By Alan Grant, Arthur Ranson, and Ellie De Ville.
At the entrance of the maze, this story seems all too familiar. Someone from our grey reality finds themselves in a colourful other-world, reluctantly becoming a heroic underdog and leading the charge against all that is wrong.
The first turn of the path takes us in a direction better suited to the pages of 2000ad. There are no inquisitive children or repressed professors here. Adam Cadman is astrally transported as he dangles at the end of a hangman’s noose. Neither prose nor art entertain the idea that this is a miscarriage of justice. Adam is a murderer, offering little hope to either reader or rebels.
The next turn reminds us that, in our world, murder is hardly an outstanding act of evil. Adam hangs at the pleasure of politicians and public, then lies on the slab of doctors who follow their oaths only where profits lead. What sort of hero could a world like ours ever hope to produce?
Then the road splits, showing only fleeting glimpses of the ways we never take. Writer and artist revel in their world-building, seeding ideas that demand the reader create pasts and futures or their own. The history of the maze, and its mundane and magical inhabitants, hint at a tangle of intersecting for which we are privy to only the smallest selection.
We push on down our chosen path, through deeper layers of narrative made of metaphor and meta-physics. Here the traditional hero’s journey gives way to explorations of magical theory. This is hardly lonely ground for comics; plenty of Britain’s Big Names have used the medium to wax lyrical on the occult. Yet where others take several volumes to explain everything badly, 2000ad’s tight page-count distills it all into a single, simple idea.
For we are confronted with choices at every step of our life, and in the centre of the maze we always meet ourselves.
Alan Grant’s writing gains a dream-like quality through the ever shifting rules and focus of the Mazeworld. The twisting narrative never lets you completely give up on the idea that this is just a death throe hallucination. Fans of tightly structured arcs may not find this quite to their taste, but those willing to follow Grant’s muse will enjoy the flow of ideas.
Arthur Ranson’s art is full of maze motif, but labyrinthine layouts and other experiments never overpower traditional storytelling. Washes of colour allow fine inked lines and textures to dominate the page. There is no wasted space or neglected panels, for consistency and quality are Ranson’s watchwords.