|The Maze Agency|
The cover to The Maze Agency #1 (Dec. 1988). Art by Adam Hughes.
Dec. 1988–June 1989|
Dec. 1989–Nov. 1991 (first series)
1997 (second series)
2005 (third series)
|Number of issues||23, 3, 3|
|Writer(s)||Mike W. Barr|
|Creator(s)||Mike W. Barr, Alan Davis|
|Maze Agency vol. 1||ISBN 1-933239-06-9|
The Maze Agency is an American mystery comic book series created by Mike W. Barr and first published in 1988. It revolves around a pair of detectives (Jennifer Mays and Gabriel Webb) and their adventures solving puzzling murders. The Maze Agency was a 1989 nominee for the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards for Best New Series.
The Maze Agency was first published by Comico Comics for 7 issues in 1988-1989, and shortly before that company ceased operations, it moved to Innovation Comics for another 16 issues (8-23), plus an annual and a special continuing the numbering and running to 1991. Alpha Productions released a single Maze Agency story in the anthology comic, The Detectives #1 in 1993, as well as a prose story in Noir #1 in 1994. Caliber Comics brought it back in the late 90s as a three-issue miniseries. IDW Publishing printed a three issue miniseries in 2005/2006. They also reprinted #1-5 of the original series in trade paperback. A second prose story appeared in the anthology, "Sex, Lies and Private Eyes," published by Moonstone in 2009.
The Maze Agency is notable for being one of the few mystery comic books to "play fair" with the reader — i.e. giving out sufficient clues for the reader to solve the mystery. However, in a February 2004 interview, creator and writer Mike W. Barr admitted that "Some of the Maze stories, frankly, are not fair-play whodunits to the reader, in that the story is possibly too complex for the reader to solve." He cited as comparison an anecdote wherein the two creators of Ellery Queen were giving an interview, and one said "Ellery Queen is always fair to the reader," to which the other replied, "Ellery Queen is always fair to the reader if the reader is a genius." As Mike W. Barr is a fan of the series of Ellery Queen mysteries, the comic has much the same feel, sharing qualities such as the occasional "challenge to the reader" to solve the mystery, and an incorrect solution being offered by a character before the real answer is revealed. Barr even used Ellery as a guest star in Maze Agency #9.
Jennifer Mays is a smart, tough, and sexy ex-CIA agent who runs the private detective agency for which the comic is named. Gabriel Webb is one of the few people to see her softer, tender side.
Gabriel Webb is a true-crime writer who longs to create more cerebral stories than his sensationalist editors like. He's a little scatterbrained and easily distracted, but has a first-rate deductive mind. Although, he's romantically involved with May and helps her with many of her cases, he feels that the relationship makes accepting her repeated offer to join her business professionally inappropriate.
Detective Roberta Bliss is an NYPD homicide detective of Puerto Rican descent whom Webb and Mays often deal with in solving cases. She is sometimes annoyed by their tendency to complicate cases, but knows that they have the ability to crack murders that she'd have a hard time solving alone.
Ashley Swift is the head of the rival Swift Detective Agency, and Jennifer's former boss. She's a good detective, though not as good as Jen and Gabe, but her arrogance has a habit of rubbing her ex-employee the wrong way.
- The Maze Agency #1-3 (Caliber Press, July–September 1997).
- Mike W. Barr interview, Back Issue Magazine (February 2004).
- "The English Channeler Mystery: A Problem in Deduction," The Maze Agency #9 (Innovation, February 1990).