Review: Mazeworld / Writer: Alan Grant / Artist: Arthur Ranson / Publisher: Rebellion / Released: OUT NOW
An encounter with a man serving time for killing his brother led Alan Grant to write one of the most original stranger in a strange land sagas – and it is now back in print.
Maybe it is a sign then, that Mazeworld has been published in one trade paperback exactly 46 years to the month when the last man in England was sentenced to death by hanging (the sentence was commuted to life and the convict later died in a car crash).
The reason that bears some relevance is that anti-hero Adam Cadman is plunged into the Aztec labyrinth themed alternate world when he is hung for the murder of his brother. What follows is a fish out of water tale as the convict – now mystically-bonded to his hood and noose – is reluctantly cast into the role of the returned hero, The Hooded One, to overthrow the despot Maze Lords and restore the status quo.
The story may not be original but the way it is told and the premise certainly is. Every time Cadman strays from the righteous path sees him being throttled by his noose – and stray he does. His first act in the magical Mazeworld is to throw his female rescuer at his pursuers.
The mystery behind all this is how did he end up there? And where is there? Is it a bona fide Narnia or Wonderland, or is it just a fever dream as he dies at the end of a rope?
There would be no “there” for Cadman to explore without the photo-realistic drawings of Arthur Ranson. Aside from the grim and gritty illustrations are the panel borders – beautiful simple mazes that turn and swoop into themselves – along with head-bending multi-layered labyrinths that look like a Möbius strip twisted into infinity.
Grant, who was serving time himself some four decades ago for possession of half an LSD tablet when he encountered the story-inspiring killer, also upped his literary game from his previous work on Judge Dredd, Judge Anderson and Batman. The Kaballah-ists may have spotted Adam Cadman shares his name with “the primordial man”, the first being who spawns the world and redeems it. Over the three books collected in Mazeworld – The Hanged Man, The Dark Man and The Hell Maze – Cadman, a hated and wretched figure guilty of aping the first murder in one reality turns into a Messiah figure of another.
A Facebook campaign was launched to get the original 1998 series reprinted and, while it is unknown if credit for Mazeworld’s rebirth belongs to it, one thing is certain: it is good to see a contemporary swords-and-sorcery classic navigate its way back into the light of day. A-maze-ing stuff.