REVIEW: Jeff Lemire’s MAZEBOOK #1 is a hypnotic opener that mines the depths of grief
Writer, Artist, Colorist, Cover Artist: Jeff Lemire
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
It’s clear the hard-working comics veteran Jeff Lemire plays well with other creators. But he’s equally comfortable building an entire creation himself, as he does in Mazebook, a haunting new five-issue series about family and loss. Its first issue hits shelves September 8 from Dark Horse.
The series comes hot on the heels of a packed season for Lemire: the Sweet Tooth Netflix series based on his Vertigo comics (which has brought him to a new level of name recognition), new issues from Snow Angels and Ascender, The Unbelievable Unteens kickoff, and much more to come. And somehow, the award-winning creator brings his matchless focus to each. Lucky us!
He delivers a gut punch of an entrance in Mazebook #1: a father’s grim daily grind as he desperately tries to hold onto fading memories of his lost child, Wendy. In a recent interview on Mazebook with The Beat, Lemire (a father himself) noted that he was interested in exploring how a person dealt with trauma years later. Here he looks at the life of Will, father of Wendy, a decade after tragedy.
Lemire’s loose lines and organic, somber watercolors paint a picture of a man rendered numb by pain. Will goes about his work as a building inspector in a trance of routine, moving through an urban landscape (with a subtle nod to Lemire’s home base of Toronto) and shutting out others’ attempts to connect. His only anchor is the vivid red of his daughter’s old sweater.
A cheery start this is not. But in Lemire’s skilled hands, it’s fascinating, stirring, eerie. Will’s blurred memories of Wendy take on a reality stronger than his physical life, and symbols begin to emerge… lines, puzzles, and maps. The end ups the ante by introducing a dark mystery.
Lemire’s color choices, pacing, and lettering are on point, as is his seamless interweaving of Will’s thoughts and actions. The overall atmosphere here is one of isolation, rumination, and a screaming intensity of emotion broiling just under the surface.
If you like cerebral, surreal books that don’t spell everything out for you, I think you’ll find Mazebook rewarding. If you’re already a fan of Lemire, you’ll almost certainly like this too.
Mazebook #1 feels spiritually similar to Lemire’s solo books Essex County and The Underwater Welder in its examination of memory. The motif of Will’s faceless daughter drives home a maddening truth: In time, we lose the sharpness of our most precious recollections, like a second death. How will Will cope? Knowing Lemire, the answer is likely to be a worthwhile journey.
Lemire envisioned Mazebook as a graphic novel first, and settled on releasing extra-long “chapters”. The issue’s length (48 pages) gives us a satisfyingly meaty first installment that still provides a lot of suspense. Can we really wait a whole month to find out what happens next?
Published by Dark Horse Comics, Mazebook #1 arrives in stores and digitally on September 8.
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