While Disney may be pumping the brakes on additional spin-off films in the Star Wars universe, they’re certainly going all-in on the comics side of things. In addition to the current slate of ongoing or limited Star Wars series coming out of Marvel, Age of Republic is currently underway with its second issue hitting shelves this week- Star Wars: Age of Republic: Darth Maul. Much like the first issue of Age of Republic, Darth Maul feels like a natural extension of the film franchise and will appease fans in the hunt for more Darth Maul. Unfortunately, this short-yet-enjoyable story doesn’t do much, or really anything, to expand the character or leave a lasting impression.
From a perspective of both visual presentation and dialogue choice, both writer Jody Houser and artist Luke Ross wonderfully capture the essence of Darth Maul. Ross’s close up panels show Maul’s gritty demeanor and ghastly snarl that make him feel more like a monster and less like a man, while Houser’s script presents a calm yet rage filled Sith hell-bent on destroying the Jedi. Maul’s inner thoughts are dark, hateful, and 100% Sith, yet they never veer into the realm of over-dramatic. This is the Darth Maul fans have been so enamored with since his debut in The Phantom Menace, captured in comic book form.
Colorist Java Tartaglia deserves a special shout out for making a book about one of the darkest chracters in the Star Wars universe burst with color. Probably the biggest surprise of this book is how wonderfully vibrant all the colors are, from the neon lights of the Coruscant skyline to the violent hallucinations on Malachor. Tartaglia’s work is most noticeable on Malachor, as the bleak greys of the ashen fallen Sith stand in sharp contrast to Maul’s almost-glowing red skin. This use of lively red, a color routinely associated with anger, against the dreary sight of dead Sith really helps personify how Maul’s rage is what keeps him alive, what powers him.
Despite how well the creative team captures Maul and how the vibrancy of the color palette adds extra depth to the book, this issue still fails to answer the simple question: why? Why is this story being told? Why is this important to Maul as a Sith or as a future crime lord? Unfortunately, this story just doesn’t do anything to justify its existence or provide anything new to the Star Wars mythos. It’s an enjoyable enough story that provides more Darth Maul for those seeking it, but it does nothing to create a lasting impression.
Just like how Star Wars: Age of Republic: Qui-Gon Jinn really explored the Jedi Master’s commitment to the Jed Order, Darth Maul shines a light on the rage and lust for blooding coursing through the Sith apprentice — in eerily similar fashion to the Qui-Gon story. This story follows almost the exact same formula as the first Age of Republic story — start with a random mission, report to superior, go on a quest for deeper meaning, hallucinate, and learn a lesson from said hallucination — that some readers may find this story predictable by the time they reach the tenth page. Hopefully this isn’t the standard for all the Age of Republic stories in the coming months, because following the exact same formula as a book that released just seven days ago makes the book feel more like a manufactured production than a good-faith attempt at storytelling.
Overall, Star Wars: Age of Republic: Darth Maul is an enjoyable Star Wars story that is particularly pretty to look at. It’s just too bad that it follows a formulaic narrative structure and does little to provide extra depth to Darth Maul nor add anything worthwhile to the Star Wars mythos. If you’re a die-hard Star Wars fan or a huge Mauler (that’s gotta be what his fans are called, right?) this issue is probably for you. Otherwise, it may not be worth the time.