Writer & Artist: Gene Ha / With Help From: Rose McClain and Zander Cannon / Dark Horse Comics
I found something new! And because I’m a good friend, I’m going to share it with you. I bring you Mae, written and illustrated by Gene Ha, or as he styles himself on the cover, Gene Ha!, which I find the right combination of self-referential and punny, so I’ll be addressing him that way from now on. Mr. Ha! has three Eisner awards under his belt for his work with Alan Moore (Top 10) and one more from his work with Brad Meltzer (JLA #11). Ha! is now with Dark Horse comics writing and drawing his own project about Mae Fortell and her struggles with her here-now gone-later sister, Abbie. Where does Abbie go? Why does she keep abandoning Mae with her ailing father? Who does her tailoring? These are the questions Mae the comic will solve, at least I hope so.
Mae opens with a perfect, simple illustration of small town, Midwestern life:
The big cloudless sky, the purple tone of twilight, the strange little man wandering the streets. It isn’t a busy, active shot, but it tells you so much about where Mae is now, living in a place that bi-coastal people refer to as “fly-over country.” But that doesn’t mean it is all bad, right?
That geek shout-out perfectly summarizes the tone of the first issue. Ha! Knows his reliable audience while also inviting new readers in. The story of the sister left behind is accessible — it is practically an archetype in the fantasy genre — but updated. Mae isn’t sitting waiting to be saved, even as she dreams of leaving town. What she is, is responsible, a trait that sets her up in contrast to her sister, who reappears on this particular evening, requesting a pickup from the local police station.
Where has she been? What’s she been doing? What’s with the funny clothes?
Mae isn’t buying any of this, but by the end of the issue she at least knows what the axes are for.
The art is a blend of digital sleek and hand drawn sketchiness, with a muted color palette that switches to all blue/grey at every right moment. So far, the cast is all-white and all-female, but the hints of the plot allow for that to change. This a good start to a comic that has plenty of room to grow. I feel like I’ve just opened a door and am peeking around the edge to see what’s on the other side. I’m walking through. If you’re looking for a new fantasy title, you may want to also.