Review – Mazebook #5 (Dark Horse Comics)

Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Writer/Artist: Jeff Lemire
Lettering: Steve Wands
Release Date: 12th January 2022

For my first review of 2022, I’m excited to be able to take a look at the concluding chapter of Jeff Lemire’s Mazebook.  To bring you up to speed, the story is based around William Warren, a heartbroken father sleepwalking his way through life until the night when he receives a mysterious telephone call from his puzzle-loving daughter Wendy asking him to come and find her.  The only problem is, Wendy died ten years ago.

For my money, this is Lemire at his most… well… his most Lemire.  With an ambitious, almost experimental approach, a gripping mystery at its heart, and plenty of that utterly distinctive Lemire artwork, this book grips you from the first page to the last as the reader is carried along by Will’s desperation and grief.  And now, as we finally seem poised to get some real answers, Lemire can’t help but throw a few more obstacles in Will’s (and our) way.  Hey, what’s a maze without a minotaur, right?

For obvious reasons, I’m not going to delve too deeply into what actually happens in this issue, but suffice to say that the conclusion somehow manages to be both logical and unexpected, and is likely to satisfy any reader who has made it to this point.  Despite the ambitious ideas under the hood, this is still very much a story of a father and his daughter – or rather, or a father coming to terms with the loss of his daughter – and as such, Lemire does a great job of keeping things feeling intimate throughout.

On the visual side of things, anyone familiar with Lemire’s striking brand of artwork should have a good idea of what to expect, packing impressive amounts of emotion into what at times initially appear to be little more than scribbles.  Am I a huge fan of the ’empty panel’ page layout style? Not usually, no, although Lemire thankfully veers away from that particular approach in this final issue, as visually impactful as it may have been.

In fact, aside from the dizzying fever dream of issue four, this may be the most inventive and interesting issue of the series so far from a purely visual perspective.  Ambitious double page spreads are mixed in with more conventional talking head flashback scenes, with just a few more artistic riffs on the whole ‘maze’ motif thrown in for good measure.  It’s a beautiful looking book, eschewing unnecessary detail for visceral expression and a rapid fire pace that drags you alongside Will on his disorienting journey.

Ultimately, what we have here is a beautiful, thought provoking and genuinely moving conclusion to what has been truly unique comic book series.  Mazebook takes an experimental and unconventional look at the nature of grief, wrapping those themes up in a tightly structured mystery tale, and I absolutely loved it. With the likes of Sweet Tooth, Black Hammer and Descender already under his belt, it’s safe to say that Lemire’s creator owned credentials are pretty much unquestioned at this point, and with the Canadian cartoonist recently signing an exclusive deal with Image Comics, I honestly can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.

Rating: 4.5/5.


The writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson-Adams (aka Ceej)
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