[Contains SPOILERS for Darth Maul #2.]
Darth Maul debuted to incredible hype in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace but had his life cut drastically short after a seemingly fatal encounter with Obi-Wan Kenobi. Since then, the Sith Lord has returned to infamy, featured on the Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Rebels animated series, as well as in several spinoff comics of his own and growing into a far more nuanced character than his one-note debut initially suggested. Maul’s run may have recently ended, during a climactic duel with his longtime nemesis Obi-Wan Kenobi, but there’s a lot of life left in the fan-favorite.
After taking an impressive lightsaber swing at everyone’s favorite intergalactic threat Darth Vader in an ongoing comic, Marvel’s Star Wars Story Group has handed the complex Sith Lord to fan favorite scribe Cullen Bunn (Monsters Unleashed), giving Darth Maul the proper treatment in a new miniseries. His take on Maul steps further back in time, before the events of Phantom Menace, during a time before the Sith revealed themselves to the galaxy in a major way at the dawn of the Galactic Empire.
Star Wars: Darth Maul #2 continues the rogue Sith’s search for a displaced Jedi Padawan, for unknown purposes. It also takes Maul to a popular place from Star Wars Legends only recently canonized place, setting him up some mercenaries from The Clone Wars.
Welcome to Nar Shaddaa
Known as “the smuggler’s moon,” Nar Shaddaa has a long history in Legends. Originally imagined as a satellite of the planet Nal Hutta – the ancestral homelands of Jabba the Hutt and others of his species – Nar Shaddaa debuted in Tom Veitch's Dark Empire saga. An Outer Rim haven for smugglers, scoundrels, bounty hunters, and those looking to escape any Imperial entanglements it made it's official debut in the Star Wars comic book. Since being canonized, the seedy moon has enjoyed minor associations in supplemental materials such as the novel Aftermath: Life Debt and Marvel’s eponymous comic series.
As Maul ventures to the seedy, citywide moon, he meets with minimal cooperation and maximum resistance in his search for the purloined Padawan. Getting into a street brawl with a gaggle of toughs, Maul handily holds his own until a Quarren thug (the squid guys) squirts him in the face with ink. Now blind, he still manages to take out one adversary with a subtle Force-based knife-toss, but his hands are figuratively bound otherwise. If he whips out his lightsaber or makes his Force abilities too apparent, he risks being discovered, both by the Jedi (who are on the hunt for their missing apprentice) and by his own master.
Darth Maul #1 already established the short tether set by Darth Sidious. Any early suspicions of Sith activity could unravel Palpatine’s labyrinthine plan, which he’s spent decades establishing and only fully sets in motion over a years after the events currently unfolding in Maul’s solo comic. Upsetting these plans would constitute a fate likely worse than death, as well as potentially ruining the overarching scheme of revenge and conquest set by the master manipulator.
Without the Force, Maul is still a formidable ally. With limited vision and an unruly band with blasters, though, his odds are looking a little dicey. Fortunately, Maul already has a plan for just such a contingency.
A Little Help from His “Friends”
Under the gun, or several guns actually, Maul decides not to risk exposing his Jedi powers, and instead prepares to fight the formidable array of unsavory characters old-fashioned time. Before he throws down, though, his backup plan arrives, if fashionably late. The group of ruffians is mowed down by a different group of scoundrels, this one consisting of Clone Wars alums Aurra Sing – first “seen” in The Phantom Menace herself – and Cad Bane, as well as a couple other new characters. Not only do they swoop in and rescue Maul, but they also have a lead on the Jedi Padawan.
Maul had already discovered that Jedi protégé is being held by crime lord Xev Xrexus, but they've discovered a way to get into the auction, which is by invitation only and being held in a distant sector far from the Galactic Republic’s space. Bane and his gaggle of ruffians made the acquaintance of another gang that just so happened to have an invite. The mercenaries decimated their ranks, aside from a protocol droid. With a little "persuasion," Bane and crew manage to ascertain the location and invitation pass codes from the unfortunate droid.
The unlikely crew proceeds to the remote outpost, where many of mightiest of criminal underworld (and their sizable bank rolls) have gathered for the auction. However, before they arrive, Maul disappears into the ship.
What Kind of Fate...
Arriving at the station, the crew fully assembles aboard Ms. Xrexus' space station. The stately gang leader welcomes everyone to the auction, while Bane and Sing express their concerns about their “employer” and whether Maul is setting them up for a fall. They decide to keep on their guard, but during the fanfare, Maul manages to once again slip away. He creeps into the detention area, conferring with his seeker droids, before coming face to face with his target, a young, Twi’lek Padawan. Exactly how Maul plans to extract his revenge, though, is uncertain.
Prior to disembarking, the Dark Jedi took some time to meditate, digging deep into his pent-up rage, and bringing readers back to his first visit to the planet Malachor – a Dark Side world where Maul and Ezra Bridger discovered a Sith Temple and holocron during the season 2 finale of Rebels. The flashback explores Sidious' efforts to guide a young Maul through the eerie "statues" of petrified Jedi. The Dark Jedi-in-training is assaulted by Force echoes of Jedi Knights, as his master encourages him to channel his rage and hatred for the Light Side users.
The memory from Darth Maul #2 actually plays out remarkably parallel to the later episode of Rebels. When Maul discovered Ezra in the temple, he also tried to encourage his own darker nature, much like his own master tried to channel his rage. The former Darth Maul clearly sought the young Jedi as his own apprentice, even claiming him as such, before Maul is Force-pushed into a chasm. Much like Vader in his own comic series, who shows a devious insubordination to the Emperor, Maul continues the trend of Sith Lords working both for and against their own masters – although whether Maul's covert plan is subversive to Sidious or merely murderous has yet to be fully established.
Star Wars: Darth Maul #2 is currently available.