Marvel continues their 1 hero 1 villain per month run of Age of Republic with Darth Maul #1, a perfect character to contrast the spiritual and monkish nature of Qui-Gon Jinn from last week. After such a great showing from their last comic book, this anthology series has to continue to fill its own big shoes. There’s little doubt to be had though. When Marvel wants to deliver a good Star Wars comic, they’re fully capable of doing so. Maul promises to be something different all together. Where the Qui-Gon issue felt almost entirely wholesome, Maul is, by design, a character utterly consumed by the Dark Side, one fueled entirely by the rage and the hate that they seem to love so much. With Maul #1 existing as a 1-shot continuation of the 5 issue mini series from a few months back, I have pretty high expectations of this issue, but not unreachable ones.
The first half of Maul #1 follows the Sith Apprentice as he travels disguised as a Jedi Padawan through the underbelly of Coruscant, the very Jedi Padawan he killed in his previous comic book. It’s unclear exactly what he’s doing, but it becomes quickly apparent he doesn’t really know either. Driven by bloodlust and an obsession with snuffing out the weak, he tracks down a force sensitive smuggler, pretending to work with him on a job before killing him off with ease, not leaving any witnesses or traces of his sith-killing. Palpatine isn’t quite so impressed with Maul’s sith rampaging escapades, and takes him to Malachar, a famously not-so-nice part of the galaxy Maul is all too familiar with. It’s there that this comic book takes a much darker and somber tone, and, despite being under both Marvel and Disney, shows some pretty brutal stuff. Palpatine’s lesson works, and Maul is able to focus his hatred where he otherwise could not, further becoming the more camly malicious Maul we know from the movie and the cartoons. However, it’s still clear that Maul lacks something the future Emperor is looking for, patience and utmost loyalty, and he warns his young sith apprentice, that he, not the Dark Side, is Maul’s master.
One of the few things that I mentioned when reviewing the first of the 5 issues in the Darth Maul mini series from a few months back, was that perhaps the best thing about the comic was the obvious disconnect between Maul and Palpatine. Maul is a hunter and a killer, driven almost solely by hatred of the Jedi. Palpatine, especially during the time that the Republic ruled, was painfully methodical and manipulative. These two things don’t really work together, and Maul’s impatience gets the best of him. This dynamic is once again shown really admirably in this comic book, and the annoyance Palpatine feels for his apprentice is palpable, pun intended. Similarly to Qui-Gon, this isn’t a particularly action packed, red lightsaber swinging adventure, it’s a deep dive into who Maul is as a character and as a creature corrupted by the Dark Side, which I think is really cool. It’s always a risk to not go the eye-candy route, and so far they’re 2 for 2 on these Age of Republic comics. As much as I enjoy watching Lightsaber sparks fly, the Force is an incredibly interesting and far too unexplored topic. This is the second comic in a row that visions and the mysteriousness of the Force have been core aspects of character development, and I’m so in on that. Maul continues to lift Age of Republic up high, and while I don’t think the Qui-Gon comic is beatable, Maul is a worthy addition to a hopefully flawless anthology series.(4.5 / 5)