Jeff Lemire (Black Hammer, Sweet Tooth) returns with another fascinating yet emotionally painful chapter in Mazebook #2. With letters from Steve Wands, this issue poses more questions and opens up this story’s psychological mysteries through a series of dreamlike sequences and painful conversations. With poignant and devastating writing and tonally perfect visual work, this is Lemire operating at his most insightful.
“Will’s a melancholic building inspector who’s been grieving the loss of his puzzle-loving daughter for years. One evening he receives a mysterious phone call from a girl claiming it’s her and that she’s trapped in the middle of a labyrinth, setting Will off on a journey digging through her personal journals and puzzles for answers on where she is and how to bring her back home.”
Writing & Plot
Jeff Lemire replaces the prior issue’s aimlessness with a pained determination in Mazebook #2. Where Will, the main protagonist, was wandering aimlessly when we first met him, now he is driven by almost blind hope. Lemire’s handling of a person experiencing tremendous loss is possibly the best example of this I’ve seen in the medium. Will pulls himself out of his malaise out of a desperate need for his experiences to be true. Watching him string together elements and symbols that could easily be coincidental is heart wrenching. He has a confrontation with someone in his past that represents the exact opposite way of handling loss. This is the most painful passage in the book, and the most emotionally conflicting.
As much as we want to be on Will’s side, we also have to understand that the how’s and what’s of his situation are of his own making. As Lemire gently guides us through Will’s fracturing reality, we have no choice but to be both intrigued by the comic’s supernatural happenings – and fearful for the protagonist’s sanity. This comic is a high point of brilliance in Lemire’s career, something I do not say lightly.
I’m not sure Lemire collaborating with any artist other than himself would be able to bring Mazebook #2 to life. His iconic rough-hewn pencils and monotone colors are the perfect aesthetic choice for this insightful comic. The minimalistic pencils with lines in just the right places accentuate the wear in Will’s face. His scraggly appearance is reflective of the colorless world he lives in since the loss of his daughter.
The way Lemire frames characters and scenes is striking in a manner only comics can pull off. The frequent straight-on looks we get with Will gets his face in our minds so the nuances of expression are easily felt. There’s a tricky complexity to this comic’s environmental storytelling as well. Obviously this story centers around the idea of mazes and solving them.
Lemire does an incredible job of confusing us as much as Will is confused by events in his world. We end up searching for nonexistent patterns in the background art. Lemire’s sepia then blue colors create a minimal yet hazy atmosphere that highlights the comic’s mysterious, sad tone. The dashes of sudden color that do appear arrive in a manner reminiscent of dreams themselves, distilling what is really happening to Will versus what he thinks is happening is a real challenge. Steve Wands’s lettering is a unique as Lemire’s visuals. His font style is professional and legible while utilizing an almost handwritten-esque approach. This comic is visually perfect for the detached, listless tone of the story.
Mazebook #2 is a brilliant and effective 2nd chapter of Lemire’s meditation on loss. His writing in this issue focuses on Will’s rash determination and desperate need for the strange events in his life to be true – at the possible cost of his own sanity. His visual work is as tonally outstanding as ever, with expressive pencils and atmospheric colors. Be sure to grab this newest chapter when it hits shelves on 10/13!