Mazebook #1 is published by Dark Horse Comics. It comes from the creative team of writer and artist Jeff Lemire and letterer Steve Wands. Will is an emotionally broken man in his fifties. He sleepwalks through life doing little more than going through the same routines and daily tasks. The cause of his severe disillusionment is the loss of his eleven-year-old daughter Wendy.
Through his interior monologue, he details the mundane day-to-day activities that he pantomimes. Several people throughout the story attempt to connect with him, but to no avail. The pain of loss has left him as little more than an empty husk of a man. But something continues to bother him. A memory he can’t quite grasp ahold of. But after receiving a strange phone call, Will finds himself in pursuit of answers and a way to save his little girl.
Mazebook #1 is one of the most painfully melancholy books that I’ve ever read. Every page serves as a depressing reminder of the pain that Will feels, and Lemire really taps into parental fear with this one. Will is, essentially, a zombie. He even ruminates on how the routines that he lives within are like a kind of death all on their own. The constant thoughtless repetition that he does to avoid really thinking or feeling.
If this sounds depressing to you, then you’d be correct. This first issue is 48 pages of one man’s pain, self-loathing, and self-erasure. If that sounds a bit excessive, well, it kind of is. I love Lemire’s work and am very interested in where the story will go in the future. But with as much time spent on how absolutely rock-bottom miserable Will is, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned. But I trust Lemire and am confident in his storytelling.
As the artist, Lemire paints a picture of a man whose life ended a long time ago. The backgrounds are drab greyscale, and the linework is rough—a brilliant visualization into Will’s mental state. Barely able to comprehend the world around him in anything more than a rough sketch. When color is introduced into the panels, it is always done so deliberately, like a message being sent to Will.
This is primarily done by using the color red, which is similar to another series I have reviewed, The Red Mother. Like in that series, it appears that the use of red is quite important to the primary conflict. Wands’ letters do a great job of adding to the overwhelming bleakness of the story. The font is simple but carries a sort of bluntness that makes conversations feel forced and gives the narration a thematically resonant “weariness.”
I’ve never read something quite as compellingly depressing as Mazebook #1. It goes to great lengths to instill a sense of hopelessness within the reader. From its heartbreaking premise to its drab, sketchbook-art world, everything feels tailored to make the reader experience Will’s painful ennui. I’m not sure what kind of story it will be going forward, but the atmosphere of this first issue is so oppressive and effective that I know it will be emotional. If you’re a fan of haunting stories with family drama and a little fantasy, then this is for you.
Mazebook #1 will be available wherever comics are sold.
From its heartbreaking premise to its drab, sketchbook-art world, everything feels tailored to make the reader experience Will’s painful ennui. I’m not sure what kind of story it will be going forward, but the atmosphere of this first issue is so oppressive and effective that I know it will be emotional. If you’re a fan of haunting stories with family drama and a little fantasy, then this is for you.