Star Wars Tales #9
[Also available in photo cover.]
Art Cover: Jon Foster
Editor: Dave Land
Reviewed by: JF Boivin (10/29/2010)
Opening cartoon: With Dave Land joining the Force last issue while rehearsing the Maul-Vader duel, his assistant Philip Simon is preparing this issue at the Dark Horse offices. All the artists are represented as Jawas. Ha ha funny. When Philip starts making up stuff about Maul and Vader, Dave Land's spirit appears to whip him back into shape. The amazing artwork by Chris Brunner is wasted on this
The cover by Jon Foster is also amazing, with the subject of the main story in this issue combining to make this a bestseller. I could not get ahold of an art cover issue anywhere, and barely managed to find a photo cover version which is, I must admit, a bit more original than the usual photo covers.
Story: Ron Marz
Pencils: Rick Leonardi
Inks: Terry Austin
Colors: Raul Treviño (Studio F)
Letters: Steve Dutro
Darth Vader lands on Kalakar Six, a volcanic moon in the Outer Rim strong in the Dark Side, to investigate rumors of the presence of Rebels in possession of the Death Star plans. But Vader soon finds out he was lured here nder a false pretense by three Dark Side acolytes who somehow resurrected Darth Maul and want to prove that he is a better apprentice for the Emperor. They offer Vader the choice to duel Maul, determining that Vader would regret it if he missed the opportunity and that it could deminish him in the eyes of the Emperor if he refused. The battle is fierce, with Maul's double-lightsaber attacks striking home a few times. But in the end, Vader shows the acolytes that he has a lot of hate too, but hate for himself. The Emperor arrives then to retrieve his apprentice after killing the three heretics, making Vader suspicious whether his Master was aware of this ploy or not.
At first, this seemed like an Infinities, or "what if" scenario to realize a popular fantasy: who would win in a battle between the Sith Lord from the prequels and the one from the Classic Trilogy. But after reading it, the plot seems plausible enough to have happened in continuity. The way Maul was "resurrected" is left mysterious enough, and the fact that the three Dark Siders who brought him back are killed ensures there will be no more Mauls. And the whole thing is presented as one of the Emperor's many tests for his apprentice, although it is never made clear if Sidious sent Vader to Kalakar Six knowingly.
The opening has Vader inspecting an ancient temple with two stormtroopers, one of whom first mentions Baron Yorn and his Dark Side experiments that drove him mad 100 years ago. From the beginning, Vader is suspicious if the rumor about Rebels transfering the Death Star plans to a contact on this planet is true at all. But it is important enough that he investigates if even there is a remote chance of it being true. Soon after entering the temple, his men are killed by an unseen Force (they think Vader is strangling them to punish them, but it's not his doing) and Vader learns from three robed strangers that the rumor was a ruse to lure him here. The three men are Dark Side adepts, and believe that Vader is not a worthy apprentice for The Emperor, having been trained by Jedi, and they have resurrected one who they think is of the true line of Sith.
When he landed on the planet, Vader had a feeling of something familiar. Now he realizes that it's Darth Maul, the Sith who almost ran him over on Tatooine when he was 9 years old. The acolytes stop them from dueling, offering Vader the choice to confront his challenger. He accepts, perhaps having dreamed of this himself over the years. Maul keeps tempting him that he still has some light in him from being a Jedi, and that he is more machine than man. Vader thinks Maul is an imposter, not undertanding how it could be possible to bring back a Sith Lord. In the end, the battle is pretty spectacular and Maul has the physical advantage. While Vader, wounded and damaged, has his back turned, Maul jumps on him and Vader activates his lightsaber through his own chest to stab the attacking Maul behind him. As Vader now turns towards the three acolytes, they are blasted by lightning coming from the Emperor's fingers. Sidious has followed his apprentice and appears glad that Vader survived, and denies any allegations of knowing of this ploy. Sidious then orders Vader to come with him and continue the search for the Death Star plans, and he follows his Master like an obedient apprentice.
