- Posted by Johanna on September 5, 2006 at 8:53 am
- Category: Graphic Novel Reviews
- CREDITS: written by Mike W. Barr; art by Alan Davis, Adam Hughes, and Rick Magyar
- PUBLISHER: IDW Publishing; $24.99 US
The Maze Agency reprints a well-remembered mystery comic from the late 1980s. Writer Mike W. Barr created the series to “play fair” with readers, presenting whodunits that could be solved if the reader paid careful attention to clues within the story.
Comics is a terrific medium for the mystery genre, since evidence can be presented in the background without drawing attention to itself, and the reader can spend as much time as they wish observing the characters and setting. The visuals enhance the traditional text story, especially when they’re provided by such a talented artist as Adam Hughes (inked by Rick Magyar, later Al Vey).
The volume opens with a demonstration short, created for copyright purposes and illustrated by Alan Davis, that introduces the investigators. Jennifer Mays runs her own detective agency, and crime writer Gabriel Webb consults (while protesting that he’d rather date her than work for her). The case is barely a mystery, given the short six-page space, but it sets up how well the partners work together, with Jennifer’s fearlessness, knowledge, quick thinking, and reputation complementing Gabe’s quiet observation.
Once the series proper starts, Barr uses a full 26 pages of story to craft entertaining brain-teasers. Whether it’s an art robbery, theft of a prototype car, a Ripperologist convention that turns deadly, murder due to rediscovered classic TV episodes, or the killing of a cryogenically frozen body, Mays and Webb solve crimes efficiently and flirt when they can.
The characters for any given mystery have to be introduced briefly, so they’re often familiar types, but they’re more than two-dimensional. Distinctive dialogue fleshes them out quickly, and expressive faces and body language back up the text. It’s early work by Hughes, so his style’s not quite as accomplished as it is these days, but it’s such a pleasure to see him doing sequential art. The reader can also see him progress from issue to issue. Compared to the original issues, the reproduction is excellent, with no lines dropped and crisp colors.
You might occasionally wonder what a talented, rich, skilled, beautiful blonde like Jennifer sees in a schlub like Gabe, especially when he’s showboating his deductions, but it’s no surprise that a writer-driven project would involve some wish fulfillment, right? If you liked Moonlighting, you’ll love this.