Beyond the Glade: Boom! Studios’ Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials Comic

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Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials

Writers: Wes Ball & T.S. Nowlin, Jackson Lanzing & Collin Kelly
Artists: Marcus To, Nick Robles, Andrea Mutti, Tom Derenick
Colors: Josan Gonzalez, Vladimir Popov, Whitney Cogar
Letters: Deron Bennett, Jim Campbell
Boom! Studios
June 2015

Even if you’ve already seen The Scorch Trials, the second installment of The Maze Runner trilogy and based on the bestselling YA book series by James Dashner, you haven’t fully experienced the Scorch until you’ve read the official movie prelude comics. James Dasher’s introduction is generous, supportive, and admirably humble. He writes:

The biggest accomplishment of my writing career has been creating a world in which millions of others have willingly found themselves lost. (It’s still so hard to believe!)

[…]

No one is more familiar with the novels than I am, and yet the films let me live that world and the characters in a way I never have before.

[…]

This is how I see the movies, side-stories, art, fan fiction [sic], and the WCKD websites developed by the creative team behind the films.

[…]

The books will always be there. Thomas, Alby, Teresa, Minho, Newt, Chuck, Gally—all of them live, and sometimes die, within those pages. Nothing ever will change within those volumes. Keep them on your shelves and open them up when you want those original, familiar moments.

Now, I invite you to step inside our playground for new adventures, new angles, new interpretations, new twists and turns. Familiar and different all at once. Come on in, and enjoy the ride.

As someone who has been involved with fandom for over two decades, it’s nice to see an author who gets it, and Dashner gets it. More than the lip service paid by creators to fans about how appreciative they are of their support, Dashner’s words indicate that he views other people playing in the world he’s created to be the most awesome thing he’s ever had the privilege of experiencing. It’s the J.K. Rowling approach, and it’s fantastic to see.

The trade paperback is described as a graphic novel, but it is not a single story. It’s a collection of five stories with five different combinations of writers and artists. And the Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials comic has a misleading title: while the stories in this prelude are all stories that take place before The Scorch Trials movie, most of them also take place before The Maze Runner, or are concurrent side stories. The book provides backstory, context, and history to the cinematic universe, and these stories are important not just for the worldbuilding aspect, but also because of who is doing the telling. Three of the five stories are from the perspective of POC characters, and two of the five are from women.

Spoilers to follow.

“Run Alone”
Story by Wes Ball & T.S. Nowlin
Script by Jackson Lanzing & Collin Kelly
Pencils by Marcus To
Inks by Richard Zajac & Marcus To
Colors by Josan Gonzalez
Letters by Deron Bennett

Screenshot_2015-09-25-13-23-27

“Run Alone” is the first story. It’s set before The Maze Runner movie, and it’s told from Minho’s perspective. Minho is one of my favorite characters, and I loved getting a chance to see his take on the maze, runners, and life before Thomas. The artwork is moody, a study in contrasts with light and shadows, and fits well with the movie’s aesthetic. It feels complementary to the world, but its identity is also wholly dependent on that cinematic depiction. 

“My Friend George”
Written by Wes Ball & T.S. Nowlin
Art by Marcus To
Colors by Josan Gonzalez
Letters by Deron Bennett

Screenshot_2015-09-25-13-22-13

This story is from Alby’s perspective, also set before The Maze Runner movie, and it kind of broke my heart. Alby was the first, and this vignette poignantly illustrates what that meant in Alby’s own words, and gives us further insight into his fears and motivations. My only complaint is that this story is only a scant six pages, the shortest of all the stories, and it’s the one I wanted to be the longest.

“True Maze”
Written by Jackson Lanzing & Collin Kelly
Art by Nick Robles
Colors by Josan Gonzalez
Letters by Jim Campbell

Screenshot_2015-09-25-13-21-25

Set concurrently with The Maze Runner film, this story is told from the perspective of Aris, who was from the other maze—the one that contained mostly girls, with Aris as the one boy, a kind of mirror to the Gladers’ maze where Teresa was the only girl among boys. We get to see the society the girls created, and the challenges they faced in their maze filled with ice, snow, and something even more scary than the Grievers. This story also demonstrates one of the strengths of Dashner’s universe—there’s so much more that could be told, and the story of the girls-only society prior to Aris’s arrival would be a fantastic new addition. 

“Scorched”
Written by Jackson Lanzing & Collin Kelly
Art by Andrea Mutti
Colors by Vladimir Popov
Letters by Jim Campbell

Screenshot_2015-09-25-13-19-48

Brenda and Jorge are introduced in The Scorch Trials book and film, and this is their backstory, also set concurrently (we assume) with The Maze Runner film. Their story can act as a pre-movie introduction to these two characters, but it also provides a real look at the world outside the maze. It gives you a sense of the challenges—and also just how Brenda and Jorge came to be as badass as they are. The artwork in this story in particular felt gritty and real in a way that is fitting for the story, but also for how this story fits in with the other stories. The Mazes have an unreal quality to them, and WCKD headquarters is clean and bright. The Scorch should be gritty in comparison, and here it is. 

“World Gone Wicked”
Written by Jackson Lanzing & Collin Kelly
Art by Tom Derenick
Colors by Whitney Cogar
Letters by Jim Campbell

Screenshot_2015-09-25-13-19-03

The final story is told from the perspective of one of the scientists also introduced in The Scorch Trials, Dr. Mary Cooper, who was instrumental in the creation of the virus known as the Flare. Her story is the biggest prequel of the book, set before The Maze Runner, overlapping somewhat with Dashner’s prequel novel The Kill Order. As with many YA series, the adults in The Maze Runner are the enemy, or at the very least, in an adversarial position against our teenage protagonists. Dr. Cooper’s story reminds readers that sometimes adults are just as trapped as the teenagers.

When I finished the collection, I felt like I’d read something substantial and weighty. With the exception of Alby’s story, all of the stories were a good length, filling in spaces in Dashner’s world, but there are also more spaces to be explored. Since The Death Cure film adaptation won’t be released until 2017, I hope another comics collection is in the works.

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Recovering academic. Fangirl. Geek knitter.

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