Star Wars: Darth Maul #1 Review

Written by: Cullen Bunn

Art by: Luke Ross

Published by: Marvel

Darth Maul is a character who’s largely succeeded based on design alone, and for me is rather synonymous with the problematic nature of the Star Wars prequels focusing more on things “looking cool” rather than having actual substance. I understand the character apparently is rather fleshed out in the previous EU however, and has even appeared in The Clone Wars and Rebels, this plus my enjoyment of Obi-Wan & Anakin exploring the prequel era made me optimistic going into this series. Unfortunately, this debut feels in line with the usual Darth Maul image: lots of cool action and visuals without much deeper material or characterization.

The story makes the prequel era setting feel much more full of life and energy than the movies ever did. The book’s opening features a very cool and alien aesthetic that feels right at home in Star Wars while also feeling creative and unique. There are even some cool links to The Force Awakens, helping the universe feel more cohesive. Luke Ross does a great job throughout the book – I felt genuine nostalgia for the atmosphere of the prequels he evoked with his art (yes I’m young, and can also feel nostalgia for a movie I’ve labelled as terrible).

Ross also nails the actions scenes, which I imagine are exactly what you’re paying for if you’re reading a Darth Maul comic, so in this regard the book is pretty solid. Aside from Palpatine looking far closer than he should to his later disfigured design, the book fires pretty strongly on the art and action front. It’s the rest of the comic that is pretty generic and barren.

I’m a fan of Cullen Bunn’s writing usually, especially when it comes to villains as he really gets in their head and make them enjoyable while still inherently villainous, a hard line to walk. Here though, Maul feels very generic without much characterization. Like in the film he says very little, but his monologues throughout and his thoughts just feel like typical bad guys rants of being angry and wanting to let loose.

There’s no real pay off or new insight gleaned into the character which was highly disappointing. The story itself is also paper thin, consisting of two action scenes strung together by monologues and without real direction. The whole plot can be summerised as “Darth Maul hates Jedi and looks cool”. It’s only at the very end that we get some insight into the overarching story, and even that doesn’t seem very interesting or something I’d like to read.

What made this go from simply disappointing to actually frustrating is the waste of space back-up at the end of the book. It’s an insubstantial story by Chris Eliopolos and Jordie Bellaire featuring a couple of droids drawn in a cute, cartoonish style, which begs the question, what the hell is it doing here!? If Darth Maul is meant to be about a darker, villainous character then how does a childish story about friendship fit at all? It’s an offensively poor reason to jack up the price of the comic to $4.99 which in my opinion it’s absolutely not worth, which makes it even harder to recommend. It’s an absolute joke to include it here and I’d much rather they either made the extra 10 pages actually related to the main story and gave this slow introduction more meat, or cut it altogether and saved me some money.

Overall, Star Wars: Darth Maul is a very disappointing debut. It lacks the substance, length or depth to make it a worthy purchase, and is far too overpriced for the material it contains. If this ends up being any good, I’d recommend waiting for the trade.