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  • Writer's pictureBrad Gullickson

'Mazebook' is Another Rich, Sorrowful Read from Jeff Lemire

We take our first step into Lemire's latest solo work and discover a tormented portrait of heartache.

Who are we without love? A shell? A ghost? The walking wounded. With Mazebook, Jeff Lemire scoops the main character's soul from his body and splashes it upon the page. The first issue from Dark Horse Comics is raw and wet. And as your eyes drift over its panels, they dig for history and graze only its painful residue.

We meet Will, a father with no child. Wendy was stolen years ago, and he remains to wander senselessly amongst the living. He doesn't recognize the people around him as people. Their worries and wants mock his agony. As routine pushes him from bed to shower to work and back again, Will barely engages with the outside world as he desperately scours his memory trying to envision Wendy's face.

He recalls her precious, ratty sweater vividly. Its loose threads connecting him to lost moments, but the further Will moves from them in time, the harder they are to grasp. We witness Wendy's death not as a sudden act that's over but as a long, drawn-out event that threatens to consume everything.

Then, one night, the phone rings, and Will answers. The voice on the other end should not be. A quest is required, but will the journey into the maze free our poor father or bury him forever?

A new Jeff Lemire book always demands attention. And when it's one where he provides the art and the story, you clear your desk of all other comics until that one is gobbled up. Comics like Sweet Tooth, Trillium, and Frogcatchers trudge through our interior lives, and they present our deepest pains through emotionally true, magical methods.

As stated in a micro-essay in the back of the first issue, Lemire steals inspiration for Mazebook from the films of David Lynch and the novels of Haruki Murakami. Their explorations of hidden worlds that lurk beneath our natural world are certainly evident in the first issue, but as Lemire also declares, he's not looking to mimic their particular surreality. Mazebook is in conversation with another Lemire tale, The Underwater Welder.

Where that comic probed the dread of impending parenthood, Mazebook actualizes the darkest fears imagined by The Underwater Welder's protagonist. Failure as a parent is very much possible. But there is an after to failure. What you do then is equally important.

Lemire is spreading out with Mazebook. The pages are wide open spaces where Will's mind meanders, following the little strand of Wendy that viciously circles within. Even Will's exterior world reflects his interior life; Lemire accentuates the character's loneliness with his POV choice. His coworkers' expressions drilling harsh, cold judgment.

Mazebook pins "The only way out is in" as its tagline, and the word "out" suggests hope for Will, but this first issue delivers a hard portrait. Will's devastation is apocalyptic, and Lemire paints it as impressively catastrophic as anything you'd find in Mad Max: Fury Road or A Boy and His Dog. It's a rough but tantalizing first fifty pages, and the long wait to the next issue will certainly drag. A sensation Will's grief exemplifies.

Quickie Review: Mazebook is another essential read from Lemire. It bleeds hurt from every panel, and while the promised adventure toward its end encourages respite, the comic keeps its reader stuck in Will's sorrow. Immediately, you're with Will, fully invested in his journey through despair, hoping for escape. 9/10


Mazebook #1

Writer: Jeff Lemire

Artist: Jeff Lemire

Colorist: Jeff Lemire

On Sale: 9/8/21

Synopsis: From New York Times bestselling and Eisner Award-winning Black Hammer and Sweet Tooth creator Jeff Lemire comes this ambitious and haunting comic series about family, mourning, and reality.

A lonely building inspector still grieving the loss of his puzzle-loving daughter receives a mysterious phone call one night from a girl claiming it's her and that she's trapped in the middle of a labyrinth. Convinced that this child is contacting him from beyond this world, he uses an unfinished maze from one of her journals and a map of the city to trace an intricate path through a different plane of reality on an intense and melancholy adventure to bring his daughter back home. The only way out is in . . .


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