The Maze Agency 23 (August 1991)

275588This issue’s incredibly confusing. Barr spends too long setting up the story–Gabe and Jennifer have to go to a biosphere to solve a murder but there’s already drama with the client. It’s Barr wasting pages for no reason.

Maybe he wanted to give the penciller, Franchesco Bufano, something to do. Otherwise, wasted pages. Especially since Barr starts the comic with a letter talking about the issue being an homage to Poe. Oh, sure, the homage part does come up–but very late in the story.

By that time, most of the damage is done. Bufano’s pencils are exaggerated, which is fine, but he gets lazy almost immediately. He also doesn’t draw the characters distinctly enough; even with different physical characteristics, it gets confusing in long shots.

Barr throws in too many love triangles and crushes among his poorly established suspects.

Sadly, the series ends with a particularly weak entry.


Crime in Eden; writer, Mike W. Barr; penciller, Franchesco Bufano; inker, Michael Avon Oeming; colorist, Michelle Basil; letterer, Vickie Williams; editor, David Campiti; publisher, Innovation.

The Maze Agency 17 (December 1990)

275582It’s a religious cult mystery, along with some teenage lovers–one being the daughter of Jennifer’s friend. Barr doesn’t pause on his contrivances (it’s not just the daughter, but also Gabe’s religious history), just moves full steam ahead.

Only the setting is terrible and the characters all act really dumb. Maybe not Gabe and Jennifer, but the daughter gets busted running around with her boyfriend and her parents stay in the woods, which causes the rest of the issue’s events. It’s way too easy.

There’s a little character stuff between Gabe and Jennifer, only their romance has become boring. Barr doesn’t seem to have any long-term plots for them anymore. They’re boring.

Darick Robertson–a young Darick Robertson–does the art. He’s got ambitious panel composition, but no level of detail. With better art, the issue might pass easier, but it’s still not much good.

Maze’s on the skids.


Terrible Swift Sword; writer, Mike W. Barr; penciller, Darick Robertson; inkers, Jim Sinclair and Keith Aiken; colorist, Susan Glod; letterer, Vickie Williams; editor, David Campiti; publisher, Innovation Publishing.

The Maze Agency 16 (October 1990)

275581Mary Mitchell is an odd choice for the comic. If her lines were messier, it might work better but she has a very cartoony, clean style. All of a sudden The Maze Agency looks like a reductionist Disney cartoon.

It’s occasionally interesting looking, but would work better for a backup story not a feature. Especially since Mitchell doesn’t handle certain standard things–shoes, for instance–well at all.

The mystery once again gives Gabe and Jennifer some tension in their dating life. They’ve both sold true crime books, but she’s sold hers to a big publisher, him to a not big publisher. Barr enjoys writing about their relationship problems, but there’s always something missing. It’s like he doesn’t imagine them having a life when they aren’t in the comic… They don’t have any texture.

So, in short, it’s an odd looking comic with some problems. The supporting cast really shines.


Fires of Love; writer, Mike W. Barr; penciller, Mary Mitchell; inkers, Don Martinec and Paul Worley; colorist, Susan Glod; letterer, Vickie Williams; editor, David Campiti; publisher, Innovation Publishing.

The Maze Agency Annual 1 (August 1990)

340992The annual has three stories. The first has Rick Magyar, Darick Robertson and William Messner-Loebs illustrating a Spirit homage. It’s a lot of fun; Barr’s script for it is very fast. Gabe’s on a mission, runs into Jennifer, both having Spirit references in their appearance. It’d be impossible to tell the story without the art angle. Very nice opening.

Sadly, the second story just goes on and on. Allen Curtis is a mediocre artist and Barr asks him to do a lot. The mystery involves a corpse in a moving box. It takes forever to get going, then Barr rushes the big finale. Curtis doesn’t draw characters distinctly enough; two suspects look exactly the same, making the end confusing.

The last story–with Adam Hughes pencils and Magyar inks–is a reprint of a convention special. The mystery’s solution is confounding, but the excellent art makes up for it.



A Night at the Rose Petal; artists, Rick Magyar, Darick Robertson and William Messner-Loebs; colorists, Michelle Basil and Susan Glod; letterer, Vickie Williams. Moving Stiffs; penciller, Allen Curtis; inkers, Keith Aiken and Jim Sinclair; colorists, Basil and Glod; letterer, Williams; Murder in Mint Condition; penciller, Adam Hughes; inker, Magyar; colorist, Glod; letterer, Bob Pinaha. Writer, Mike W. Barr; editors, Michael Eury and David Campiti; publisher, Innovation Publishing.

The Maze Agency 15 (August 1990)

275580Barr does an amazing job pacing out the narrative this issue. He opens with Gabe and Jennifer, but moves quickly to Lieutenant Bliss. She dominates the issue–the first time a supporting cast member was gotten a Maze spotlight–even when she’s off panel in the second act. Barr comes up with an amusing way of keeping her around then too.

And Bliss becomes so important to the issue, Barr doesn’t even save time to resolve Gabe and Jennifer’s subplot. He deals with it in a panel or two, second fiddle to the murder resolution.

The issue has fill-in art from Mike Okamoto, who has an odd set of problems. His figures don’t match in terms of size and the way he positions them almost feels like he’s gluing cutouts together. But he’s got some great facial expressions, which is very important in a dialogue-heavy book like Maze.


Too Much Bliss; writer, Mike W. Barr; penciller, Mike Okamoto; inkers, Mike Witherby and Rick Magyar; colorist, Susan Glod; letterer, Vickie Williams; editor, David Campiti; publisher, Innovation Publishing.

