As a reviewer, I get opportunities to read comics that I normally wouldn’t have the chance to. I’m not exactly a rich man and some of the smaller and creator owned titles get shuffled under the mass marketing of Marvel and DC. So when this comic was pitched to me, I was all for the opportunity to review Mae. And now I need to throw down an extra $4 a month because I’m adding this to my pull-list (that is, unless I get to review it every month *wink wink*). Thanks a lot Al.
So, I didn’t know there was a name for it, but there is a sub-genre of fantasy called “portal fantasy” that I’ve loved my whole life. The Wizard of Oz, Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, and The Chronicles of Narnia all fall under this umbrella. Portal fantasy involves traveling from the “real” world to a fantasy place through some unconventional means like Platform 9 ¾. Mae flips the script by basing the story in our world with the portal leaking otherworldly elements in. The story’s title character is a college student whose flighty sister has returned home out of blue after nine years and landed herself in hot water. Abbie is bailed out by Mae and comes cleans as to her absence: She has been the active ruler of a tribe of talking cats called Mnoukove in another world with monsters and magic. Naturally, Mae is skeptical until that world emerges into the light and Abbie is there to confront it head on. Mae finds herself along for the ride and I feel as though it’ll be a fun one.
Gene Ha delivers in spades. This is my first experience with his work, despite a long successful career, and I really enjoy what he brings to the table. First, I’ll address the artwork, since that’s where most of his experience is. The style is smooth with slightly exaggerated facial features but overall anatomical correctness. He seems to really understand lighting concepts and utilizes his skills throughout the book. I love the captioning style, with a ton of variation in size, font, and coloring. Colors are frequently my favorite part of comics, which I don’t get since I’ve been diagnosed as colorblind for years now. Colorblind or not, these hues pop. Gene is unconventional in his hair and eye color, which really gives the characters extra depth. Mae and Abbie both have golden eyes and magenta hair, and their companion Dahlia has strawberry hair with lime green eyes. From what I can tell, the inhabitants of the dimension from which Abbie returned is mostly inhabited by cute and fluffy creatures of varying demeanor’s, with some big baddies we have yet to encounter. The one character we encounter is a short hairy guy with fangs and a sword, disguised in glasses and a hoodie.
This is Gene Ha’s first time writing (aside from an Iron Fist story years ago) and it’s surprising how good it is. Generally, when a creator specializes in a faction of the comics community, other aspects have their growth stunted. The story flows from this guy and I can tell he’s been sitting on it for a while. He openly references places like Oz and Neverland to create a template image for the audience to base the portal world on. Some creators would shy away from that, but if this is to be believed as our world, the real world, then of course you’d use any pop culture you could to relay your point. The characters and races are unique to Mae and it reads like true conversation. Look forward to seeing where this is headed in months to come.
So, when I first read the comic, I thought it ended abruptly, like there was still more in this issue. After some research though, I discovered that it WAS cut down the middle because this is not the first time Mae has seen print. Gene Ha first presented this as a Kickstarter project a while back and Dark Horse is reprinting the story in two parts before starting with new content starting with issue three. This is good for me, since I had no idea about the Kickstarter (and let’s face it, I can’t afford to back stuff like this on my budget). The reception was so good that Gene Ha is making more of his pet project and that sends me over the moon. I look forward to seeing even more of the portal world’s influence in the second act (second issue, that is) of Mae. I highly recommend checking this out, as it is not only fantastical but also…
Fantastic, Five out of Five Stars
Mae #1 – MAR160051
Gene Ha (W), Gene Ha (A) – Ongoing