*The Maze Agency — Recommended

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 Maze Agency cover
The Maze Agency
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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.

5 Responses to “*The Maze Agency — Recommended”

  1. Bill D. Says:

    Since the latest mini-series was cancelled before it was even finished, there probably isn’t much chance of IDW releasing future volumes, huh?

  2. Johanna Says:

    Probably not, and really, this is the best of the series, I think. After this early run, there seemed to be problems keeping artists on the book.

  3. Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] But when I saw this, I had to applaud the publisher. IDW is doing a second Maze Agency collection (DEC06 3706, $24.99). When I reviewed the first book, I concluded that we probably wouldn’t see any more, and I’m thrilled to find out I was wrong. […]

  4. Plans and Ethics LinkBlogging » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] wonder if he noticed they included The Maze Agency in that list? Because I would love to see additional volumes, but since the second one got […]

  5. The Wolverine Files » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] written by longtime comics pro Mike W. Barr (Camelot 3000, Batman and the Outsiders, The Maze Agency), The Wolverine Files is presented as the official S.H.I.E.L.D. dossier on Wolverine, with […]




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