Star Wars: Darth Maul – Black, White & Red #1 Review: Capturing the Madness of Maul

The debut issue of the miniseries captures the rage and mental torment of the Sith Lord.

Star Wars fans first met Darth Maul 25 years ago when Star Wars: The Phantom Menace was unleashed in theaters, with his seeming demise then forcing us to let go of any investment in the character almost immediately. Much like initial glimpses at Boba Fett in the original trilogy, Lucasfilm was tasked with mitigating fan excitement in a character whose strengths also came from their mysteriousness. Over the years, fans have gotten more insight into Maul (including the confirmation that he didn't die in Phantom Menace), but with Star Wars: Darth Maul – Black, White & Red #1, audiences can delve deeper into the raging temperament of the Sith Lord, making him the perfect fit for this beloved Marvel Comics imprint of mature-leaning storylines. 

Set before his Phantom Menace introduction, Maul is serving under the directive of Darth Sidious (who fans would come to learn was Emperor Palpatine) and is sent to investigate a bizarre prisoner transport. As Maul pursues the ship, he confronts the bizarre group known as the Final Occultation who has overtaken the ship, which not only puts him in immediate danger, but also makes him question everything he thought he knew about the Sith, the Jedi, and his master.

Marvel's Black, White & Blood series previously focused on characters like Wolverine, Moon Knight, and Deadpool, as the imprint leaned more heavily on the full extent of violence that these figures were capable of. Last year saw the galaxy far, far away earn its own spin on the concept by focusing on Darth Vader, and while many of those stories contained within the pages of the miniseries explored not only the physical brutality of the Sith Lord but also the more existential dread he not only suffered but also imposed, Star Wars: Darth Maul – Black, White & Red is much more focused on the tempestuous nature of Maul's own mindset.

While Phantom Menace showcased his physical prowess, Maul's tenuous grasp of reality was teased in Star Wars: The Clone Wars before his ultimate madness was explored more thoroughly in Star Wars Rebels. The character isn't nearly as layered or complex as Vader, with Black, White & Red affording writer Benjamin Percy, artist Stefano Raffaele, and colorist Raúl Angulo the opportunity to hone in and what makes Maul so compelling. 

First introduced as a ferocious lapdog to Sidious, Black, White & Red highlights Maul's unwavering devotion to Palpatine, investigating the mysterious transport. Even with Palpatine's warning that the threat contained on the ship cannot be contained to a corporeal form, Maul wants to demonstrate his devotion to his master, regardless of the vulnerabilities this mission will expose. The ethereal nature of the threat makes both Maul and readers question the reality of any situation, making it even more troubling to witness that Maul is less concerned with the realities of the situation than we are. Whether it's his own ship being sucked out of the prisoner transport, his body shattering into a million pieces, or the anguish of ghoulish figures, all Maul cares about is proving himself to his master.

It makes sense that Vader would have previously been the focal points of a Black, White & Red storyline, given his prominence as the major threat of the franchise, but based on this first issue alone, it's possible Maul is an even better candidate; while he starts the series thinking that the world exists in a binary of Jedi and Sith, this debut issue reminds him the galaxy contains a black, a white, and a red, with the red representing an unknowing chaos. Not only is Maul himself a striking visual figure in the history of Star Wars, due to his red and black markings, but post-Phantom Menace storylines highlighted how he would to go any lengths necessary to demonstrate his power, whether that meant aligning more closely with the Sith, the Jedi, or other forces. 

The visual palette of the book and the first's issues confrontations with deep space and monstrous figures lends itself well to the limited color scheme, as it highlights not only the internal rage of the Sith Lord but also the intimidating threats he faces. Juxtaposing the flashes of red are the stark contrasts of deep space and cold, steel interiors, which barely contain both the Final Occultation and Maul's tortured psyche. While some of the other characters explored in the Black, White & Blood storylines face internal conflict about their violent nature due to the injustices they suffered at the hands of others, Maul opted into the torment for the power granted to the Sith, stripping away any potential sympathies he could have earned from the reader and taking us on a more cerebral journey. 

With each issue of Star Wars: Darth Maul – Black, White & Red offering up standalone storylines from different creators, it feels a bit too early to claim the whole concept a victory, though this debut installment sets the stage for the impending chaos. While some of the more compelling figures in the galaxy far, far away evoke empathy for the tragedies they've endured, this first chapter in the miniseries reminds us that Maul is tortured by conflicts of his own making, as this story strikes the tricky balance of expanding on the complexities of the villain while also avoiding explicitly giving us their whole story. 

Published by Marvel Comics

On April 24, 2024

Written by Benjamin Percy

Art by Stefano Raffaele

Colors by Raúl Angulo

Letters by Joe Caramagna

Cover by Alex Maleev