Star Wars: Darth Maul
Star Wars: Darth Maul is a one-off miniseries of only four editions, detailing the grandest of the three missions the Iridonian Sith apprentice undertook upon earning the Darth title leading up to the blockade of Naboo. You may recall that Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter and Darth Maul: Saboteur are the bookends to this story- well, now that I’ve finally read the comic, how does it live up?
While this miniseries was accomplished by one team from start to finish, it certainly feels like a different product taken in different doses. How best to describe the beginning of this comic… ah, here we go.
When I was but a young Chiss, I used to enjoy coloring books featuring the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. These would include colored covers, which would be done in such a way as to inspire a child with crayons who could never reach the coloring level of the art, but otherwise would be considered rather ridiculous, going over the top trying to include as many colors on the page as possible. These coloring books would also be filled with dialogue, usually of the extremely cheesy, exposition type that would make Sci Fi blush and look at its feet. Characterization wasn’t necessary so much as role playing, just as precise art wasn’t as important as a near approximation.
For the beginning of this volume, featuring Maul undergoing training and interacting with Darth Sidious, that’s a pretty good example of what you’ll find. The pencils, the inks, the coloring- the dialogue is no better, and the lettering looks like an early 90s Image comic. It starts off with a training montage of the sort that is very iffy in this sort of medium- while many readers will enjoy it as the equivalent of a hardcore action scene, a reader such as myself will quickly become bored (or rather, unable to concentrate on it) once it becomes clear that A) there is no serious risk of danger to the anti-hero, and B) there is no interaction with other sentients to create drama. I’m much this way with novels, as well- only the top 5% have any chance of really drawing me in with this type of scene without causing serious damage to the character. Maybe a result of too many martial arts anime shows as a child?
With each subsequent issue, however, it’s as though the entire team were learning to use their powers for good. The script becomes less cheesy, (although it is amusing on a darker level when Darth Maul demonstrates his example of “don’t kill everyone”), the art becomes tighter, the colors, better blended. Even the lettering and sound effects move to at least what I would expect from a Dark Horse title released around the turn of the century.
Unfortunately, just as the novel seems to reach its peak, it seems that the creative team ran to the end of its contract. Ever find yourself writing freely for a writing exam (how I miss the days when creative writing was seen as a way to further my career), and realize that you have ten minutes left to wrap up everything you had to say? It’s not that there were a dozen rampant plot-lines that had to be truncated like certain novels I could mention, but there were the makings of an epic story that had to be cut short.
The final result, as it turned out, was something akin to Crimson Empire II with just a hint of Shadows of the Empire. Not the worst way it could turn out, not by far, but rather underwhelming for a comic series destined to topple what was at the time probably the most solid and powerful organization in the galaxy. Then again, even the thought of a four issue comic trying to cover that issue turns out underwhelming speculations, time and again- it’s just not enough space to cover what it needs to.It is for that reason that Star Wars: Darth Maul is destined to adequacy: one can not create perfection with a hammer and chisel any more than one can create an epic story arc in 96 pages. Perhaps James Luceno should have been given the chance to expand this story, rather than work around it…