Hanging between two realms: Ranson and Grant's classic Mazeworld
Alan Grant and Arthur Ranson
Mazeworld is a complete story, here in one volume, and it’s a fine piece of classic British comic book storytelling, brought back into print by Rebellion who listened to a lot of fans (see Richard’s post here) who made it clear this was a classic story they wanted to read again.
Adam Cadmam is standing on the hangman’s trap, a modern executioner’s noose around his neck, in a Britain which is a little out of step with our own, it seems. As the trap drops and he falls to what is inevitable to us all, something strange occurs, and in the moment where one expects life to flash before one’s eyes, he is transposed to another realm, Mazeworld.
In the real world, the hanging is botched; he is not dead. In Mazeworld he appears as the legendary Hooded Man, a man of the people, a hero of old. And the people of Mazeworld desperately need a hero, and so his adventure begins.
Grant and Ranson have created a wonderful fantasy world. Its legends and lore are well thought through, its political system and status a key to the society, and a brilliantly realised set of fantastical creatures complement the characters in this quasi-medieval world.
The world, based, as the title suggests, on mazes, was built as a link to heaven via yep, you guessed it, a maze. The emperor has journeyed into this maze, leaving a power vacuum in his wake with various Lords vying for control, happy to attack or keep watch on other Lord’s mazed cities. As they face rebellions from within, they appear tyrannical, as they would seem to us with a dictatorial feudal system.
There’s much to this world, which seems to rise above clouds and abut the sky, with demons below in the bowels occupying the nether world between earth and heaven and a world beyond the known Mazeworld below the clouds. It’s wonderful.
Into this our modern day criminal is flung and he is mistaken, to his chagrin, for the heroic Hooded Man, but although he can see through his hangman’s hood, and there is only the neck part of his noose attached, he cannot remove it. Straight away he is in peril as Lord’s men seek to capture him, yet when a rebel intervenes to free him, he is subsequently selfish and uncaring and saving his own skin is paramount to him. But this motivation and act is self destructive as he finds his noose constricts around his neck. A harsh method to learn your rights and wrongs, but it is effective, and soon we see that he changes some of his behaviour because he seems to want to rather than because he is forced.
And along with this classic world, that’s the element to the character that I loved. I wondered if Cadman was a reference to the lowly cowardly officer in the old boy’s comic Victor, who repeatedly was the bane of hard fighting honest men, for this Cadman initially seems equally irredeemable, a horrible man who is utterly conceited and uncaring for anything or anyone except himself. The story of his journey and his own realisation of what is correct is at times subtle but key throughout and very enjoyable.
Cadman phases in and out of Mazeworld, and as he does so we see him in a hospital, unconscious, and soon to be experimented upon given his unusual brain activity. This element creates a lovely link between the real world and the Mazeworld.
And the Mazeworld is something to behold: flying creatures which are steeds for men, a terrifically realised fantasy world with beautiful buildings and brilliantly drawn weaponry, and this quest of an individual of questionable character who finds himself drawn by the good cause despite himself, or because he wants to.
Arthur Ranson has a fantastic style of artwork. It is anatomically correct fine line work that is rare currently in comics. His style brings out the detail in characters and is very skilled at architecture. The sky view of the Mazeworld is lovely and the winged demons are especially neat. His work is classic, not only in the sense that he has been a professional artist for some time, but also in that his style would not be out of place in classic comics such as Epic Illustrated, Eagle, Victor. The comic has a timeless quality to it.
Overall a very enjoyable read.
You can hear an interview with Arthur Ranson on the North East Geek Feast podcast here.