Mamo #1 by Sas Milledge is a stunningly gorgeous comic that uses a focus on its two lead characters to tease the magic lurking on the outskirts of its world, hiding just beneath the surface. The new modern fantasy comic, published by BOOM! Studios under its BOOM! Box imprint is set in the small town of Haresden, where magic has run amok after the death of its resident witch. A young teen named Jo approaches the witch’s granddaughter Orla for aid in curing her mother’s mysterious ailment. While Jo quickly learns that Orla isn’t at all like what the stories say about witches, Orla struggles with the legacy of her grandmother and her fraught relationship with the town of Haresden itself.
Milledge is one of comics’ rising stars and Mamo showcases both her writing and artistic talents. Her art style features large-eyed and expressive characters who communicate their feelings by facial expressions alone. Orla is a brooding sort who is still visibly hurt by how the townsfolk treat her, while Jo’s unvoiced exasperation plays out mainly in sighs and wistful looks. Honestly, Mamo is a masterclass on how characters can communicate their emotions to the reader without dialogue or a caption box. There’s one sequence where Orla’s gaze lingers on some photos of Jo and her family as the pair enter Jo’s house. Orla seems out-of-place as she walks inside Jo’s home, shown both by the way she removes both her shoes and socks when entering while Jo and her sisters keep their socks on to the uneasy interactions she has with Jo’s sisters. Whether Orla’s struggles are due to an unorthodox upbringing or because of a complicated family situation remains unclear – however, what’s important is how the comic communicates Orla’s unease without a single caption or word.
Many comics (and other forms of media) that deal with magic too often get caught up explaining how their magic system is unique. Not so with Mamo, which wisely focuses on introducing its readers to its stubborn but begrudgingly responsible leads while only teasing the magic, keeping it almost entirely out-of-reach to the readers. Up until the comic’s final pages, Mamo mostly keeps its magic out of view. There are discussions about love potions as birds shift their forms off-page, but at no point do we see Orla weave a spell or try to explain how her magic works. Even the fae that seem to be the cause of Hareden’s problems are mostly a mystery – Orla and Jo encounter a faery circle at one point and we see how the fae seem to be encroaching on the town’s borders, causing trees to sprout up through buildings, but we never actually see the fae itself. This slow tease makes the closing pages where Orla confronts the creature responsible for Jo’s problems that much more impactful and powerful, as we see the magic of Mamo in full view for the very first time.
My only real criticism of Mamo is that the color work is a bit of a mixed bag. Milledge did the coloring for this comic herself, but there are a few effects and choices which appear rushed and out-of-place within her amazing linework. The base colors are perfectly fine, but some of the shadow effects and other shading were distracting at times. It’s a very minor gripe though, and I think that most readers of the comic won’t notice any issue at all.
Mamo #1 is a strong opening chapter, one that brilliantly introduces its central characters and setting without wasting a single panel. This is a masterful and well-done comic that ensnares and captivates, teasing you to enter a world full of mystery much in the same way that the book’s fae look to lure victims into their magic circles. Mamo is a must-read comic for readers of any age.
Published by BOOM! Studios
On July 7, 2021
Written by Sas Milledge
Art by Sas Milledge
Colors by Sas Milledge
Letters by Sas Milledge
Cover by Sas Milledge