20 Years Later: How Darth Maul survived The Phantom Menace to duel Ahsoka Tano in Clone Wars finale
To prepare for the return of Maul in Season 7 of "The Clone Wars" animated TV show, hopefully coming this Fall, I've put together a canon run down of Maul material, both comics and TV episodes, in chronological order to catch you up with our favorite Zabrak Sith Lord. While we see an older Maul during the Empire's reign in both Solo and "Rebels," I've left those out to focus on his journey up until "The Clone Wars" Season 7.
Maul is an amalgamation of many feelings, emotions, and actions--not one single word can describe him and this guide makes that abundantly clear. He is a deep and layered character with so many facets it's hard to get a handle on who he really is. Below we'll explore some of these facets as we dive into 3 comic books and 6 TV episodes that dig into what makes Maul, Maul.
The 5-part “Darth Maul” short run comic series, written by Cullen Bunn and illustrated by Luke Ross and Nolan Woodard, is a stunning portrayal of Maul’s inner workings pre-The Phantom Menace. He has a great rage boiling inside of him born of Sidious showing him a vision (pictured above) of Jedi killing Sith en masse simply because they desired freedom from the Jedi’s dogmatic views. He wants nothing more than to kill Jedi to avenge this egregious event, but Sidious has him on a leash of patience since his plans have yet to unfold. Under Sidious’s nose, Maul finds his way around this mandate by hunting down a Padawan named Eldra Kaitis who is being held hostage by the Xrexus Cartel. He finds in fighting her, that his hunger for vengeance and his ferocious anger have turned to anticipation and excitement... unfortunately, the final kill doesn’t bring him the satisfaction he so desires.
Jody Houser’s “Age of Republic: Darth Maul: Ash” takes us closer to The Phantom Menace with Maul having now created his own fake crime organization called the Kaitis Cartel (after his first Jedi kill noted above). He’s been using the name of this cover organization to develop a vast network of contacts and connections within the Coruscanti underworld. Through this network he finds new prey to hunt, including one Zek Peiro who he believes is Force-sensitive, just undiscovered by the Jedi. His thirst is definitely not yet sated and so Sidious takes him to Malachor to experience a vision and help Maul understand why patience is key in their situation. In said vision, he comes to the wisdom that the Jedi are so ubiquitous and so loved that the two Sith are going to have to fight the belief in the Jedi as well as the physical Jedi themselves. Therefore he realizes he must learn some patience and follow a plan to be able to accomplish the goal of truly snuffing out the Jedi for good. This patience is something we end up seeing a great deal of as we move forward in the timeline to his story during “The Clone Wars."
“Brothers” (the 21st episode of the 4th season of “The Clone Wars," released on March 9th, 2012) gives us the return of Maul after his apparent death at the hands of Obi-Wan Kenobi in The Phantom Menace. A crazed, depraved, and broken Maul has been living deep underground on Lotho Minor as a spider-like cyborg (see image) with an Anacondan named Morley feeding him beings that cross his path. His elongated horns seem to be an indication of how the dark side has been keeping him alive, symbolizing the evil and monstrosity within. Here we see a Maul who is lost and afraid and calls himself “filth.” Definitely not the strong, savage, warrior from The Phantom Menace. At this point in his story he feels cast aside and alone but luckily he has the grace of his brother to save him from an eternal despair.
In “Revenge” (the 22nd episode of the 4th season, released on March 16th, 2012), Maul is revived and healed by Mother Talzin, his actual mother, with her dark side magicks. It turns out that his mind, not surprisingly, is on only one thing--revenge against Obi-Wan for bringing him down to such a low place both mentally and physically. It’s not the loss of his legs that he is so violently angry about, but the loss of his place by Sidious’s side. He reveals that he knew about the plan for the Clone Wars (which again has me wondering how long Count Dooku was around) and says that he once was the right hand man of the most powerful being in the galaxy. It’s his power that he mourns. In this episode we see Asajj Ventress and Obi-Wan team up against Maul and Savage--a fight that ends in a draw.
