The last new "Star Wars" series to launch at Dark Horse, "Star Wars: Darth Maul -- Son of Dathomir" #1, written by Jeremy Barlow with art from Juan Frigeri, is sure to please fans of the prequels. This series picks up pieces from the "Clone Wars" animated series, set between "Attack of the Clones" and "Revenge of the Sith."
In moving the pieces across the board, Barlow showcases Maul, but really focuses on all of the underhanded dealings, backstabbings and general chaos on the Dark Side of the galaxy, giving Star Wars fans one more chance to see Darth Sidious, Count Dooku, General Grievous and the Mandalorian Death Watch in action alongside and against Darth Maul. Granted, this is the first issue of this story, but Barlow lets readers down a little bit by putting both Grievous and Maul on the same battlefield and letting both characters exit. I didn't come in to "Star Wars: Darth Maul -- Son of Dathomir" #1 expecting a bloodletting, and I didn't get one. There are the requisite battle droid and Mandalorian casualties, but all of the major players manage to survive this first issue, as should be expected, given the presence of most of them in the final prequel, "Revenge of the Sith."
This story is recognizably a Star Wars adventure, from the first page, which opens with an establishing shot of Stygeon, a secret prison maintained by Darth Sidious. While the interiors of that prison are reminiscent of the first Death Star, Juan Frigeri makes some odd choices with his designs, like adding apparent runes to the exterior of the battle droids. Some of the artist's framing choices obscure the action or movement in the panels, but when he handles the characters solo and close-up, there is no mistaking his passion for these characters and this galaxy. Some of his characters hold really rigid poses in action, but Frigeri makes up for the rigidity by slathering on detail. The sneer on Maul's face and fire behind his eyes in unmistakable as Maul locks Dooku in to his memory.
"Star Wars: Darth Maul -- Son of Dathomir" #1 serves as a nice primer for things to come as well as a solid encapsulation of who the forces of evil are during the Clone Wars. Barlow and Frigeri have found a story with some room for development featuring characters that readers love to hate. With Maul trying to find his way and Sidious manipulating everyone around him, this series is set to give readers plenty of action, intrigue and Sith. This is a nice welcome mat to the time between prequels, giving readers a chance to focus on the politics and power struggles of the bad guys.