Star Wars Rebels’ third season is building towards a do-or-die standoff between Darth Maul and the opponent he’s been hunting for nearly two decades: old Ben Kenobi. It’s the first time we’ll have seen something like it told in Disney’s new canon... but it’s not the first time Star Wars has ever pondered such this fight.
First published back in 2005, Dark Horse’s anthology collection Star Wars Visionaries saw 10 Lucasfilm concept artists who had worked on Revenge of the Sith write and illustrate their own spin-off tales in the Star Wars universe—all part of the former Expanded Universe, of course. These stories covered all sorts of minor and major characters from across the entire time period of the prequels and the original trilogy, including “Old Wounds” by Aaron McBride, which imagined a vengeful Maul hunting down Obi-Wan three years into his self-imposed exile on Tatooine—by striking out at the Lars homestead, and putting the life of Luke Skywalker in danger to lure the old man out.
Unlike in the Clone Wars cartoon, which turned the bisected Sith into n ongoing threat for Obi-Wan (and later Kana and Ezra in Rebels), this is the first time Obi-Wan had seen Maul since the young Jedi sliced him in half in The Phantom Menace.
That was apparently not for a lack of trying on Maul’s part. While “Old Wounds” never tells us how Maul actually survived the events of Naboo, like his animated version later would, it’s clearly established that he’s driven to survive by sheer hatred for Obi-Wan. He comes to Tatooine after decades of searching, but after learning about the young Luke Skywalker, knew exactly where the old man would be.
Which leaves Obi-Wan to make his grand entrance, by bursting out of the sand dunes like a goddamn sarlacc or something.
It’s amazing. Also, Old Ben doesn’t muck around when it comes to making threats about lopping body parts off, does he?
Sadly, the story has to keep Maul and Ben’s fight relatively short, but seeing the older Ben fling himself around like he does in the prequel movies is equal parts hilarious and awesome. And little Luke got to watch!
For all the severity of this new Maul design, the giant robot legs and the big bone horns, it’s Ben who is the badass. From his sandy reveal, to punching some of those horns off, to fulfilling his promise as he literally disarms Maul:
As effective as Ben is, though, when he finally has Maul on the ropes, he can’t bring himself to perform the death blow. The temptation is there as memories of all of Obi-Wan’s losses thanks to the Empire’s rise come flooding in, but even after everything he’s gone through, Obi-Wan Kenobi is still a Jedi Knight. I bet we see a similar scene when the two go toe-to-toe on Rebels soon as part of the new canon.
Something we won’t see on Rebels, however, is Maul’s fate in the comic—Owen Lars firing a smoking blaster bolt into Maul’s head. There’s a lot of badass old men in this short story.
As Ben promises to dispose of Maul’s corpse, Owen is understandably pissed at the fact Ben’s presence nearly got his family killed by a crazy half-robot Sith warrior. Much like the Marvel series has covered Ben and Owen’s rocky relationship, the fight has the same result: Owen forbids Ben from being anywhere near Luke, and the old man parts ways. The only difference is that comic Ben has to take Maul’s corpse with him when he leaves.
“Old Wounds” could give us some insight into how Rebels will show us the duel between old Ben and Maul, but even it doesn’t, one element of the comic has eventually made its way into canon—McBride’s design for the reborn Maul is what inspired the character’s first re-appearance in Clone Wars in 2012. So even if Rebels is giving us a definitive version of the rematch, part of McBride’s tale will live on in canon forever.