Star Wars: Darth Maul – Death Sentence
Script by Tom Taylor
Art by Bruno Redondo
Colors by Michael Atiyeh
Covers by Dave Dorman
Dark Horse Comics
Release Date: May 15, 2013
Cover Price: $15.99
Darth Maul is alive. This should be of no shock to anyone, really. To begin with, the expanded Star Wars universe has a habit of resurrecting characters that were killed on-screen. Boba Fett was one notable example. Darth Maul was inevitable. I’m still anticipating the moment when Mace Windu comes back. And he will. I’m pretty sure that will happen.
In a lot of ways, it should have almost been expected that Maul would return. Despite vocal fan criticism of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, Darth Maul was received quite well by the majority of fans as a formidable and precise villain. Brought to life with the acrobatic antics of Ray Park, Maul was a Sith Lord not only with the skills, but with the look of a nightmare.
Almost a decade ago, in the Star Wars Visionaries graphic novel, initially depicted as a non-canon “What If” glance into some areas of the universe, there was a story in which a returning Darth Maul with cybernetic legs tracks Obi-Wan Kenobi to Tatooine. It was an incredible story, but many shot it down as “non-canon,” it doesn’t fit into the timeline. I disagreed. The depiction of a returning Maul seeking revenge upon Kenobi was so powerful, that I knew it would inevitably be squeezed into the canon timeline eventually.
Enter The Clone Wars. The most recent season of the 3D animated Star Wars series not only introduced Savage Oppress, the estranged brother of Darth Maul, but also brought Maul himself back from the dead. With the cybernetic legs he was seen with in the Visionaries book.
Which leads me to Star Wars: Darth Maul — Death Sentence… the collected trade paperback follows Maul and Oppress on their own mission following the events of The Clone Wars series. The two have joined forces in an aim to create their own new Sith – presumably Maul has his focus on the acquirement of power and the execution of his vengeance.
Their first task is in search of the wealth they need to create their own army. Maul has the long plan in mind, and as they make their progress through the Outer Rim territories, a prosperous though seedy entrepreneur named Ja’Boag places a bounty on the heads of the two brothers. Word of this bounty gets back to the Jedi Council, and they send Jedi Master Salmara, her Padawan Dray, and the blue-reptilian Master Judd to Ja’Boag’s planet of Moorjhone to find how the businessman came to learn of Maul’s return and what his intentions are.
Unknown to the Jedi, Maul and Oppress arrive on the same planet. Knowing their primary mission may require stealth and secrecy, they cannot afford a thorn like Ja’Boag to distract from their plans. Making their way effortlessly into his mining operation and past his armed force, the two Sith Lords intend to kill Ja’Boag – but are stopped by the Jedi who arrive just in time.
What results from the encounter is an epic battle between the five warriors that, at first, seems like the inevitable climax of the story. Instead, the duel ends in somewhat of a stalemate, in which Oppress is incapacitated, Maul escapes, and the Jedi are injured. As each party heals in their own ways, they begin to learn there is more to behind the scenes of Ja’Boag’s mining operations – particularly with regard to how he has treated the native population of the planet. The Jedi and the Sith find themselves on another collision course amidst a sinister and greedy plan hatched by the gangster businessman.
The writing of Death Sentence is exceptional. Many of the elements introduced in the process of the storytelling all fall into place as the plot progresses, with many unexpected elements that aid the excitement factor immensely. One example is the abovementioned duel between the Jedi and Sith. The action is so thorough and fast and brilliant that it feels like a climactic battle – only to find that it is merely the beginning of a longer, and more interesting, tale.
The artwork accompanying the plot is of a very good standard, with Bruno Redondo putting in an astral effort. Redondo is let down, however, by the colors of Michael Atiyeh, who usually does a very good job. Atiyeh mixes colors for specific scenes in which certain species are rendered completely differently from how their shown in previous stories. There’s no reason why there can’t be an orange Falleen I suppose, but it certainly made my Obsessive Continuity Disorder twitch!
There’s also a couple of scenes in which either the lettering or the coloring is switched between the Sith brothers, causing some further bewilderment to newcomers to the storyline I would imagine.
Despite my fuss of the artwork, the cover art provided by the legendary Dave Dorman is nothing short of stellar. Yet again, Mr. Dorman proves himself to be more than just a fan favorite, with some incredible pieces dripping with realism. His artwork is truly a pleasure to view and each piece reflects specific elements in the general plot of the story. Kudos to you, Dave; you’re a legend!!!
One thing that really stands out to me with this Dark Horse interpretation of the Darth Maul resurrection is that it opens SO many opportunities for more stories. Could you imagine a new Infinities series in which Anakin does not turn to the Dark Side, and Maul reunites with Sidious? Or perhaps stories that follow Maul’s journey through the events of Revenge of the Sith? This has so much potential, and I’d love to see more.
Darth Maul — Death Sentence is a worthy read – and I think a few casual comic fans might see some value in this one, although mainly Star Wars fans will love this one a lot. The story is solid throughout, and sets up a lot of things that create a great deal of potential for this resurrected character. Check it out – you’ll probably dig it.
Overall Rating: 4 out of 5