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By Molly Jane Kremer. After an incredibly successful Kickstarter campaign, Dark Horse comics quickly snagged Gene Ha’s creator-owned, all-ages series Mae for publication. While I’ve already gone on – in exquisite detail – about my love for Mae‘s hardcover (the first half of which you’ll find in this debut issue), I found myself pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it in comic book form too. I’d go so far as to say that these thirty-two pages work even better as a single-issue comic, with just the right amount of rising action and suspense to really drag a new reader in.

Four new pages have been added to the preexisting story, serving as a prologue that brings a new angle to Mae and Abbie’s relationship. It creates depth and nuance for newbie readers, immersing you all the more quickly into this intricately crafted world. (Also, teeny tiny kiddo Mae is totally the cutest.) Ha’s art has always been incredibly dynamic, but the movement and expression in Mae are that of an artist at the top of his game. There is immense depth in the colors, assisted by Rose McClain: they’re bold and bright and striking, bringing a Pixar-esque effect to all the fun goings-on.

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Ha has obviously been paying attention and honing his skills while working alongside comics luminaries like Moore, Meltzer, and Morrison, enough so that Mae, his first foray into solo long-form story construction, reads like anything but. Timing and pacing is excellent throughout, and the Fortell sisters’ characterization and their wonderfully (frustratingly) complex relationship serves as the comic’s cornerstone, promising tangible, tantalizing character development in the future. My only complaint is (while the cast is majority female, certainly a plus) no POC’s have shown up as of yet, which will hopefully and assumedly be corrected very soon.

The issue itself manages to achieve a certain darkness without losing its optimism, teasing us with inevitable dramatic complications without letting anything overly-serious spill over and overwhelm the narrative completely. Mae is a tale over a decade in the telling, and Ha’s exuberance for the material is barely contained in these beautiful pages. This glorious positivity makes for a comic that wears its heart on its sleeve, which, fittingly enough, makes it Midwestern as heck. Warm-hearted and immersive, Mae already feels like a comic series I’ve been reading, voraciously, for years and years.

Dark Horse Comics/$3.99

Written and illustrated by Gene Ha.

Color assist by Rose McClain.

Letters by Zander Cannon.

9.5 out of 10

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