Darth Maul is back, and he wants an army. GONK reviews the first issue of Darth Maul: Death Sentence.
“Now, brother, we move as Sith. We move in confusion. We move in fear. We move in chaos.” — Darth Maul
At the end of season four of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Darth Maul returned, and was seriously ticked off. I’m sure we will see more of him in the coming season, but in the meantime, we get a tale of the really angry Sith Lord with brand new cybernetic legs, as he plots with his brother, Savage Opress, to get his revenge on Obi-Wan Kenobi. But first, he’s going to need his own army – and that’s where we find the tattooed Zabrak brothers in Star Wars: Darth Maul – Death Sentence #1 (DarkHorse.com profile).
On the forested Paklan, a crew of hunters and trackers assault Darth Maul and Savage Opress in a cafe, and predictably for an opening act, they all perish, but reveal the name of their employer, Ja’boag, a head of a major mining concern. The Jedi also learn of Ja’boag’s bounty and dispatch Masters Salmara and Judd to find out how the mine owner even knows of the two dark siders, and why he’s hired a army to his mine. With Ja’boag in their sights, Maul and Opress take a visit to a mine, and wade through the army stationed out front. Before they can strike the mine owner down, the Jedi appear.
Darth Maul went from Sith weapon of rage to bisected and dead, then came back even stronger in hate, but now he’s tagging around Savage Opress, his he-man brother. Opress went from being a stronger menace than Maul to being the kid brother, and it shows. Maul, now sane, is the one giving orders to his Steeler-hued sibling. In the fight on Paklan, it is Maul who lets Opress go first into battle, and then brings the melee to a close and interrogates the crew leader. Like many his lines from The Phantom Menace, Maul speaks like he’s reading proverbs out of a Sith handbook, which is probably how Darth Sidious interacted with him as an apprentice. But Maul is not just the flurry of action when it comes facing the enemy. Showing a more strategic side, Maul uses a mind trick to turn the first sentry to confront him at the mine into a suicide bomb against his own army, allowing Maul and kid brother to enter the mine with much less resistance.
But it’s not all about the super smash brothers. Salmara gives her padawan Dray the Jedi’s reasoning on how Maul is still alive, a bit of exposition, but done with a smile as she reassures the lad with “I doubt that Maul’s legs are running around by themselves seeking vengeance.” Interesting to note that Salmara and Dray share the same haircut — and amazingly, both are human and yet neither are white. I don’t know what this portends for their fates, but +1 on actually using people of color, plus Salmara doesn’t wear Jedi browns/khakis. And for those tracking interesting lightsabers, the alien Judd has a saber-staff – which I’m sure will pair up well with Savage Opress’ double-ended lightsaber when that smackdown comes to pass. Again, Tom Taylor knows how to balance action and excitement with developing the story and infusing a little humor, which I’m sure will be a challenge in this comic as the namesake doesn’t seem like a fan of lightheartedness.
On the art – Bruno Redondo, who is new to Star Wars, but has previously done art for Batman: Arkham Unhinged hits a solid note with his drawings, as colored by the always versatile Michael Atiyeh. Redondo draws Maul and Opress well, and has a good knack for aliens – one of my favorite panels is Maul fending off two Wookiees in the secluded diner while using his robotic leg to pin a third Wookiee to the wall by the face. We see a wide variety of species here, including some new feline-humanoids who observe the arrival of Maul and Opress to the mine world of Moorjhone, and wisely stay at a distance. And the evil gleam in the last panel shows a great combination of pencilling, inking and colors. Dave Dorman does the cover in his usual awesomeness – Maul is scary and I half expect him to spit on me from that realistic rage-filled pose.
Overall, a good start, though it leaves the question on the series title still dangling: Whose death sentence is it?