The Maze Agency Special 1 (1990)

340993It’s a busy day for Gabe and Jennifer in this Special issue. What makes it special–besides the three interconnected stories, the reprint of Barr’s ashcan for Maze Agency and the extra pages–is the art. Each story has incredibly different artwork.

The first has Joe Staton (inked by Rick Magyar). Shockingly, it works out well. His story looks very fifties or sixties crime comic. His detail isn’t great, but it’s all consistent. Never thought I’d be so impressed.

Magyar takes over the art himself on the second story. He has a beautiful, moody style. It’s a shame he usually just inks the book.

Then the Pander Brothers do the last one. They’re wonderfully crazy. Seeing a straight mystery comic in their style is awesome.

And Alan Davis does the ashcan. His art’s the least impressive, which is a surprise.

The mysteries are fine but the art’s the thing here.


Morning: What Goes Up…; penciller, Joe Staton; inker, Rick Magyar; colorist, Scott Rockwell; letterer, Vickie Williams. Afternoon: Murder by a Hair; artist, Magyar; colorist, Rockwell; letterer, Williams. Evening: The Dog That Bit Back…; artists, Arnold Pander and Jacob Pander; colorist, Alicia Basil; colorist, Williams. The Mile-High Corpse!; artist, Alan Davis; letterer, Todd Klein. Writer, Mike W. Barr; editor, David Campiti; publisher, Innovation Publishing.

The Maze Agency 14 (July 1990)

275579More bad art from Phipps. I’m not sure, but I think he’s getting worse. Like Barr thinks he’s getting better so he can handle more stuff–this issue there’s a lengthy “trial” sequence and then a nightmare scene at the end… the only scary parts being Phipps’s art though.

He hurts what Barr is trying to do with the romantic angle, with both Jennifer and Gabe changing as their relationship deepens. Phipps being weak on the mystery stuff is fine, it always gets resolved by the end of the issue, but he’s messing up what makes the comic distinct.

This issue takes place at a prison, where Jennifer and Gabe have to solve an unlikely murder to end a riot. Barr’s pacing is a little off. It’s front heavy, with all the characters’ introductions–not to mention the return of a previous villain–but it’s a decent mystery, if predictable.


Before Midnight; writer, Mike W. Barr; penciller, Robb Phipps; inker, Rick Magyar; colorist, Susan Glod; letterer, Vickie Williams; editor, David Campiti; publisher, Innovation Publishing.

The Maze Agency 13 (June 1990)

275578This issue might have the worst Phipps art so far. It’s incredibly bad, but also very precise. So each bad panel pokes at you as you read it; the hands are off, the expressions are terrible. Phipps doesn’t have any personality either, which might not make the art any better but at least it’d be interesting.

The crime this issue is rather vicious, with a dismembered and mutilated corpse. There’s also a subplot about one of Jennifer’s friends, a retired Secret Service agent turned gumshoe. Barr tries too hard to make the guy likable; unfortunately he seems to be a new regular.

As for Gabe and Jennifer’s romantic stuff… Barr has a case of mistaken identity cause some acerbic banter but it’s just tacked on. It’s a quick, glossy read; without the sensational murder it wouldn’t have any teeth.

The Phipps art pretty much does it in from the start.


The Adventure of the Bleeding Venus; writer, Mike W. Barr; penciller, Robb Phipps; inker, Rick Magyar; colorist, Susan Glod; letterer, Vickie Williams; editor, David Campiti; publisher, Innovation Publishing.

The Maze Agency 12 (May 1990)

275577Hughes is back this issue; he concentrates on mood more than faces, which is odd for a detective comic. At least it seems odd for Maze Agency. Oh, there are some good shots of Jennifer and Gabe, but some of the suspects are completely indistinct.

The cynical take is Hughes was hurrying through and skipping faces sped things along. Even so, the result is a peculiarly wonderful looking book. The lack of focus puts the reader off to the side of the story while still inside it, like things overheard. It’s very interesting.

The mystery itself isn’t particularly interesting. There are some good character moments for Gabe and Jennifer–Hughes doesn’t rush through their scenes and his facial expressions are amazing–and a funny little “Remington Steele” nod.

The wrap-up, however, is a little rushed. The comic feels like it’s missing a page or two. But it’s fine work.


Murderer’s Mask; writer, Mike W. Barr; penciller, Adam Hughes; inker, Rick Magyar; colorist, Susan Glod; letterer, Tom Addis; editor, David Campiti; publisher, Innovation Publishing.

The Maze Agency 11 (April 1990)

275576Between Phipps’s awkwardly cherubic faces and the forgetful coloring (sometimes faces don’t get done, sometimes they get overdone–I assume it’s a printing issue and not Michele Wolfman’s fault), this issue isn’t much to behold. Phipps doesn’t have graceful figures and his framing suggests he’d be better suited for a newspaper comic strip than a full book.

It’s a Christmas issue, with Gabe and Jennifer celebrating their first one as a holiday. It’s not a particularly effective subplot; Barr gives them a silly subplot and not enough space to actually resolve it. It’s a transition issue–for Jennifer–but we don’t why she’s changing.

The mystery involves a mob family and their police informant problems. If Barr spent more time on it, it would have been better… but there’s the romance stuff.

The comic still has some charm, but not much else. No one seems to be trying particularly hard.


Twas the Crime Before Christmas; writer, Mike W. Barr; penciller, Robb Phipps; inker, Rick Magyar; colorist, Michele Wolfman; letterer, Vickie Williams; editor, David Campiti; publisher, Innovation Publishing.

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