Today it was announced that Marvel Comics will be releasing a five-issue miniseries entitled Star Wars: Darth Maul. The series will be written by Cullen Bunn (Uncanny X-Men) and drawn by Luke Ross (The Force Awakens adaptation).
Maul, who both entered the stage and exited the stage in 1999’s The Phantom Menace, was a visually stunning and dynamic character, but provided little else. But the draw of the red and black horned visage was simply to powerful for creators and marketers at Lucasfilm to ignore and since The Phantom Menace we have gotten a flood of Maul-related content and merchandise.
In the new canon Maul has appeared in eight episodes of The Clone Wars, three episodes so far of Star Wars Rebels, and had his own four-issue Dark Horse Comics miniseries. In Legends his character was explored even more appearing in novels, comics, and short stories such as Darth Plagueis, “Restraint”, “Nameless”—Star Wars Tales 10, Jedi Council: Acts of War, Darth Maul: Saboteur Darth Maul #1-4, Maul: Lockdown, “Marked”—Star Wars Tales 24, Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter, End Game, The Wrath of Darth Maul, Restraint, The Clone Wars: The Sith Hunters, Darth Maul—Death Sentence 1-4, and The Clone Wars: Darth Maul: Shadow Conspiracy. In addition to these works he has appeared in numerous video games as well as other adaptations for various reading levels.
If you’re an older fan like me you have seen all of this Maul content come and go, if you are of the Prequel-era generation you have seen the same, or even if you are younger you have seen the relative flood of content since his return in The Clone Wars. So for me the question is: are they going to this well too many times?
The appeal for Marvel is obvious: Maul is likely to play a big role in the end of Star Wars Rebels season three so there is some nice synergy and marketing opportunities there. Maul is also possibly the most visually dynamic and likely to appeal to the casual comic book reader of almost any secondary Star Wars character. So from a business perspective Maul makes a ton of sense, but what about from a storytelling perspective? What more depths to we have to explore in this character? It appears that this will be story about temptation and flirtation with the light side for Maul, perhaps setting up a final act of compassion or self-sacrifice in Star Wars Rebels.
USA Today‘s description of the story includes:
The comic finds Maul an untested warrior under the training of Darth Sidious, who would later become the Galactic Emperor. Told to stand down from engaging with Jedi yet, Maul hunts down the worst of the worst in the cosmic underworld to vent his frustration.
After learning a young Jedi Padawan named Eldra Kaitis has fallen into the hands of a crime lord, Maul seizes an opportunity to test his skills against a real Jedi but also maybe turn someone else to the dark side.
And includes a few quotes from writer Cullen Bunn:
Eldra is a protagonist who has a huge impact on Maul’s life going forward.” Bunn also promises interactions between Maul and Sidious that look at how Sidious relates to his apprentice: “He’s not a very warm teacher.”
Bunn says he finds the fine line between devoted to the dark side or the light fascinating in the struggle between Sith and Jedi. “So a big part of the story is Darth Maul’s descent to the dark side and almost being tempted away from it.”
Given the amount of stories we have seen with Maul hunting in the shadows before his reveal to the Jedi, Bunn will need to craft some seriously next-level storytelling to make this avoid feeling like Lucasfilm and Marvel are simply playing this one safe instead of investing in creating and exploring wholly new characters. Unless something shocking happens, expect Eldra to die in the series to avoid compromising the secret of Maul’s existence to the Jedi, so even the new character they are creating looks to be a miniseries one-off.
In conclusion, while I agree Maul is cool, this feels like far too conservative of an editorial decision and I wish they would push further outside the box.