review by Deon van Heerden
| Published by Rebellion/2000AD
PB 192 pages
From Issue 18 (Feb 2012)
Originally published in 2000 AD during the late 1990s, the complete Mazeworld saga is brought together here in one, beautifully presented volume. The author, Alan Grant, and illustrator, Arthur Ranson, are, of course, familiar to comic book and graphic novel aficionados, and their names alone should be enough to get you to hand over your money without hesitation. If, however, you feel you need further convincing, read on.
Mazeworld is the story of a condemned man, Adam Cadman, who is sentenced to death by hanging for the murder of his brother. As he hangs suspended from the noose, his mind enters what seems, at first, to be a bizarre hallucination: Mazeworld, whose inhabitants believe him to be their legendary saviour, or ‘Hooded One’. It soon becomes apparent, however, that Mazeworld is more than illusory, and so the two concurrent plotlines are established: one, the tale of a man paralysed and comatose after a failed hanging, left at the mercy of increasingly curious and unscrupulous medical scientists; the other, an epic story of redemption in a brutally violent alternate universe in which Cadman, as the ‘Hooded One’, must learn what it means to be a hero. As a graphic novel, the work naturally has its limitations with regards to the amount of text that can be fit on a given page; despite this, however, the work crams in unbelievable amounts of back story, both implicit and explicit, and carries a strong mythological resonance. Characters are often archetypal, but though they may feel in some ways familiar, they are never generic or predictable. In fact, I feel the ‘Hooded One’ to be one of the most powerful and convincing anti-hero figures to have emerged from literature in a very long time.
As wonderful as Grant’s story is, it is completely upstaged by Ranson’s art. The illustrations are superb: consistently dynamic, iconic and, in many instances, genuinely haunting. The look is dark and sophisticated and just screams classic. This is complemented by this edition’s high quality paper, binding and flawless print quality, making for a very desirable package indeed.
Inevitably, the ride is all-too-brief, even for someone who lovingly savoured every single panel. I would pay embarrassing sums of money for more but, as the author asserts, there is absolutely no chance, nor room left, for a follow-up work. This is, in itself, an appealing concept, for one can own the volume, safe in the knowledge that what you possess is complete, and its legacy and integrity will never be marred by substandard cash-in sequels or embarrassing ‘alternate’ universes. To conclude, then, I really cannot recommend this work strongly enough. Please treat yourself and buy it; it will be a treasured addition to any library.
Deon van Heerden
Deon van Heerden is a musician and part-time English teacher at various universities. He enjoys being paid for his opinion.