In the standalone episode “Revival” (the 1st episode of the 5th season, released on September 29, 2012), Maul proclaims for the first time that he and Savage are crime lords. Thus begins his journey to what will become the Shadow Collective. His first attempt at building said empire fails spectacularly though as Hondo Ohnaka is not so easily swayed, Hondo’s men quickly return back to the pirate after they realize all Maul and Savage want is Kenobi and that they care nothing about the Weequays. So here we see the seeds of Maul’s eventual plan as he tells Savage that money is worthless without knowing how to move forward. With everything having gone so far off the rails from what Maul envisioned, the ending of this one leaves our Zabraks cold and stranded but not without resolve and fortitude.
“Eminence” (the 14th episode of the 5th season, released on January 19, 2013) reveals the formation of the Shadow Collective as Death Watch, the Pykes, and the Hutts all one-by-one fall in line under Maul and Savage. Here we see a Maul with an ever expanding vision--one of power and control, all the things he lost when he was cast from Sidious’s side when presumed dead. He sees a great opportunity to take back that which he cared about most--relevance.
In “Shades of Reason” (the 15th episode of the 5th season released on January 26, 2013) Maul’s vision begins to come to fruition as the Pykes and Black Sun attack Mandalore (under his command of course) and Death Watch poses as the saviors of the planet...noticeably capturing all the criminal leaders and not outright killing them. The plan works beautifully and Manadalore eagerly falls under the reign of Pre Visla of Death Watch. In the fray, Maul and Savage both get captured by Visla and imprisoned but they easily escape, bringing down Visla himself, placing Maul as the uncontested leader of Death Watch and the secret ruler of Mandalore--with former Prime Minister Almec reinstated to lead in the public eye. In this way, Maul continues his crusade for power and importance.
That is until “The Lawless” (the 16th episode of the 5th season, released on February 2, 2013) in which Sidious travels to Mandalore to put Maul in his place. The last act of this episode is heart wrenching and intense. Upon first sensing Sidious as he enters the Mandalorian palace, the word “Master” escapes Maul’s lips and he immediately becomes the subservient apprentice again, in awe of the man he previously called “the most powerful being in the galaxy.” He even suddenly changes his story and claims that he did everything with the Shadow Collective all to end up back in Sidious’s graces, but his old Master won’t have it and proclaims Maul a rival. They then duke it out (see image above), with Sidious wielding two sabers, killing Savage, and bringing Maul to his knees, finally attacking him with Force lightning, Maul begging him to stop. Sidious makes it clear he does not intend to kill his former apprentice, but yet has plans for him in the works.
Jeremy Barlow's “Son of Dathomir” is a short-run comic series that was one of the very first bits of canon literature published after the Disney buyout--notice it was published by Dark Horse. This series covers the time after Maul’s defeat by Sidious in “The Lawless.” It was originally planned to be part of the animated series but after the cancellation of the show, was put into comic form because honestly, it was too good a story to leave by the wayside. The essential plot is that Mandalorians, referring to our favorite Zabrak as “Lord Maul,” come to rescue him from the Spire on Stygeon Prime (where he is being held captive by Sidious) and they do so successfully despite droidekas, Dooku, and Sidious all being present...but one can only surmise that it was all a trap laid for Mother Talzin herself--Sidious's plans for Maul becoming clear. We then see Maul working intimately with the Pykes and Black Sun--all calling him “Lord”--while the Hutts have dropped out of his Shadow Collective. The entire story is high action except for the moments when Maul turns into a sad, scared little boy clamoring for his mother. And you actually feel pity for him, he is truly defeated and just wants to be somewhere he belongs. Since his old Master has turned so drastically against him, he can only think to go back to the mother he barely knows. I’d say above anything, this series served to truly humanize Maul, making him more than a scary nightmare. Of course, it was quite impressive the armies he was able to lead, but ultimately, he just wanted belonging...and we see the result of that desire at the end when Sidious finally ensures his desires are the ones that prevail. Maul does escape with the help of Death Watch but Mother Talzin is no more.
This leads us right up to the Siege of Mandalore which will take place in "The Clone Wars" Season 7. The Republic will be called to aid against Maul's hoards and somewhere along the way the Sith Lord will fight Ahsoka Tano. Note that his empire shrunk in "Son of Dathomir" so there won't be as much resistance. But despite his very human emotions and flaws, the Zabrak is still a force to be reckoned with! I'm looking forward to seeing how everything plays out in the coming episodes and what parts of Maul we'll get to see this time.
1. "Darth Maul" comic miniseries by Cullen Bunn
2. "Age of Republic: Darth Maul: Ash" comic by Jody Houser
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