First things first: the cover for this issue by Rafae Albuquerque is drop dead gorgeous especially since the colors of the title complement it.
The tricky thing about a book like this is that it feels like we know how this story must end and the result is that the issues creep towards it as the inevitable doom looms. How else could this possibly go for Jedi Padawan Eldra Kaitis? Darth Maul #4 takes us right up to that moment, leaving it for the final issue but there’s still plenty that happens here. After all, Maul and his bounty hunters have to survive the droves of angry criminals who Xrexus has sent to hunt them down for sport since they stole her Jedi.
The story is split between Cad Bane, Aurra Sing, and the rest attempting to survive and Maul and Eldra doing the same. The former is a good excuse to see Cad and Aurra be badass. The latter is… interesting. It certainly makes you appreciate the doomed Eldra. She’s far braver than many of us would be in what seems like a hopeless situation. Even Maul appears to be impressed. It’s enough to make you dread the (likely) inevitable conclusion next month.
Darth Maul #4 brings the action in its penultimate issue and along with some more Maul food for thought.
Darth Maul #4: Cullen Bunn/Writer, Luke Ross/Artist, Nolan Woodard/Colorist, Joe Caramagna/Letterer, Jordan White/Editor, Heather Antos/Assistant Editor
Darth Maul #3 goes about how you’d expect with a fun twist at the end. The real twist though is that Cad, Aurra, and the Jedi Padawan are the most intriguing parts of the book. It’s not what I expected. (Okay, maybe I sort of expected the Padawan part.) Honestly, it’s impressive that two issues of a comic have done what however many episodes of the TV show couldn’t. I’m genuinely interested in Cad Bane and Aurra Sing and wouldn’t mind seeing more of their adventures in this era.
There’s something that feels just a little bit strange about the pacing of this book. Things are most certainly happening in the book and yet it feels slow at times. Perhaps it has to do with how there hasn’t been a ton of action in the book and that Maul tends to internally monologue a lot. I know that I said I liked it last issue as opposed to hearing Maul talk a lot but I’m revising my opinion as it’s gotten to be a bit much. I think I would have been more intrigued by a comic that approached the main character how Chewbacca did by not putting readers inside of his head. Don’t get me wrong: Maul still feels very much like the pre-The Phantom Menace Darth Maul but, just like his later mechanical bottom half self, I want to strangle him a little bit.
As for the book as a whole, I’m still not sure how I feel about it. Issue #4 might end up being the deciding factor as to whether this is a book that everyone will like or mostly a book that fans of the character will like. In the mean time, the book’s fine and, well, I guess we’ll see where it goes.
Darth Maul #3: Cullen Bunn/Writer, Luke Ross/Artist, Nolan Woodard/Colorist, Joe Caramagna/Letterer, Jordan White/Editor, Heather Antos/Assistant Editor
As suspected, Darth Maul #2 is where the fun begins. Even though Maul is supposed to go nowhere near the Jedi, he heads off after the Xrexus Cartel who’ve captured a Jedi Padawan and are auctioning her off to the highest bidder. Since he has to be stealthy about it, he hires a team of bounty hunters (including Cad Bane and Aurra Sing) to assist him on his mission. What could possibly go wrong?
One thing that I really like about this book is how Maul feels more like the Maul we met in The Phantom Menace as opposed to the Maul we see in The Clone Wars. In other words… he doesn’t talk a whole lot. Internally monologue? Sure. Verbally chatter? Nah. The addition of the bounty hunters definitely helps the book out so we can get out of Maul’s head a little bit more. Heck, I’m actually even really enjoying Cad Bane in the book so far and I was never terribly fond of him during The Clone Wars.
It’s worth reiterating that Luke Ross and Nolan Woodward on art are a great combination for this book. I’m particularly fond of their larger crowd scenes since it looks like Ross had a ton of fun picking a plethora of aliens to include. It’s little things like that which help a book feel very Star Wars.
The verdict? Darth Maul’s not just a book for fans of the Sith Lord but definitely also a good book for fans of bounty hunters.
Darth Maul #2: Cullen Bunn/Writer, Luke Ross/Artist, Nolan Woodard/Colorist, Joe Caramagna/Letterer, Jordan White/Editor, Heather Antos/Assistant Editor
Maul is one of those characters where it seems like most people either love him or can’t stand him anymore. I personally fall into the second category mostly because I don’t know why he keeps not dying. But hey! A pre-TPM story about him? Count me as intrigued.
Darth Maul #1 is a lot of character building and plot set up. There’s a lot of time spent in Maul’s head and uhhh… spoilers: he’s kinda violent. At times, it felt like a little bit too much especially given that we don’t even hear about this padawan from the solicits until the last few pages but bigger fans of the character will likely really dig it. Personally, I loved getting to see Maul take on a rathtar. It’s a nice blending of the eras and besides, it’s not like Maul doesn’t have a fine tradition of taking on aliens who originally hail from much further down the timeline. One of the places where the issue fell short for me was with Palpatine. That’s not really a mark against the book and Cullen Bunn though. It’s more that I don’t think we’ll see anyone else write as great of a Palpatine as Charles Soule in our comics any time soon.
On the art front, the combination of Luke Ross and Nolan Woodard is a good one for this book. Their combined style fits nicely with the vibe Bunn seems to be going for. I definitely prefer to this to Ross’s prior Star Wars work on The Force Awakens comic adaptation.
As a side note, Marvel has continued its tradition of giving us a little something extra to go with the first issues and honestly, I could read an entire graphic novel that’s nothing but cute little droids getting into trouble if Chris Eliopoulos and Jordie Bellaire write and draw it.
But back to the main Maul story… is it worth it? If you’re a fan of the character than definitely yes it is. While I liked the issue well enough, I’m inclined to hold off from telling those more of the fence to run off and buy it just yet. Ask me again after the next issue.
Darth Maul #1: Cullen Bunn/Writer, Luke Ross/Artist, Nolan Woodard/Colorist, Joe Caramagnas/Letterer, Jordan White/Editor, Heather Antos/Assistant Editor