It’s quite remarkable how many comics Jeff Lemire produces in a given year. His latest, called Mazebook, can be added to that pile this week. The new five-issue miniseries is written and drawn by Lemire and is about a father who has lost his daughter. In this disarming first issue, readers aren’t sure if the father is trapped somewhere in his own mind as he goes about his life, or if there is some truth to his daughter being lost in a maze.
The first issue opens with a lonely building inspector named Will recalling his daughter’s red sweater. After multiple attempts to throw out the sweater, Will’s daughter Wendy would always save it. Cut to Will in a subway train headed to work reflecting on how he can’t recall Wendy’s face, nor even recognize anyone for that matter. He’s downtrodden and seems lost. When given the opportunity to socialize with friends he politely refuses. He’s stuck in his own world.
Over multiple pages, Lemire gently draws us into this solitary and sad world Will has created for himself. It’s easy to relate to if you’ve ever turned down a hangout or even a minor social event. Will is shutting the world out as he seems to cling to the memory of his lost daughter.
If you’ve ever lost someone, these urges Will goes through to isolate are familiar as well, as is the imagery of Will in the shower, eating alone in front of the TV, and waking up alone. They are deeply real moments well rendered by Lemire’s lines and watercolor.
Then things get weird. A supernatural element seems present thanks to the washed-out face of Wendy when Will thinks of her and the strange maze-like walls cast in blue watercolor drudgery. Woven throughout the issue is a red line used in different ways: we see it unraveled in front of Will in a dream, or in another instance, it scribbles inside a rendering of Will as if to convey chaotic energy and a disconnected feel to his character. The line is purposeful and feels important whenever it appears.
Ultimately, the narrative takes a turn when Will finally does something and answers his phone. So much of this issue is about Will being stuck and the final moments suggest he’s finally motivated to do something about his life and trepidation around his daughter. Whether that discovery is an internal self-discovery or something real is unclear.
Lemire doesn’t make it obvious whether Will is losing it, or if there is a real reason to believe his daughter Wendy really is stuck in some kind of maze. That doesn’t matter — though some readers may desire a more finite purpose rather than an emotional one to this story — since so much of this issue is wrapped up in Will’s state of mind. There are also details we don’t yet know about Will’s wife, what happened to his daughter, or even if his coworkers know about what happened. This leaves a lot of question marks, making this less of a mystery and more of a character study.
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