Darth Maul, Count Dooku and General Grievous were all notable villains in the "Star Wars" prequels, and for many viewers, were the only notable characters in the films. Perhaps with this in mind, writer Jeremy Barlow focuses on these characters in "Star Wars: Darth Maul - Son of Dathomir" #2, where fans get a couple of decent fight scenes featuring matchups that the circumstances of the movies didn't allow. All characters involved are cleanly and faithfully interpreted by the art team of Juan Frigeri and Mauro Vargas, giving fans of the franchise a fun and worthwhile comic that fully captures what made these villains so notable in the first place.
The resurrected Maul has fallen out of favor with his former master Darth Sidious, as viewers of the late "The Clone Wars" series are aware, which puts him on the wrong side of Dooku and Grievous' lightsabers. Taking place before the demise of the latter two in "Revenge of the Sith," Barlow makes full use of this sliver of time in the SW expanded universe, establishing a plausible motive that puts Sidious' current and former apprentices on opposite sides, besides the default motive of Maul continuing to stew over his rejection, as many jilted exes do. The issue and series have the same feel as a "Clone Wars" episode, which might be because the storyline was reportedly originally conceived as an arc for that series.
With the battle lines drawn, Grievous' droid army takes on Maul's underworld forces, but it isn't long before Maul and Grievous themselves are facing off. In another fanboy fantasy, Dooku goes up against a squad of Dathomir warriors, the Nightbrothers, from where Maul himself originated. This encounter, in fact, is beautifully encapsulated by Chris Scalf on the issue's cover, where Scalf demonstrates he's likely the best cover artist for the franchise since Dave Dorman.
The battle sequences themselves fall a little short artistically, however. While Frigeri and Vargas convincingly make all of these villains look menacing and threatening, Frigeri's layouts don't capture the full scope. It's forgivable that these fights are short, but when the scene shifts once Maul gets the upper hand on Grievous, it's not clear that the fight is over until it's mentioned later on; until that point, readers await for a return to that duel which disappointingly never comes. Similarly, Dooku fighting solo against half a dozen Nightbrothers is a compelling notion that simply ends all too easily, and is blemished by a couple of unclear panel transitions. While the issue's storyline is strong overall, it's unfortunate that its key moments are also its weakest.
The main villains aren't the only characters to look imposing, at least; the Nightbrother warriors look every bit as intimidating as Maul himself, but Frigeri and Vargas give each one a unique touch, along with help from colorist Wes Dzioba. The design of Maul's army commander is a variation of Mandalorian armor augmented with Maul's colors and spiked ornamentations on the helmet, similar to Maul's own trademark bony growths that protrude from his skull. Everything else, from the droid armies to the separatist battle ships, is all expertly represented as well, and with no shortage of detail.
"Star Wars: Darth Maul - Son of Dathomir" #2 has a title that takes longer to say than some of its anticipated but flawed showdowns take to read, but faithful characterization in an attractive package make it the kind of story that will be pleasing enough to "Star Wars" fans.