There was only one way Darth Maul's story in Star Wars: Rebels could possibly end. His quest is leading him relentlessly towards Tatooine, where a certain ageing Jedi Master is in hiding; and when Darth Maul comes face-to-face with Obi-Wan Kenobi, we can expect fireworks! Surprisingly enough, though, this isn't the first time Star Wars fans have seen a rematch between the two icons...
'Star Wars: Visionaries'
To see the first rematch, you have to head all the way back to 2005's Star Wars — Visionaries anthology, a graphic novel published by Dark Horse. This was inspired by unused concepts Lucasfilm toyed with during the production of Revenge of the Sith, and it revealed some surprising twists to the #StarWars tale — including a glimpse of a resurrected Darth Maul!
Aaron McBride's "Old Wounds" was a short story set in the time between the trilogies, in which the Lars homestead (where the young Luke Skywalker was being looked after) had a dangerous visitor. At first cloaked in darkness, this unwelcome guest disarmed Owen Lars, and then called out Obi-Wan Kenobi. Only when Kenobi revealed himself (in a visually glorious scene) did the villain unrobe himself, revealing himself to be none other than Darth Maul. McBride imagined a Maul who had survived, but whose lower half had been replaced by cybernetics. The Sith apprentice had dedicated himself to exacting revenge on Obi-Wan, but his pursuit of the Jedi Master had left him always one step behind — until now.
The battle between the two was tremendous, and McBride enjoyed showing an older Obi-Wan employ the kind of swift, sleek strikes we'd seen in the Prequel Trilogy. This was a no-holds-barred battle, with Obi-Wan literally punching the horns off Darth Maul's head, before the Sith was finally disarmed. Obi-Wan couldn't bring himself to kill Maul, though, sensing that he'd be doing so in anger — thus falling to the Dark Side. It fell to Owen Lars to strike the death-blow, unexpectedly killing Maul with a rifle.
An Important Development
Of course, Darth Maul was eventually resurrected in the main canon; in 2012, Lucasfilm chose to run with the unused concept, and McBride's design even served as the basis for Maul's look in the Clone Wars cartoon. As implausible as the idea may be at first glance, it was a masterstroke, bringing a character who had such tremendous potential back into the canon. In an interview back in 2011, Clone Wars supervising director Dave Filoni admitted that his return was partly motivated by the realization that Maul had been under-utilized in The Phantom Menace, where he'd been summarily bisected.
But will "Old Wounds" also inspire the duel in Rebels? If Darth Maul is indeed going to trace Obi-Wan to Tatooine, then there's a good chance he'll also learn about Luke Skywalker. That puts Obi-Wan in a tremendously vulnerable position; all Maul needs to do is threaten Luke, and Obi-Wan will be forced to emerge from the shadows (just as in "Old Wounds").
Perhaps the more chilling issue, though, is that the animated shows have developed Maul as a much more strategic thinker. If Maul does indeed learn about Luke Skywalker, he's enough of a strategist to work out that the child is the Galaxy's last, best hope — and, rather than just blindly seek revenge, he could use that truth in a Machiavellian plot.
Whether Maul does learn about Luke Skywalker or not, Obi-Wan will know that the Sith Apprentice cannot survive this encounter. Should Maul draw the eyes of the Empire to Tatooine, even if only unwittingly, then all could be lost.
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If "Old Wounds" is anything to go by, the impending battle between Obi-Wan and Darth Maul will be a thing of wonder. Of course, the great thing is that this time it's not going to be a short comic book story in an anthology — it's going to be a major plot twist in a canon animated series! Star Wars: Rebels is drawing its plot-threads closely together, preparing to give us a battle for the ages. Don't miss it!