Mae is the type of series written for fantasy nerds who want a little something new. It quickly blew me away and it’s one of my most anticipated series every month…but that doesn’t mean it might trip up! Question is, is it good?
Mae #3 (Dark Horse)
So what’s this book about? The official Dark Horse summary reads:
As Mae and her sister venture deeper into the fantasy world on the hunt for their kidnapped father, the sisters find new supernatural allies and meet dangerous enemies determined to bring them down.
Why does this book matter?
Gene Ha has slowly revealed the magical world to the title character Mae in the real world and now it’s time to enter that world! The tidbits we’ve seen are glorious so seeing it all in every panel is going to mean a lot more cool creatures and fantasy ideas in this issue. And, need I remind you Gene Ha was awarded the 1994 Russ Manning Most Promising Newcomer Award and has won four Eisner Awards?
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
This issue opens with Abbie and Mae walking to the town of Krunýrves and in one sweeping full page spread Ha forces your mouth agape at the epic nature of the city. It’s exactly the type of image that should introduce us to this magical world and it sets up what turns out to be a joy of a read. Ha simply stuffs this issue with a lot of cool fantasy elements, callouts to Harry Potter and other nerd fiction, and a robustly detailed world. As you turn the pages you’re filled with glee as you don’t know what is in store. A panel may include beaver miners, or carnivorous flowers, or strange hulking turtle people. There’s a lot to take in and it’s incredibly enjoyable.
It’s not all sightseeing though, as Abbie and Mae must fight through a slew of pirates who attack via a flying ship made of ghost wood. Ha infuses little details like that into nearly every page which makes the world feel more real. There’s also an interesting bit of commentary in regards to African Americans and their lack of appearances in fantasy worlds. Abbie gets to show off her fighting skills and Mae even lends a hand which is something considering she can’t fight like an action hero. The issue ends with the plot thickening just enough and Mae befriending a new character.
You’ll enjoy the art of course, but also the sound effects too! A fantastic “chudd!” is used at one point that has a cool shadow effect behind it. Ha continues to use less complex layouts that tend to contain as little as three panels per page, but it never slows things down. Instead, you’re left enjoying his detailed panels for longer, the dialogue rests a bit easier, and it allows the story to have a good pace. It helps that the art is gorgeous, the colors are vivid and a lot of time is spent on the details. In one panel for instance, we see Abbie and Mae walking in a street as stone men push a train car up a ramped train track. In the distance we can see a flying ship, tall buildings and mountains. As if there’s a fog rolling through the city, we see all of these things through a haze and that increases the magical feel of the surroundings.
It can’t be perfect can it?
There are a few–not too many now–awkward faces here and there. It’s nitpicking for sure, but Abbie has a strange face that’s flat in a later panel as she’s on some folks’ shoulders, and Mae’s mouth is so far agape at one point she might as well have a broken jaw.
Why would you want those kinds of flowers?
Is It Good?
There’s a lot to love and all this goodness combines to make Mae simply delightful.