Top critical review
Reviewed in the United States on January 22, 2018
When Darth Maul was first introduced in the previews and ads for Phantom Menace, he seemed a very imposing figure. His name and appearance led one to believe he would be a villain in the vein of Darth Vader. But in the movie, he ultimately showed little depth as a character -- he was more image than substance. Unfortunately this book falls into that same pattern. The artwork by Luke Ross and the coloring by Nolan Woodard makes the work visually stunning. Just as in the film, Maul out as a visually imposing character. The work that Ross puts into his facial expressions and eyes help convey his seething anger throughout. And while the storyline isn't bad, it's just not terribly interesting and it does little to provide more depth or history to Maul's character.
The events of the book take place before Phantom Menace. Darth Maul is eager to test himself against a Jedi -- to engage in a real battle that will both allow him to demonstrate his prowess as well as to exact vengeance on behalf of the Sith who came before him and were eliminated by the Jedi. He finds an opportunity to do just that when he learns the Xev Xrexus, leader of an underworld cartel, has captured a Jedi padawan and plans to auction the apprentice off to the highest bidder. Maul engages the services of a group of bounty hunters to aid him in his quest and works secretly to ensure his master, Darth Sidious, does not discover his plans as he feels his master would disapprove and forbid him from undertaking the task. As one would expect, Maul encounters some hiccups to his best laid plans that require all of his Sith training to overcome.
Overall, the book is a mixed bag. As mentioned, the artwork is impressive -- perhaps the most detailed of any of Marvel's Star Wars books. The story is somewhat interesting and well-paced, but it ultimately feels as if Marvel missed an opportunity to flesh out Maul's character with this book. Marvel's Star Wars comics are now considered part of the canon of Star Wars, so they have the ability to pursue storylines that add depth to characters or flesh out side missions that would clearly not make it to the film series. Darth Maul is one of those characters that needs additional backstory -- who is he really? Why does he feel such connection to the Sith? What drives his need for vengeance? Unfortunately this book barely scratches the surface of many of those questions. His character post Phantom Menace is fleshed out a bit more in cartoons and other works that are part of the canon, but this was an opportunity for Marvel to better establish the menacing figure prior to the events of the first movie and they came up a bit short.