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A graphic novel by Ron Marz, and Jan Duursema (2001, Dark Horse Comics)
33 years before Star Wars: A New Hope

Darth Maul is sent out to cripple the Black Sun organization, which threatens Darth Sidious' plans for the future.



4 stars

Read on November 2nd, 2003 for the second time  
    What more can I add to what I originally wrote below? The artwork was great -better yet, the style of the artwork was great. I love the way most of the pages delivered a large centerpiece, surrounded or overlapped by typical comic boxes. The colors were mainly red and black, playing on Maul's skin tones.

I realize that Sidious knew the Sith would be revealing themselves soon, but I have the same question I made in Shadow Hunter: if Maul was to remain secret, then why does he go around killing people with a lightsaber? Other than the fact that it's really cool, and amazing to see him in action again, it should alert the Jedi that somebody with amazing skill is using a lightsaber to do some nasty stuff.

The story ties in with Shadow Hunter a lot more than I realized when I first read the comic. The Nemoidian Hath Monchar, who tries to sell the existence of the Sith to Black Sun, becomes Maul's next target in the succeeding novel. Oolth, the secretary to Black Sun, actually does manage to escape, and he seeks refuge and sanctuary with the Jedi, but alas, he dies at the beginning of the novel!

I am surprised that there weren't more escapees. Maul obviously couldn't tell if every single person who saw him was dead. How could he, especially since Oolth escaped? I was sure that some of the bodyguards would have run from the fight with this incredible foe. They were in it for the money, and once they saw some of their companions killed, I'm sure some of them would have left the scene.

On a funny note, doesn't Darth Sidious sound like a used car salesman when he is listing the features of the Sith Infiltrator to Darth Maul? A friend pointed that out, and it's true! I guess it was supposed to appeal to big fans of Michael Stackpole's novels in this universe.

I guess I liked this book more the second time around. The action was cool, and though the story was simple, it was perfect for displaying in a visual medium. I could definitely take more stories like this one.



3 stars

Read on February 16th, 2002  
    This was a fun adventure, and Darth Maul certainly makes an imposing and impressive figure.  The tale shows what a formidable opponent Maul actually is.

I was a little sceptical after the first few pages, because the comic opens with no dialog whatsoever.  This happens a lot within the book, but for the most part, the authors are successful in telling the tale like that.  It is actually impressive the way the art can tell the story on its own in some places.  The battles are one part where dialog is not needed, though I expect that everybody involved, except Maul himself, would say something, make some taunts towards their opponents.  This only happens between combatants approaching equal skill, like at the end.

The art complements the rest of the story well.  There are several places where Maul simply stands still, looking pretty eerie, but fabulously impressive.  He is one of few who can take up an entire page and not make it look like wasted space.  With his mouth open in that ugly, challenging grin, his aggressive stance, and double-bladed lightsaber lit, the authors keep reminding us who he is.

I enjoyed the variety of aliens, the Sith infiltrator (which gets a nice grand introduction), his speeder bike, and especially the hologram of Darth Sidious, which was drawn terrifically.  There were some moments, however, where the art suffered a little, or failed to do its job.  Some places Darth Maul's features looked like they were rubbed out -not intentionally.  I also couldn't tell if Lex's slicer (Oolth) was dead or simply hiding and escapes at the end.  It is implied that he is killed, and only upon closer examination could I even see a hint that he was dead.  It seems to me that he actually did escape, except that with Maul's Force abilities, there is no way he would miss a target.

Unlike the whiny Maul we saw in Acts of War, here he is eager to get to work without seeming like a pet who wants to prove what he can do.  He certainly takes pride in what he can do, and wants to reveal the Sith to the Jedi, so that he can begin hunting them down.  He has practiced against probes and robots warriors, and presumably against live foes, and Sidious must feel that he is ready to face the world.  As long as nobody escapes his clutches, and nobody comes around to investigate too closely, the plans that Sidious has set in motion will come to fruition without hindrance.

And that is the mission Sidious has sent Maul on.  He believes that Black Sun, the vast criminal organization that was brought into the spotlight in Shadows of the Empire, would be an impediment to his New Order once he makes his move.  But he doesn't want to destroy the organization altogether.  I am not sure that would be possible, so I am glad the authors didn't try.  

The story after that is quite simple.  Maul finds out where a Vigo (lieutenant) of Black Sun is staying, and volunteers to join the organization.  When the fools who found him lead him to the Vigo, he announces his intentions and kills them all, leaving only one to spread the word. I rather enjoyed his confrontation with the female Twi'lek bodyguard.  Even though she never had a chance, she put up a good fight.  

