By Cullen Bunn, Luke Ross, Nolan Woodard, Joe Caramagna, Chris Eliopoulos, Jordie Bellaire, and Rod Reis.
Maybe the only enjoyable thing to come out of the cinematic Star Wars prequels was the awesome evil bad guy, Darth Maul. Marvel had capitalized on his bad guy appeal with his own series fleshing out the character during his time as an apprentice to Darth Sidious. Star Wars: Darth Maul takes a deeper dive into the inner workings of Darth Maul as he maneuvers around the galaxy from Twon Ketee to Coruscant. He lurks in the shadows gathering information and serving his master as a trusted assassin. As he learns and develops under Sidious, so do his bloodlust and his loathing for Jedis. Can he follow orders from Darth Sidious or will his own inner darkness take over?
Darth Maul #1 is broken into two separate stories, with the main story and overarching arc written by Cullen Bunn with art by Luke Ross and colors from Nolan Woodard. Darth Maul has always been a fascinating figure; an alien dark lord who rose through the dark ranks under Emperor Palpatine/Darth Sidious, a known xenophobe. Bunn makes sure to capitalize on this intimidation factor and paints him as a Dark Side badass who is out looking for a fight and to prove him self. There is no secret good side or savior complex here; Bunn makes sure to show his deviate ways right from the start with a brutal introduction to the character in the opening pages. His intimidating look plus his badass light saber made him a bright spot for many during his brief appearance in the cinematic universe. This series promises to delve deeper into his history and show how he rose in the ranks.
Bunn’s no holds barred approach to this character is only emphasized through the brutal yet gorgeous art from Ross. He certainly paints a gorgeous portrait of the many creatures and cities Darth Maul terrorizes throughout the galaxy, that are only highlighted with colors from Woodard. The page layout shows the brutality of every physical encounter Darth Maul wages, and the character placement and poses of Maul on every page scream dominance and show little mercy. The menacing side-eye Darth Maul gives every person (even his master Darth Sidious) show his waning restraint and growing need for disorder and bloodshed. His iconic look, the black and red face with the spiked head, is teased in the opening pages, with Ross only allowing readers side-profile and half-face shots to tease out his big face reveal. The art is measured and timed perfectly, building up the story along with Bunn to show his patience running out and his own self-interest taking over.
The second mini-story is an homage to droids from writer Chris Eliopoulos and colorist from Jordie Bellaire that really serves no greater purpose to the main story centered on Darth Maul. Titled “Probe Droid Problem”, it takes place during the events of The Phantom Menace on Tatooine. The story is about two droids who undergo near death experiences and save one another from the likes of boulders and Jawas. The story is only underlined and driven through the art, apart from some nondescript droid language there is no set up or context for the panel. The fantastic art really depicts a strong sense of friendship, care, and survival between these two droids. It is a magnificent little story to give some light amongst a book that is overwhelmingly in favor of the Dark Side.
Star Wars: Darth Maul is a good addition to the growing Star Wars catalogue at Marvel. This book serves a purpose: to add history and context to an underutilized character that certainly struck a chord with the audience. Bunn and Ross are telling that tale that audiences knew existed of bloodshed and destruction to add to the allure of Darth Maul.