How hard must it be to be a cartoon skunk? If you’re Melissa “Meli” Meni’ak from Dave “CrikeyDave” Smith’s adventure strip Maiz, odor stereotypes and jokes aren’t anything you really have to be concerned about. Your setting and the various creatures you encounter are enough to contend with as it is, especially when your partner is something you and most of the population haven’t seen before- a human.
While traveling the globe and trying to decipher some ancient markings, Meli suddenly finds herself in the middle of a raid on a town by a dangerous gang of bandits, led by a goat named Gruff (of course) hoping to join an organization known as The Legion. In the midst of trying to save the day, she’s suddenly assisted by a strange young man in a hoodie, carrying a shield with the same symbols she’s researching.
Clad in a bizarre (but cutely rendered, as is common with CrikeyDave’s art direction) skull mask, Jaz Jumpstart is not just any ordinary homo sapien either, but one who possess a mark on his body that symbolizes “maiz”, the universe’s term for life energy. It allows the characters in the story to perform a variety of supernatural feats, in Meli’s case the ability to summon a powerful double edged wizard staff. She discovered this talent as a child, after finding a strange jewel in a cave.
As Meli is ever the scholarly nerd, since then she’s been searching for any sort of significance to the fragment- the “universe within the stone”. To her chagrin, Jaz’s caretaker Rosy insist he accompany Meli to an ancient shrine that just might contain the answers she wants. Soon joined by the diminutive sheep like creature Gunthorp the Mighty (needless to say, Jaz came up with the name, which Meli dislikes), the two make for a pretty contentious pair but eventually grow closer. Meanwhile, the mysterious Lt.Bullseye, a prominent Legion member, is gunning for our plucky odd couple, and her interactions with Gruff are pretty entertaining.
Many of the monsters Meli and Jaz run into are extremely remiscient of RPG enemies, including black spider like creeps that look like a cross between the Heartless from Kingdom Hearts and the slimes from Dragon Quest. Adding Meli and Jaz’s abilities on top of that, there are numerous scenes like these that convince me Maiz would be perfectly suited for a video game concept.
Smith’s art direction is well suited for a wide variety of character models, with the majority of the cast being funny animals. His depiction of action scenes is both exciting as well as comical- in fact, there are many panels with wild expression and movement that resemble a mix of Eiichiro Oda’s (One Piece) work. Combined with the way the story gradually unfolds, Maiz is comfortable with dramatic tension as well as wild takes and fun slapstick- slapstick that won’t insult your intelligence.
Of course, this alone isn’t the core of Maiz‘s appeal. That falls on the shoulders of Meli and Jaz, who are a rather likable pair. The skunk adventurer is initially intimidated by the young boy, put off by his lack of claws and fur, but she eventually warms up to him. Jaz for his part is an endearing optimist, and they both have moments of vulnerability, heroism, and as they say in the wrestling business, “showing ass” in the more comedic scenes.
Maiz is a high spirited, action filled and humorous comic that has some striking artwork and a diverse and unique cast. Not to mention it’s so far an intriguing story that’s generally appropriate for most audiences, and something I could easily see marketed to an even larger potential audience. Easy recommended, and you can find it here!