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Darth Maul & Owen Lars

SW: Visionaries
by yo go re

There was a persistent rumor, when The Phantom Menace came out, that a print of the film had shipped to theaters in which Darth Maul, while tumbling down the reactor shaft beneath the Naboo palace, did not split into two pieces. I had a friend who absolutely insisted he'd seen it. But we'll tell you right now, that is absolutely not the case. Leaving aside the fact that the alternate scenes would have had to be made from different versions of the master print (a highly unlikely scenario), it's just a trick of memory. We think "Obi-Wan cut Maul in half and pushed him down the shaft," but that's not quite true: after Obi-Wan slices through him (off-screen), the Sith stumbles backwards and begins falling - his body still visually intact; it's not until he's done a complete flip during his fall that the lower half of his body separates, and even then the framing of the show makes it easy to miss. The scene takes 12 seconds, and for eight of those seconds, he's still whole. So if you have it in your mind that Maul is immediately split in two, and you see him still standing there, you may think you're seeing something "different."

Owen Lars fights Darth Maul to protect the life of his young nephew, Luke Skywalker. The Sith apprentice has returned from the dead to hunt down the Jedi who destroyed his life. Owen's quiet moisture farm on Tatooine becomes the scene of a deadly battle between the forces of good and evil.

We had a little fun with the idea that Darth Maul had survived his trip down the hole and become a cyborg, starting the rumor that General Grievous was secretly Darth Maul. At about the same time, Dark Horse put out Star Wars Visionaries, a graphic novel featuring 11 original stories by concept artists who worked on Revenge of the Sith. One of the stories in that volume, "Old Wounds," came to a similar conclusion - the cyborg part, not the General Grievous part.

In that story, the resurrected Maul has been hunting Obi-Wan Kenobi, looking for revenge. He trailed him through several narratively significant planets (Kamino, Geonosis, Mustafar, Polis Massa [never heard of that one? It's where Padme gave birth and died of a terminal case of cliche. --ed.]), and finally drew him out by threatening baby Luke. It's not really that implausible: lightsabers cauterize, so he wouldn't have bled to death, assuming his species even has internal organs like humans; along those same lines, there are no immediately life-sustaining organs located in the waist. The drop wouldn't be any problem, because he could use the Force to slow his fall. At that point he could just reach out with the Force, call some weak-minded janitor to his aid, and have the guy take him to a doctor where he was fitted with robot legs. Done!

The sculpt is new, because Maul has a metal collar and some techno bits on his torso. He's wearing elbow-length gloves, because apparently he was attending the opera before seeking vengeance. The lower part of his torso is a thick robotic trunk, and his legs are highly detailed. They're jointed like animal legs (same as Grievous's were), and each segment has its own distinct style that still plays into the overall aesthetic: it's not like they were designed as interchangeable tubes or anything.

Amazingly, having robotic murderlegs isn't the most visually striking thing about this figure - nor is it the red and black tattoos, because we've seen those before. No, the truly eye-catching feature are his giant horns, creating a sinister crown around his head. Apparently those things keep growing as he ages. Either that, or his constant burning rage has pushed them further and further out of his head over the years. Like a Play-Doh mold, with horns instead of colorful wheat flour.

Articulation is good, with a balljointed neck and torso, swivel/hinges at the shoulders, elbows, hips, knees and ankles, and swivel wrists. The way the feet are angled suggests they've been put into the wrong legs - you can either boil 'n pop them, or turn the feet out to the sides slightly to account for the angle. The paint is decent, particularly on the cybernetic prosthetics, where there are several apps to bring out the detail, but the black paint on his chest is faded. That seems common, however, so maybe it was intentional? An attempt to show his tattoos fading over time?

Even years after his fall, Darth Maul is still wielding a double-bladed lightsaber. It's a new design, though, more similar to Asajj Ventress's blades than his old one. The short blades are red, but the curving hilt is black. Sadly, it can't be split in two, and furthermore, he doesn't include the cape that initially concealed his identity.

Although the target of Darth Maul's hatred was Obi-Wan Kenobi, the second figure in this set is Luke's Uncle Owen - after all, it's his dirt hole home where the action takes place. And besides, we've had lots of Kenobis over the years, while this is only the third Owen Lars. Hasbro saw an opportunity to do something new, and they took it.

The original Owen was the old "I'm going to be shot tomorrow" version, while the next was the young "hi, new stepbrother" one - this splits the difference, while leaning toward the former. He's wearing a tan cloak, brown boots and pants, a blue shirt and a white tunic. Here's a fun fact: it doesn't matter whether you wear light or dark colors in a hot environment; they'll both keep you cool at the same rate. Rate? Amount? Whatever unit you use to measure the ability to prevent the wearer from overheating, they both do it the same. Thus we can conclude it doesn't matter whether you wear black or white, as long as you look cool.

In the comic, Owen was drawn to look like a younger version of Phil Brown - the actor from the first Star Wars. This figure doesn't attempt to match the art, so instead the sculpt appears to fall somewhere between Brown and Joel Edgerton (the guy who played him in the prequels). His hair is just starting to turn gray, and the jaw is sculpted with stubble - it has a rougher texture than the rest of the skin, and is painted darker than his face.

Owen has a balljointed head, swivel/hinge shoulders and elbows, swivel wrists, waist and hips, and swivel/hinge knees. There are no ankle joints, but does an action figure of a moisture farmer really need them? It's not like he's going to be doing high-kicks or anything. In addition to the removable softgoods robe, he comes with the remnants of his rifle - Darth Maul broke the stock over his head, so it's shattered and wires are hanging out of the end.

This Comic Pack, #56 in the series, is a bit different from the others. The reprint it comes with isn't a real comic, but rather an amalgam of several different sources. The cover is Tommy Lee Edwards' painting of Darth Maul, originally used for the Star Wars Tales vol. 5 tpb. The story from Visionaries leads off the book, but we also get "Marked," an origin story that appeared in Star Wars Tales #24. None of these have ever been put together in the past, so this comic is technically an all-new release. The indicia gives a publication date of November, 2008, which either proves what kind of a delay these Comic Packs have undergone, or is a simple slip-up we can all chuckle about.

This set was available at SDCC 2010, sold in a large box designed to showcase the packaging within: all around the edges you'll find images taken from the comic within, and the back panel is a window allowing you to see the rear of the figures' card. The front panel, printed with the same Darth Maul image as the cover of the comic, opens to reveal the figures themselves. The card they're on is the same as all the other Comic Packs. Surprisingly, despite the giant fancy box and the fact that this was a show exclusive, it sold for the same price you'd pay for a Comic Pack at most retail stores. So you get two new characters, a kick-ass comic, and cool packaging for the MOC nutjobs? The fact that you can get this from HasbroToyShop.com with no hassle makes this a very welcome offering.

-- 08/14/10

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