The death of the Vigo prompts the head of Black Sun, Lex, to call all of his other Vigos back to his fortress on Ralltiir.  Calling his lieutenants fools seems like a wrong move; they have to fear him, but also respect him.  I don't know what he proved by calling them all there, as he behaved exactly as he knew Maul wanted him to.  Maul let the single man live to pass on the misleading message that the Vigos were waging a war against each other.  It led to a couple of short squabbles, but no outright confrontations between them.  I suppose Lex thought his entire army would defeat the assassin.  

But Maul successfully defeats the entire legion single-handed, using his lightsaber and the Force.  He slices at people (he seems to enjoy severing heads the most), pushes them off ledges with the Force, and chokes people who seem to think they have the upper hand.  Just imagine if the entire legion had decided to fire their weapons all at once at him.  I guess that's too much to ask of an army of the most lethal crime syndicate in the galaxy...

Lex's plan backfires, as Maul makes his way through the bodyguards, who also seem to prefer swords to blasters, for some reason.  Even the ones who do have blasters don't shoot until Maul has finished with the guy he is fighting at the moment.  At least one leaps onto his back and shreds his cloak.  There seemed to be no damage to his back, though, afterwards.  I guess his cloak took all the damage.  Wouldn't it have been too bad if a tendon or muscle was sliced through by those powerful claws!  I liked the way Maul defeated the telepath, though: thoughts so dark that they drove the guy to death!

When Maul breaks into the Vigos' hiding place, Lex leaves them behind to be slaughtered.  When I first saw his bodyguard, I thought she looked formidable, and did a double-take.  The artists did a great job of making her look like she could certainly take on Maul.  When she sensed Maul through the Force, I knew she had to be a nightsister from Dathomir. The Courtship of Princess Leia indicates that Dathomir had nightsisters a long time before Luke and Han came there.  Later, Lex confirms her origins (in case we couldn't figure it out, but I did appreciate the confirmation).  She is the only one who even remotely poses a challenge to Darth Maul.  They fight well, and she even has a sword made of some material that is mostly impervious to a lightsaber blade.  Maybe it's an early version of a Yuuzhan Vong amphistaff.  At first, I thought it might be made of curtosis (last seen in Acts of War), but Maul's blade stayed lit, so it couldn't.  Imagine his surprise if it had been!

The nightsister, Mighella, is overconfident, though, thinking this man untrained in the Force.  But that means she didn't trust her senses, because she knows he is a Force user.  She uses Force-lightning against him, but he repels it!  Then, when she recognizes what he must be, he slices her in half.  Lex nearly escapes, but even the battle with Mighella didn't buy him enough time to get to his ship.  That means Maul doesn't have any trouble getting to the man, and he doesn't have to go chasing around the galaxy.  He gets to finish his mission nice and pat.  

And yet he doesn't sense Lex's intentions with the knife.  It seems to me that Maul did fail, because he allowed himself to be injured.  But since he completed the assignment successfully, I guess Sidious can make sure the injury becomes a lesson.  I wish he had stressed it more, though.  Maul should not be caught off guard.  If the man had been any luckier, he could have incapacitated the Sith Lord.  Severed tendons are not merely painful -he wouldn't be able to move his hand, even if he could control the pain.  And from my viewpoint, it looked like Maul was sliced through the stomach muscles!  I guess I was wrong!  

And so begins Darth Maul's brief series of missions for Darth Sidious.  He thought it was only the beginning...  It was, but for him, the end was not too far off...  

There were a few appearances that I appreciated here.  One was the disturbance Qui-Gon felt when the Sith Infiltrator left Coruscant.  It is a nice prelude to the "bad feeling" that Obi-Wan would feel on board the Trade Federation ship in The Phantom Menace.  Qui-Gon thinks the disturbance in the Force will reveal itself in time.  How right he was...  

The other appearance I liked was the Trade Federation person who was trying to tell the dug (another nasty one, like Sebulba) about the existence of the Sith -just before the dug is killed by Maul!  Both the Trade Federation goon and the dug were pretty slimy, about appropriate with what we know about them from the movie.  

The story was pretty simply set up for Maul, so that he could accomplish it fairly easily.  I guess it made more sense, and better action and drama, than showing him killing each Vigo in turn.  Getting all the bodyguards together was much more impressive.  The art was really impressive where Darth Maul and the nightsister were concerned, and was pretty good otherwise.  I liked the shadows on the cloaks people wore, especially Maul's.  Now that this mission is over, and Maul has a taste for real killing of real foes, I wonder what his next mission will bring him...  Only the next story will tell.


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