By Jeremy Konrad
Since the formal announcement was made regarding the fate of the Star Wars EU, there has been quite the debate raging online and off about what "counts" or is canon from this point on. While quite a bit of the focus has been on the novels, I for one was more worried about the comics side of things. I have invested quite a bit of time, effort, and money in acquiring and consuming all of the wonderful material that Dark Horse has been getting to us these last 23 years, and the announcement that they were giving way to Marvel was not all that surprising, but still very sad. Dark Horse, along with Del Rey publishing, were publishing great works long before the Prequels, and are still publishing quality work as we speak.
That trend continues this week with the first issue of Darth Maul: Sons of Dathomir, which has the honorable distinction of being the first published work deemed to be "official canon" by the Star Wars story group at Lucasfilm. Even Wookiepedia has it designated as so, after updating all other EU entries (including the actual EU entry) as "Legends", the term coined by the story group to cover everything EU-related from here on out.
[*SPOILERS FROM HERE ON OUT*]
For those of you who have not watched The Clone Wars TV show (what are you waiting for?), in season 4 Darth Maul was shown to be alive and not well on the planet Lotho Minor by his brother Savage Opress. Together, and with Mother Talzin's help, Maul was cured of his mental and physical handicaps and he and Opress formed the Shadow Collective, a group that consisted of the Hutt Cartel, Black Sun and the Pyke Syndicate. Along with Pre Vizla and Death Watch, they traveled to Mandalore. Once there, Maul overthrew Vizla, became the leader of Death Watch (and Mandalore), and slayed Obi-Wan Kenobi's former lover Duchess Satine Kryze. All of this also got the attention of Darth Sidious, his former Sith master. Sidious, Maul, and Opress have an epic lightsaber duel, where Opress falls, and the fate of Maul is left up in the air.
Until now. Written by Jeremy Barlow, the comic is based off of unused scripts from season 6 of the tv show. Right off the bat, we jump into the story and are shown right away what Sidious has done with Maul. While talking to his current apprentice Count Dooku, Maul is shown held prisoner. Looks like he has decided that Mother Talzin needs to be dealt with, and he wants to use Maul to draw her out of hiding.
We jump then to a band of Mandalorian soldiers aiming to break Maul out of the prison, while also seeing Maul being tortured by Dooku. The prison escape is carried out, and during the rescue, one of the Mandalorians is referred to as Kast….could it be Jodo Kast? Would that make the character officially canon now? (Also: funny stuff with Droids here.)
After a great scene of General Grievous and Dooku discussing how to attack Maul and his forces, we are taken to a Shadow Collective base on Zanbar, where Maul gets his shadow blade back and tells his comrades to prepare for war. And boy does it come, as Grievous and his droid army show up and all hell breaks loose. Maul and his forces are defeated, and he retreats (onto a ship with that pesky "Kast" again). Discussing the battle, Dooku hints that Maul can be used to draw Talzin out for reasons that will be revealed "all in due time".
The issue is a very entertaining and quick read. Barlow has written Star Wars comics before, and it shows. Reading this comic is pretty much just like watching an episode of the show. For fans, it will feel like a warm Clone Wars blanket wrapping itself around you and giving you a big hug. The story is paced well, and it makes me wonder how much was truly taken from the script it is based off of. Man, Barlow writes great Sith characters. His Sidious leaps off the page and his conversations with Dooku are very cinematic. Shame Dark Horse could not get another mini out before they give up the license starring these two written by Barlow. Ahh, the things that could have been…
Not to be overshadowed, the pencil work of Juan Frigeri (God Is Dead) is very welcome here. His work is very clean, detailed, and does a great job of keeping the story moving. Pain is felt, the action is intense, and there is a certain amount of epicness during the big battle scene at the end. Special shout out as well to colorist Wes Dzioba, who does a fantastic job making the pages very dynamic and vibrant.
Really, it was quite exciting knowing that this story…counts. I found myself re-reading each page more than once just to make sure I was catching every name, every little Easter Egg. In some ways it is rather romantic that the final Star Wars comic published by Dark Horse is going to go into the official canon like this, one final gift to fans that reminds us that once upon a time, they were one of the only places keeping the Star Wars torch burning.
Overall, this first issue is a very promising one, and sets up the final Dark Horse mini to be an epic journey, befitting the end of an even longer one that preceded it. It should be a fun ride.
Now off the research this "Kast" character a little more in-depth…
Jeremy Konrad is a freelance writer for Bleeding Cool. Follow him on twitter @jeremyohio.