The Clone Wars did a solid job bringing Darth Maul back into the Star Wars universe. But then they left us hanging and the show came to an end. Well, unless you have Netflix. If so, you can watch an all-new season, but still, it's a season without a Darth Maul follow-up. Thankfully, the story's conclusion isn't being left completely to our imagination. Jeremy Barlow is finishing the tale of Maul's reemergence and he uses this first chapter to build a whole lot of hype.
The writer establishes just the bare basics of the plot and show's us who's who before properly grabbing our attention with a ton of exciting action. Seriously, we have a massive battle between Mandalorians and droids right in the first issue. Witnessing these two sides clash is a badass experience and this is where the art team really thrives. Juan Frigeri's pencils, Mauro Vargas' inks, and Wes Dzioba's colors all do a satisfying job immersing us in this battlefield. The focus of each panel helps deliver the intensity and keeps the fight scene flowing very well. From vibrant shots from blasters to chaotic explosions to seeing firsthand just how swift Darth Maul truly is, the three artists make sure this is a scene that'll linger in your head even after you finish the issue.
As fun as this whole conflict is, having Maul square off against Grievous' MagnaGuards is by far the standout moment. It was appropriately cool and even a great feat for the Sith Lord. It's a clear indicator that Barlow isn't going to sell Maul short in this and, even if the villain does happen to meet a bitter end in this series, it seems very likely he'll have some awesome scenes before exiting (again).
Last but not least, Chris Scalf's cover is absolutely terrific. It's a superb image of Maul and does a proper job showing just how formidable and frightening the character really is.
It's not a big complaint since we are dealing with very arrogant and diabolical characters, but some of the remarks -- most notably between Maul/Grievous -- felt a little too over the top, even for them. Additionally, Darth Maul vs. General Grievous is something I and many other fans have speculated about for years now. Yes, Maul wasn't in top condition when these two finally faced-off (I assume he needs a bit more time to recover after being held by Sidious), but having them fight for more than a mere two panels would have delivered some major fan service. Seeing the two engage was a dream come true, and then it met a very abrupt end. It's especially disappointing because plenty of other characters received way more panel space during their fights. Oh well, here's hoping there's an extended rematch between the two.
Minor art gripe: Dooku doesn't really look like Dooku. Sure, they get a lot right, but the eyes don't have the same presence as Christopher Lee's do and that makes a big difference.
Barlow's debut issue isn't very plot heavy, but it does just enough to introduce us to the appealing cast it'll involve and hints at the road it'll take. Then there's the action, the oh-so-glorious action. That's really what sells this issue. Sure, I'm plenty excited to see where Maul's story in this era will take him and what kind of roles the other individuals will play, but right now, the creative team has made quite an impact with an incredibly fun battle and ends the issue with a remark that feels like it's speaking directly to the reader. The follow-up to Darth Maul's animated return is off to an entertaining start and definitely has a lot of potential.