REVIEW: Star Wars: Darth Maul #3 – “Who’s Scared?”

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STAR WARS: DARTH MAUL #3
Writers: Cullen Bunn
Penciller: Luke Ross
Colorist: Nolan Woodard

Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Price: $3.99

Release Date: 4/26/17

Xev Xrexus is hosting an auction for the sale of a young Jedi Padawan. Unbeknownst to Xrexus, Darth Maul has infiltrated the auction with the intent of kidnapping the Padawan and then killing her as vengeance against the Jedi. The only flaw in his plan? His master Darth Sidious has forbidden all interactions with the Jedi…

Plot: Darth Maul comes close to achieving his vengeance and murdering the Padawan Eldra Kaitis in her cell before the auction, but he’s interrupted by none other than Xev Xrexus herself. He makes it through that meeting unscathed, but now he and his merry band of bounty hunters must come up with a backup plan that lets them keep both the Padawan and their own lives. Little do they know, Xev was been waiting for them to move a move in order to make one of her own.

Story: Cullen Bunn once again deftly explores the contradictions within Darth Maul as a young Sith-in-training during issue #3. His impatience to act battles with his drive to plan the act perfectly, just as his overconfidence quickly gives way to insecurity from time to time. A large part of this Star Wars issue is all about building the tension, and it works for both Darth Maul and the Padawan Edra. The interesting part is that much of the empathy I felt for the young Jedi came from Maul himself imagining her fear and pain.

The other major source of tension is the duel plans occurring, first with Darth Maul’s bounty hunters and then with Xev Xrevus’ hired guns. Each one thinks they’ve got a leg up on the other, but in the end there are even more splinters within the groups and plots hatching with consequences that must inevitably carry over to the next issue. Without knowing who Maul really is, Aurra Sing and her partner know they cannot remain on his side for long – and once Edra does find out who Darth Maul is, who knows what that means for Jedi and Sith everywhere? So long as she makes it out alive, of course.

Because Star Wars lore is so vast and fans of the universe are so meticulous, many of these characters’ fates are already known. Which is why it’s even more important that the plotting be tight and characterization be interesting enough to keep readers invested. It’s safe to say Darth Maul has succeeded on both counts so far.

Art: The artwork in Star Wars: Darth Maul continues to be one of the strongest points in its favor. Luke Ross draws with an incredible specificity, bringing characters to life in such a way that even the most alien among them feels human. Nolan Woodard also makes great use of the reds and blues throughout the story, underscoring the struggle between the Dark Side and the Light without having to turn the subtext into text.

This issue’s paneling actively helps create interesting visuals throughout, especially in fight sequences. No page is formatted exactly as the one before, yet they all manage to flow from one scene to the next with no hiccups. Alternating between emotional close-ups and fuller action panels also showcases the art team’s talent while making sure the reader doesn’t get lost in any long, unbroken fights.

Verdict: Star Wars: Darth Maul #3 builds on the previous month’s story and manages to deepen everyone’s characterization while setting up more than one conflict that’s ready to explode by the end of the issue.

Star Rating: 4.5 out of 5

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