The Maze Agency
Jennifer Mays And Gabriel Webb
Created by Mike W. Barr

One of the longer-running P.I. comic books is The Maze Agency,which ran for twenty-three issues in the early nineties, plus several specials, one-shots, and the like, making it the second-longest running English-language P.I. series, after MS. TREE. The stories tended to the more traditional Golden Age mystery, particularly the ELLERY QUEEN/impossible crime vein, rather than taking the hardboiled approach, but they're good, satisfying yarns, nonetheless. And the characters were definitely not throwbacks to a past era, but certifiably contemporary.

The New York-based Maze Agency is owned and operated by JENNIFER MAYS, ex-CIA operative and former poor little rich girl. Young, drop-dead gorgeous, cooly professional and extremely efficient, she often finds her boyfriend/lover, GABRIEL WEBB, tangled up in her cases. Gabe's a true-crime writer, a sloppy, impulsive goodhearted Joe who can't believe a girl like Jen will even give him the time of day, never mind love him.

But she does-Jen and Gabe's relationship, complete with witty play-by-play, serves as the foundation of this series. It's a real relationship, suitably adult, and their differences make them an interesting, appealing and very effective combination. She's always dressed impeccably, he tends to to raggedy jeans and Patrick Henry University (his alma mater) sweatshirts. She never has a hair out of place, he usually needs a shave. She works out and is a member of the New York Smal Businesswoman's Club, he's a couch potato and bookworm. She drives a classic red and white 1955 Corvette, he drives a multi-hued old clunker. She's ready to slug it out with the bad guys, he'd rather call in the cops. Imagine Moonlighting with plots. Imagine DAVID and MADDY as adults.

And rounding out the cast are a slew of colourful characters: Lieutenant Roberta "Bobbie" Bliss, tough, ambitious, gum-snapping NYPD Homicide cop; her partner, overweight, stogie-chomping "schlub" Seargeant Stubbs; Ashley Swift, owner of Swift Investigations, Jen's former employee, tall, elegant, cold, she's not content to be Jennifer's business rival--she wants Gabe, too. And in a nifty bit of role reversal, there's Sandy, Jen's long-suffering "male" secretary. And let's not forget Jen's constantly bickering parents.

A great series! Too bad it didn't last more than twenty or so issues. Still, in the world of comic books never say never. A new Maze Agency story appeared in 1993 in THE DETECTIVES, an anthology of comic book detectives. And a short story appeared in 1994 in the first issue of NOIR. And Caliber seems to have brought it back for at least a few more issues at least, as recently as 1998.

And in 2005, IDW not only resurrected the series once again, but began publishing an ambitious series of trade paperbacks that will supposedly reprint the entire series.





Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith

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