rage.
Whatever your position, Maul is back; and – in writer Barlow’s hands – he’s actually taking a few steps forward. The Maul we knew from THE PHANTOM MENACE and THE CLONE WARS (to some degree) was never really depicted as the smartest Dathomirian Zabrak in the known galaxies. In MENACE, he largely brooded from one scene to the next, turning in a wonderfully kinetic experience in the saber battle where he bested Qui-Gon Jinn but then fell to (a weaker) Obi-Wan Kenobi. In THE CLONE WARS, viewers were given the sense that this new Maul – one heavily influenced by the darkest emotions – wasn’t going to go quietly into the night … and that’s certainly turned out to be the case in this comic book miniseries.
Essentially picking up moments after the first issue ends, scribe Barlow puts Maul in a position of humility as the Sith has to call on Mother Talzin for any and all assistance she can provide. No doubt, this only further fires the hate he feels in whatever is left of a beating heart; and this forces him to come up with an even grander strategy, one that’ll not only put Count Dooku and General Grievous well within his grasp but also one that strongly suggests the tide may be finally turning against Darth Sidious’s favor.
Because I’m willing to concede bringing Maul back into the universe maybe wasn’t such a bad idea after all, I’m having a lot of fun with this mini right now. Granted, it would’ve been nicer to have some bigger, more expansive artwork to go right along with the scope of the narrative (many panels are fairly light on elements, and some of the colors look downright uninspired); but as Dark Horse’s time with the STAR WARS’ license is winding down, perhaps this is the best we can hope for at present.
Still, things are shaping up pretty nicely. Can they get even better? We’ll have to be here in 30 days to find out!
STAR WARS: DARTH MAUL – SON OF DATHOMIR (#2) 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.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. As this tale involves Darth Maul and a fair percentage of fandom kinda/sorta rejects his whole ‘resurrection’ (of a sort), I’d imagine you know right now whether or not reading this interests you. Sure, maybe he was better off dead, but isn’t there something said for never being able to keep a good Sith down? The artwork may not be anything exceptional (some panels are Saturday morning cartoonish – not that there’s anything wrong with it), but a chess game set against the backdrop of a whole galaxy is definitely in motion before you reach the last page in this book. Buckle up, kid. This ain’t like dustin’ crops!
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 (#2) 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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