‘Mazing Man Special (#1) – Bob Rozakis

3 out of 5

It’s so fitting that ‘Mazing Man received multiple specials on the regular after its canceled series. Indirectly representative of its lead character – Sigfried Hunch, the under 5′, un-powered human who dresses in a cape and boxers and does good deeds ’round the neighborhood as ‘Mazing Man – the comic book tried real hard, and never quite fit in, but kept trying; the specials carry on with that tradition – the series keeps getting up, over and again.

That idea is less meta represented within this first of those specials, as we open with ‘Mazing Man missing, looks-like-a-pooch Denton on the verge of getting fired, and Brenda and Eddie expecting their child literally any minute… Things are changing, and Sigfried might not be around, but the world moves on. Writer Bob Rozakis and penciller Stephen DeStephano focus on this juxtaposition, with Denton the hapless half of the tale, and our soon-to-be-parents all energy and joy; meanwhile, K.P. and Guido provide cutaway noise and slapstick in the form of a driving lesson given to the former by the latter.

It’s a full 40-page story, not the usual 2-per-book setup. While I wouldn’t necessarily say ‘Maze’s series would’ve been stronger in this format, I do think it’s conducive to when Bob and Stephen are at their bests, just letting the story squash and stretch organically, popping in with jokes and drama when it feels right, and not aiming for a closing punchline. When the dual stories ping-ponged off of each other in this fashion, it made for some really brilliant issues, but often they ended up with Archie-style gag strips. Here, not rushed for that conclusion, we can really get down with the relative tragedy and comedy, and the dialogue isn’t forced to be as copy-heavy as before, meaning some of the commentary that rolls through – mainly surrounding Brenda’s forthcoming maternity leave, and the gender stereotypes her job puts upon her because of that – is very natural.

But part of the ‘Maze formula is imperfection, and that’s here as well. Bob doesn’t affect Denton’s emotional arc perfectly, making his behaviors feel rather flippant, and K.P. and Guido are clearly just stuffed in there for no reason except so they appear. And while DeStephano’s art is amazingly animated, he really pushes the surreality and cartoonishness this time, and frankly, it undermines part of the book’s appeal, which is to have singular weird elements – ‘Maze, Denton – in an otherwise real world. When you make the whole thing into Bob Plimpton-styled weirdness, the more serious aspects fall away. (Although the Disney-esque sequence is a stroke of genius.)

Still, it’s undeniably great to have this check-in back to this particular corner of the DCverse, and again, the fact that it’s sort of clunky is rather true to the spirit of the book.