Written by Joel T. Lewis
Unfortunately, the most accurate description I can give of Cullen Bunn’s third issue of Darth Maul is that it was a disappointing filler issue. The tension from the final panels of issue 2 where Maul and the kidnapped Jedi Padawan meet face to face is promptly deflated by an issue that does little more than set up the main set-piece for the next issue. Maul is discovered snooping around the captive Padawan’s detention cell but is immediately let off the hook by the criminal auction host, Xev Xrexus. Discovering that they will be unable to compete with the high-end bidders at the Padawan auction, Maul and his bounty hunter band plan to ambush the highest bidder, Jee Kra following the auction. This is anticipated by Xrexus who in turn rigs Jee’s ship to explode. As she watches Maul and company drop out of the sky, Xrexus reveals that it was always her plan to stage a free-for-all hunt for the Padawan on the surface of the nearby moon.
The little bit of character work that is done in this issue with regards to the title character is a bit grating. Though he casts a shadow of mystery over the whole of the film, Darth Maul only has 2 lines in The Phantom Menace, one of which is pure exposition. The second line, 'At last we will reveal ourselves to the Jedi. At last we will have revenge.' seems to be the guiding inspiration for most author’s interpretation of the character, at least since the Expanded Universe was wiped out. Now with Darth Maul that’s not a bad starting point, but when those two motivations, revenge and revelation, inform every interaction and thought the character has there’s no room for the character to grow.
By boxing him in this way, Maul serves little purpose and has little desire to do anything but avenge a borrowed trauma (which we only just learned about in the previous, newly-canon issue) and come out from the shadows of exile. The effect this has, at least in the context of Bunn’s 3rd issue, is that Maul thinks and acts like a petulant child who’s baffled by the galaxy’s general indifference to the Sith and, by extension, himself. At one point the Moogan Jee Kra gives voice to the general confusion that Maul’s presumptuous dialogue inspires, 'Who are you? Am I supposed to know…' Perhaps it’s asking too much to have a character named Maul employ some subtlety and express some larger awareness of his place in the universe, but Maul can as blunt as his name implies without throwing tantrums.
The point is that with the Star Wars Canon shakeup a lot of solid characterization of Darth Maul was binned, and Bunn began his series by restoring a lot of the same elements that made the Sith Lord stand out in the old Expanded Universe. But as we roll into issue 3 of the series, the elements of the previous 2 issues that compelled us to keep reading have fallen away. After a refresher first issue, a retread/Star Wars greatest hits second issue, both with incredible art, issue three falls completely flat with the side cast of colorful bounty hunters adding very little to the story other than comic relief. Issue 3 even suffers visually, with none of the sweeping splash pages of massive brawls or colorful aliens that made the first two issues so much fun to read. Also, there is a particularly silly action sequence where Darth Maul uses the force to make his cloak strangle Jee Kra. The result is a bizarre set of panels that reminds me more of Aladdin’s comedic flying carpet than a sinister method of strangulation.
Though I have in classic Star Wars fan form thoroughly criticized this issue of Darth Maul, am I excited by the prospect of a 'Most Dangerous Game' style issue where a Padawan and Darth Maul must work together to avoid being murdered by a legion of space criminals? Absolutely I am. There are only two issues left in Cullen Bunn’s Darth Maul miniseries, let’s hope they make up for this one. Until next time, Geek On!