It takes a lot to maintain a compelling mystery over the course of 22 issues, but writer Jeff Lemire, artist Andrea Sorrentino, and colorist Dave Stewart have managed (with some admitted bumps along the way) to do just that in the pages of their Image Comics series Gideon Falls, a mind-bender set in the small town of its name — that isn’t a small town anymore, but that’s another matter.
And there are, in fact, several “other matters” on offer here, with no end to them in sight, although I imagine we must be at least to the halfway point of this thing by now — but I could be wrong about that. It’s been known to happen. And I’ve been wrong about any number of twists and turns in this saga, which is why it’s so damn much fun, in addition to being reasonably creepy and a tour de force artistic showcase for Sorrrentino and Stewart.
Ah yes, that art — Sorrentino’s always been at his best when allowed to improvise and go with his own flow, and he’s pulling out all the stops here with amazingly inventive page layouts, visceral horror details, and distinctively-delineated characters. Lemire’s scripts are brisk and economic, so any given issue of this series only takes a matter of minutes to read, but you’ll want to spend a good long time oohing and aahing over the visuals, as well as searching for any clues that may be contained within them.
Sorrentino’s hardly a solo act, though, when it comes to creating the unique look and feel of this constantly-changing world. Stewart has long been a fan-favorite colorist, of course, but if I’ve gotta be completely honest there’s always been kind of a soulless professionalism to a lot of his work that hasn’t registered with me. Here, however, that cool distance and detachment — which, in fairness, is a common trait in all modern computer-colored comics, not just Stewart’s — works in his favor, lending the proceedings a further touch of the alien and a kind of Lynchian note of surrealism. And yeah, while we’re talking of Lynch —
Apparently, it’s no secret that Lemire is a massive Twin Peaks fan, and the parallels here are obvious enough : town full of secrets, a black otherworldly construct existing just a step outside of everyday reality (in Twin Peaks it was the Black Lodge, here it’s the Black Barn), a beleaguered sheriff trying to make sense of it all, and a local “sensitive” individual who may hold the key to whatever resolution it is we’re working toward. In this case, though, that “sensitive” character isn’t dead like Laura Palmer, but is very much alive and well — well, okay, not well, per se, given our guy Norton is obviously mentally unbalanced, but I digress. The cast here is also more insular than Lynch and Frost’s, consisting primarily of the aforementioned Norton, his therapist, local sheriff Clara, her conspiracy-minded father, and a troubled — perhaps even troubling — priest. They’ve all got enough private skeletons in their respective closets to keep them interesting, but they’re also each reasonably likable in their own way, so Lemire hits the right balance in terms of letting you get to know them just enough — but not too much.
Anyway, as we start the series’ fifth and most recent arc, something well and truly unexpected has happened vis a vis the Black Barn that I won’t give away, but it promises to blow things open even further with the story and, yes, alternate realities appear to be involved, so — buckle up tight. And if you’ve been missing out on the ride so far, grab up the trade collections and bring yourself up to speed on what’s likely the most consistently unpredictable series in mainstream comics right now, as well as one of the best-drawn. This one will hook you, and I appreciate the deliberate care with which Lemire and Sorrentino are reeling readers in.
Review wrist check – doing up the old summertime standby today, my Zodiac “Super Sea Wolf 68,” burnt orange model with navy blue dial.
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