Heavy Metal magazine has started publishing their short anthology comics into the single-issue format, and this week Maiden #1 hits the stands. It’s about a vengeful spirit (Maiden) who possesses young women to enact vengeance on those who have harmed the innocent. Collected here are the first two chapters, with chapter 3 in Heavy Metal #304 and chapter 4 premiering in April’s issue, which introduce readers to a strange world beautifully rendered by Bart Sears.
Written by Bart and Michelle Sears, Maiden is a fascinating, transfixing work. It opens with a mysterious cloaked woman walking amongst a gray town. Soon, people rise up from the ashes of the grey world and she continues on. It conveys the spirit and its nature in an atmospheric way. The colors by Periya Pillai add to the nightmarish quality of the scene making elements pop as they enter the strange walk of this woman.
Narration enters via lettering and word balloons with a wavy, echoey look. It’s not apparent who is talking till the end of the chapter. Once at the end of the chapter, it’s clear this is a story about a woman, all alone, but with something facing her.
It’s not until the second chapter that it becomes clear what this woman is set to do. Through some rather harsh words from a man she is to wed — which hits even harder given the news today — we learn she’s too old, in his opinion, even though she’s not old at all. It’s confusing on some level what is going on — it’s never spelled out — and likely we’re meant to be in the dark so as to piece things together. That said, given the summary from the solicit it can be pieced together where this is going.
What is apparently clear is a blending of cultures that adds a mystical nature to the work. It’s not any specific culture, but something new yet familiar. Through clothing, architecture, and symbols, you gain insight into this strange world. One symbol in particular that blends what looks like Japanese writing with authoritarian birds adds a sense of fascism to the man our protagonist is marrying.
Pacing helps draw you into the story, with well-timed close-up shots, establishing panels, and a good sense to keep things moving. It’s only 16 pages of content all told, which does hinder the ability to take in what is going on. Again, there’s not a lot told to the reader just yet, and likely this will read even better when collected as one tale. For a first issue, the pacing keeps your interest up, but you may find yourself frustrated with the lack of details. Given this was originally published in the magazine with other stories it’s an entirely different experience as a single issue, so your interest may vary.
Maiden #1 is an intriguing first issue with a beautiful world that mixes nightmare, culture, and a protagonist you’ll be transfixed by. Who is she, what is she about, and where does this story go? If you find yourself intrigued by the mystery you’ll love it, but those with less patience might need to wait for the second issue before diving in.
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