At 48 pages, this is surely the longest Star Wars tale yet in these pages. It is kind of a special event, and it deserves to be treated as such. I wasn't as completely blown away as I should have by this story. Still, it was quite entertaining, explores Vader's personality and expands on Sidious' machinations. Plus, it's the return of Darth Maul! Overall it's a cool story to come back to once in a while.
The art is what prevented me from totally loving this story. It's kind of rushed, and the characters are a bit cartoony. I don't like the appearance of Vader, or Maul. Althouh Leonardi is very good with backgrounds and layouts, and handles the long fight very well, I think Dark Horse should have chosen an artist who is better at depicting Vader since he is the central character.
Lil' Maul in: "Hate Leads to Lollipops"
Story: Dave McCaig
Art: Dave McCaig
Lil' Maul escapes from a maximum security home for wayward boys, and goes on a rampage looking for a lollipop. After interrupting a Hutt's meal at a restaurant and stealing a lightsaber from a Jedi, Maul ends up in meeting Senator Palpatine who wants to take care of Maul's education from now on.
This is a quick 4-page cartoon that shows Maul escaping from the Happy Nerf Herder, a kind of prison for rowdy boys, with lollipops on his mind. He slides from a cable across the street to the Mon Calamari fish market, steals a flying skateboard from a boy causing another explosion in the process, flies over to Rib Hutt where he is projected onto a dining Hutt's belly, steals the lightsaber from a Jedi dinner guest and uses it to slide down the outside wall to street level, falls onto a slug creature and is hit by an aircar which lands him in front of a lollipop store. While salivating in the window, Maul is tugged from his pants by Palpatine, who announces to his guard that he wants to take care of Maul himself. As a reward, he pops a lollipod into Maul's mouth.
McCaig is a pretty talented cartoonist, and the colors are attractive.
"The Rebel Four"
Story: Jay Stephens
Art: Jay Stephens
Vatleria is a planet that's been deserted, its inhabitants migrating to nearby colonies and leaving behind ruins. One of those ruins is being scouted out by the Empire to be converted into an Imperial Base. But not if the Rebel Four have something to say about it. Unfortunately for them, the intrepid Rebels fall into Darth Vader's traps, and the Sith Lord realizes that he is longing for a worthy opponent. Perhaps, a Jedi.
This four page story is clearly a homage to Marvel Comics' The Fantastic Four. Darth Vader plays the Doctor Doom role of course, and Vatleria is named after Doom's own country of Latveria. The Rebel Four are "Star Wars-ized" versions of the Fantastic Four, and the traps to which they fall victim correspond to the superheroes' powers: F4-MF ("Fantastic Four-Mr. Fantastic") is an IG droid whose limbs get pulled apart by magnets; Soo Rcharrz ("Sue Richards") is a white-skinned humanoid who gets disintegrated into nothingness; Falaem Onn ("Flame On") is a red-skinned humanoid who of course gets burned alive; and Grimgrim ("Ben Grimm") looks like a Wookiee and gets crushed by rocks.
After killing the heroes, Vader longs for the days where he was fighting Jedi and takes out his anger on an Imperial officer. The final narration says that sometime soon Vader will get his wish, hinting that this takes place before his meeting with Obi-Wan aboard the Death Star.
This is a nice little love letter from Jay Stephens, who is probably a huge fan of both franchises, and it is still plausible within the Star Wars continuity. I just wish I could learn more about the Rebel Four's past exploits, but I'll settle for the story of their final mission.
Stephens also did the artwork, in the style of Jack Kirby. Even the coloring is made to emulate the old school comics of the Silver Age with benday dot patterns. Again, these superhero-inspired characters still look like they could logically exist within the Star Wars universe.
"Resurrection" is destined to become an instant classic. The other two short stories are nice distractions. This issue is worth a read for sure.
Rating: 7.5 / 10