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The Maze Agency is an American mystery comic book series created by Mike W. Barr and first published in 1988. It revolves around a pair of detectives (Jennifer Mays and Gabriel Webb) and their adventures solving puzzling murders. It was first published by Comico Comics for 7 issues in 1988-1989, and when that company ceased operations, it was picked up by Innovation Comics for another 16 issues (8-23), continuing the numbering and running to 1991 plus an annual and a special. Caliber Comics brought it back in the late 90s as a three-issue miniseries. IDW Publishing then published 3 issues in the early 2000s.

The Maze Agency was a "fair-play" detective series, where the readers were presented with the same clues the characters were, and thus an equal chance to solve the crimes.

The main characters are:

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  • Jennifer Mays: A smart, tough, and sexy ex-CIA agent who runs the private detective agency for which the comic is named. Gabriel Webb is one of the few people to see her softer, tender side.
  • Gabriel Webb: A true-crime writer who longs to create more cerebral stories than his sensationalist editors like. He's a little scatterbrained and easily distracted, but has a first-rate deductive mind. Although, he's romantically involved with Mays and helps her with many of her cases, he feels that the relationship makes accepting her repeated offer to join her business professionally inappropriate.
  • Detective Roberta Bliss: An NYPD homicide detective of Puerto Rican descent whom Webb and Mays often deal with in solving cases. She is sometimes annoyed by their tendency to complicate cases, but knows that they have the ability to crack murders that she'd have a hard time solving alone.
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  • Ashley Swift: The head of the rival Swift Detective Agency, and Jennifer's former boss. She's a good detective, though not as good as Jen and Gabe, but her arrogance has a habit of rubbing her ex-employee the wrong way.


Tropes:

