Mike W. Barr

The Maze Agency 3 (January 2006)

It’s too bad the last issue of IDW’s Maze relaunch is easily the best. The problems still remain–Padilla is a boring artist who doesn’t bring any personality to anything, not characters, not setting. Forget about ominous mood. And Barr is still writing this comic like it’s the eighties, which might have been the last time […]

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The Maze Agency 2 (December 2005)

It’s a beauty pageant mystery–with Jennifer oddly chosen as one of the judges (are detective agency owners really such community figures)–and I’m surprised Barr hasn’t already done this one. All of the previous issue’s problems are here, Padilla’s lack of personality, the rendering of the leads as twenty-somethings off “Buffy” (which might just be an […]

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The Maze Agency 1 (November 2005)

And The Maze Agency is back again, with Mike W. Barr still writing, of course, but with a fresh new look. Ariel Padilla and Ernest Jocson update the protagonists for the oughts and, wow, are they bland. Padilla tries straight good girl with Jennifer and it doesn’t work. As for Gabe… he looks more like […]

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The Maze Agency 3 (1998)

It’s a rough, rough issue. First there’s the storyline. Barr does this whole Bettie Page thing with a magazine trying to find an old model. Three show up, so there’s the investigation to figure out who’s who–only two other private detectives show up besides Jennifer, one supporting each possibility. Then there’s the murder and that […]

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The Maze Agency 1 (July 1997)

The Maze Agency returns in black and white and it really fits that format. The inherent moodiness offsets the genial romance stuff. The mystery itself is an odd riff on Brandon Lee’s death on the Crow set, which seems a little close to home in a comic book. Mike W. Barr does a direct continuation […]

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The Maze Agency 23 (August 1991)

This 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 […]

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The Maze Agency 17 (December 1990)

It’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 […]

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The Maze Agency 16 (October 1990)

Mary 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 […]

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The Maze Agency Annual 1 (August 1990)

The 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 […]

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The Maze Agency 15 (August 1990)

Barr 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 […]

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The Maze Agency Special 1 (1990)

It’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 […]

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The Maze Agency 14 (July 1990)

More 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 […]

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The Maze Agency 13 (June 1990)

This 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 […]

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The Maze Agency 12 (May 1990)

Hughes 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 […]

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The Maze Agency 11 (April 1990)

Between 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 […]

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The Maze Agency 10 (March 1990)

Robb Phipps takes over as penciller this issue (Magyar stays on inking thank goodness). He’s not good, not bad. His scale is off, with people, settings, especially hands, but he’s competent. Maze feels professional, in terms of the art, just not special. The story, however, is quite good. Now, with Gabe and Jennifer dating–this issue […]

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The Maze Agency 9 (February 1990)

So, for those who don’t know, Ellery Queen is an amateur sleuth, created in 1928 or so, and has had numerous print, film, television and probably radio adventures. This issue of Maze celebrates his sixtieth anniversary and gives him a comic book adventure. I’m vaguely sure Barr mentioned him earlier in the series as a […]

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The Maze Agency 8 (December 1989)

Barr does a lot better introducing Jennifer to Gabe’s world than he did introducing Gabe to her’s. Gabe lives in a crappy New York apartment with an assortment of interesting neighbors. Bringing glamorous Jennifer into it provides a lot of amusement. There’s also a lot of innuendo, whether it’s the actual sex or Gabe begging […]

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The Maze Agency 7 (June 1989)

I’m not sure what does more damage this issue, Barr’s melodramatic writing or the art. Greg Shoemaker’s so bad, it doesn’t make any sense to mock him. He’s just not ready for a full comic. Or a tenth of one. I suppose his scenery is all right; at least it’s fully visualized, which I can’t […]

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The Maze Agency 6 (May 1989)

Joe Staton, wow. Odd body shapes, oddly shaped faces, visual oddities abound. About the only place Staton didn’t do something strange is on location. They aren’t the best street scenes, but they’re better than the rest. Oh, and hands. The hand close-ups are fine. Most of the rest is painful. It’s Gabe’s birthday–to get to […]

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The Maze Agency 5 (April 1989)

Barr establishes a bad first here–he has his leads accuse an off-panel suspect. The reader finds out the suspect’s identity at the confession. Overall, it’s a troubled issue. The format keeps it going, but there are art problems (Al Vey isn’t the best inker for Hughes) and lots of story ones. The art ones aren’t […]

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The Maze Agency 4 (March 1989)

One of the most impressive things about The Maze Agency is how Barr manages such a large cast. He has two leads, one or two regular supporting players and then all the murder suspects. In this issue, concerning a Jack the Ripper copycat, he has something like eight suspects. Obviously, the art plays a real […]

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The Maze Agency 3 (February 1989)

The art is good here, it doesn’t even matter when it doesn’t make sense. Hughes comes up with these lovely pages for the investigation scenes–Gabe and Jennifer are touring New York state to question people–and the pages are simply wondrous. There’s this amazing condo in the middle of nowhere; Hughes’s page composition makes the mundane […]

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The Maze Agency 2 (January 1989)

Barr uses Gabriel–the amateur detective slash novelist-for-hire (there’s a great joke about Friday the 13th adaptations)–to bring the reader to the mystery. Then he has to bring Jennifer–the professional detective–into it. The approach lets him do some more character development without having to use too much exposition, but Barr often errs on the side of […]

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The Maze Agency 1 (December 1988)

While it might be full of intrigue and murder–well, contain murder, not quite full of it–The Maze Agency is very clean. Adam Hughes and Rick Magyar’s Manhattan is so perfect, it’s almost dreamlike. That comment’s not a knock–the art is excellent. Some of the faces are bland, but otherwise Hughes does great work. As for […]

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Dark Horse Presents 119 (March 1997)

I’m not sure what Nixey’s Trout is about or if it’s going to be about the events of this installment (in some fantasy land, an elf brings a living nightmare back from his sleep… or something along those lines). Since the writing’s so tied to the confusing plot, it’s mostly about Nixey’s art. He combines […]

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Dark Horse Presents 117 (January 1997)

Okay, Dr. Spin and Trypto come around a little here. First, Rennie finally finds some kind of narrative for his characters (reassembling a disbanded team) to go along with all the comic book jokes. Though he does coin the title, “Infinite Crisis,” here. A shame he couldn’t sue DC. Langridge’s art is excellent, but the […]

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