  • Accidental Murder: In #7, the killer never intended to kill anyone. They were attempting to erase sensitive information on the Victim of the Week's computer using a powerful electromagnet. However, the victim - who was seated at his computer at the time - had a bullet lodged in his chest from an earlier wound. The electromagnet shifted the steel bullet, which hit his heart, killing him: leaving a seemingly impossible murder of someone who had been shot in the heart with no entrance wound.
  • Action Girlfriend: The main characters are a boyfriend/girlfriend pair who solve crimes. Gabe, the male half, is a Non-Action Guy who frequently needs to be bailed out of trouble by Jen, an ex-CIA agent turned Private Eye.
  • The Alleged Car: Gabe's beater.
  • Always Murder
  • As the Good Book Says...: As a former student of theology, Gabe is able to pull out an appropriate bible quotation whenever he needs one.
  • Body in a Breadbox: In "Death Warmed Over" a body was stuffed into a drum of liquid nitrogen.
  • Bucket Booby-Trap: In #6, the killer balances a bowl of acid atop a door which splashes Gabe on his arm as he rushes through the door.
  • Calling Card: Gentleman Thief 'The Rogue'. His Calling Card is a note informing his victims that their stolen paintings have been selected for his 'Rogue's Gallery' and 'signed' with a cartoon figure (a'la The Saint's haloed stick figure).
  • Catchphrase: Gabe's "It's as simple as gravity" whenever he experiences a Eureka Moment.
  • Ceiling Banger: In #8, Gabe's downstairs neighbour yells abuse at him and he pounds on the floor with his shoe to get her to shut up. The animosity between them becomes an issue when she is murdered.
  • Clear Their Name: In #15, Lieutenant Bliss is accused of murdering her ex-husband. So Jennifer Mays goes undercover to find the real killer.
  • Clock Discrepancy: In one story, Gabe accidentally yanks the killer's wristwatch off his wrist during a struggle. Noticing that the watch is three hours behind, Gabe realises that the killer had just flown in from the west coast.
  • Closed Circle: Gabe and Jen are stranded on island with a (literal) boatload of suspects when the boat that brought them there is blown up in #20. And then someone is murdered following a séance...
  • Comic-Book Time: Each series takes place in the year in which it was published. Hence, an issue from the 80s has a hospital that had just computerized, while one from the most recent series has Gabe receiving pictures on his cell phone. Jennifer and Gabe stay in their thirties throughout.
  • Cool Car: Jennifer's 1958 Corvette.
  • Dead Man's Chest: In "Moving Stiffs" in The Maze Agency Annual #1, a dead body turns up in one of Gabe's moving boxes when he is moving into Jennifer's apartment. Naturally this leads Gabe and Jen into investigating where the body came from.
  • Death in the Clouds: "The Mile High Corpse"
  • Dirty Harriet: Lt. Bliss poses as a hooker in The Maze Agency Annual story that was a homage to The Spirit.
  • Dolled-Up Installment: "The Case of the Vanishing Vehicle" in #3 started life as a script Mike. W. Barr wrote to submit to Banacek before the series was cancelled. This explains why the plot deals with an 'impossible' theft, rather than a murder like the rest of the series.
  • Dying Clue: Multiple examples.
  • Eureka Moment: In almost every issue, some seemingly random comment or event will start the gears spinning in Gabe's head and cause him to suddenly see the soloution to the current mystery.
  • Expy: Senor Lobo was an acknowledged expy of Hercule Poirot.
  • Fair Cop: Jennifer Mays
  • Fair-Play Whodunnit
  • Femme Fatalons: The murderer in one issue used her long nails to slit her victim's thraot. The vital clue was that she cut her nails immediately afterward to hide the evidence.
  • Friend on the Force: Lt. Bliss
  • Gentleman Thief: The Rogue (who never actually appears on stage) (at least, not AS the Rogue; he does show up as his "civilian" identity). His Calling Card is a note informing his victims that their stolen paintings have been selected for his 'Rogue's Gallery' and 'signed' with a cartoon figure (a'la The Saint's haloed stick figure).
  • Girl-on-Girl Is Hot: In "The Two Wrong Rhoades", Jen and Ashley (both dressed in Spy Catsuits) end up grappling each other in a darkened room. Upon hitting the lights, Gabe's reaction is:
    "With a few gallons of mud, and some beer, my evening would be complete!"
  • Great Detective: Gabe
  • Hero's Classic Car: Jen drives a 1958 Corvette in mint condition. It's a real turn-on for Gabe.
  • Inspector Lestrade: Ashley Swift. She is actually a skilled detective, but not quite as good as Jennifer and Gabe, and tends to let her rivalry with Jennifer get the best of her.
  • Instant Book Deal: In one issue, Gabe is ecstatic when he signs a deal to publish a paperback collection of his lurid true crime articles. This is not unreasonable as Gabe is true crime writer with several years in the industry. However, when he rushes to tell Jen the news, he discovers that she has just signed a deal for a hardback book based on her career as a female P.I.; her first foray into writing.
  • Invented Individual: #16 involves a mysterious, reclusive author of a series of best-selling romance novels named Desiree Brandywine. It turns out that Desiree Brandywine is a pseudonym for a group of writers from one particular publishing house. Bored at a company retreat, they took turns writing chapters in a deliberately trashy romance novel. The novel was published and became a surprise hit, so they kept writing. Then someone starts murdering members of the writing group...
  • Jack the Ripper: The killer uses the Jack the Ripper killings as inspiration for a Serial Killings, Specific Target gambit in "The Return of Jack the Ripper...?".
  • Jar Potty: When Gabe complains about how uncomfortable long stake-outs are, Jen says that he is lucky as he can at least pee into a tennis ball container.
  • Literal Cliffhanger: In #8, Gabe gets knocked off the roof of his building by the killer. He manages to grab hold of a TV antenna that bends alarmingly and leaves him dangling over the side of the building. Jen manages to grab him and haul him back just before the antenna snaps.
  • Locked Room Mystery: Multiple examples.
  • Lost in the Maize: In "The Crimes, They Are A-Changing", a murder is committed in a cornfield maze and the body strung up as scarecrow to hide it.
  • Molotov Cocktail: In "The Return of Jack the Ripper...?", the killer uses a petrol bomb as a distraction when they attempt to kill Gabe.
  • Mystery Magnet
  • Mystery Of The Issue
  • Mystery Writer Detective: Gabe. Well, True Crime writer but close enough.
  • Never Found the Body: Dr. Rune at the end of "A Night at the Rose Petal".
  • Non-Action Guy: Gabe invariably comes of second best in any fight he gets into; usually having to be recued by Jen.
  • Noodle Incident: Jen apparently once cleared Ashley's name when Ashley was accused of murdering her husband. The details of this case are never revealed.
  • Not-So-Fake Prop Weapon: In "The Death of Justice Girl", the actress playing Justice Girl is killed when the murderer swaps out a pistol loaded with blanks for one loaded with live ammo.
  • Orgy of Evidence: "The Mile High Corpse"
  • Phantom Thief: The Rogue
  • Private Detective: Jennifer
  • The Radio Dies First: #20 uses the sabotage variant, smashing the radio and then blowing up the boat to strand the characters on an isolated island.
  • The Rival: Ashley Swift
  • Romance Cover Scene: The cover of #16 ("Fires of Love") - which centres around a series of murders in the publishing industry - features Gabe and Jen as characters on a romance novel cover.
  • Serial Killings, Specific Target: "The Return of Jack the Ripper...?"
  • Shoot Out the Lock: Lt. Bliss does this in "The Return of Jack the Ripper...?", when she, Jen and Gabe converge on the apartment where the killer is holding their last intended victim.
  • Show Within a Show: Justice Girl is a comic within a comic.
  • Slipping a Mickey: Happens to Gabe in "A Night at the Rose Petal" (which was a homage to The Spirit).
  • Smug Snake: Dr. Rune.
  • Spot the Imposter: In "Two Wrong Rhodes", three women come forward all claiming to be lost heir to a fortune, and Jen and Gabe have to work out which one is genuine.
  • Spy Catsuit: Jennifer wears one whenever she is on a stealth mission. One issue reveals that Ashley has copied the look, much to Jen's annoyance.
  • The Summation: Done by Gabe in just about every issue. Occasionally Lampshaded by having another character think they've solved the mystery and do the summation, only for Gabe to explain why they are wrong and provide the true solution.
  • Summation Gathering
  • Theme Serial Killer: The Ripperologist killer murders the members of the club in an order based on one of Jack the Ripper's poems.
  • Throw the Book at Them: Gabe gets hit in the face by a roleplaying book when a fleeing suspect overturns a table in #22. The book is open to a chapter titled "Pain".
  • Undercover Cop Reveal: Happens twice in "A Night at the Rose Petal".
  • Vehicular Sabotage: In #3, the criminal replaces the tyre on the test driver's car with a defective one, knowing that it will blow out on the rough road he will be driving over.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: While the series was "fair" in that it gave the readers the same clues as the characters, it was acknowledged by the creators themselves as being far too complex for most people to solve.
  • Victim of the Issue

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