Jeff Lemire has long been a master of tone and mood in comics, often creating a unique sort of mysterious desperation within his work. It’s tough to articulate how he does this, but I think it has do with the way his dialogue and action are at times kept sparse, leaving more than enough material to intrigue while also trusting readers to make necessary connections. Lemire has recently used this to great effect in a pair of excellent creator-owned titles, Royal City — an introspective series heavy with family, grunge, and what ifs — and Black Hammer — a curious meditation on superheroes and aging.
In those books, as well as in much of Lemire’s earlier work, there are hints of horror on the fringes, more of a garnish than an actual component to the meal (terrible analogy, someday I’ll do better, I swear). But in the first issue of Lemire’s Gideon Falls (due March 7, available for pre-order now at your local comic shop), he has planted seeds for a story poised to have dread at its very core, and the result is one of his best first issues yet.
This is a spoiler free review, so I won’t go into the plot much, not past what Lemire has revealed elsewhere or what's in the book’s solicitation, but Gideon Falls is psychological storytelling grown from some of the first characters Lemire ever invented. These characters, he's told interviewers, were created years ago before he started getting his work published. They're intriguing figures to be sure, and I'm excited for Lemire to fill in the details of their lives. The story here (and I suspect moving forward) is split between two main protagonists, as well as between a rural and an urban setting. This is all available in the solicits, though, and I can't tell you much more without risking spoiler territory.
What I can tell you about, however, is this book’s aesthetic. Gideon Falls is another series in which Lemire teams with frequent collaborator Andrea Sorrentino, the artist from his runs on Green Arrow and Old Man Logan. This is the duo's first time working on a creator-owned series at Image, and, as usual, Sorrentino’s artwork here is intricate and precise, gorgeous throughout, but especially impressive whenever it takes a step back to give us some truly fascinating wide layouts. The art here is also straight up terrifying when it needs to be.
For the most part, I’ve never been a big horror fan, at least not as it pertains to certain corners of the genre, like the teen hack and slash and gore stuff, the Freddys and the Jasons and the Michael Myers, etc. The aesthetic of this book, however, isn't even in the same neighborhood as all that. There is attention paid to evil and religion, but it doesn’t seem to be overly concerned with God or the devil. I will say that I was raised Catholic, which will likely lead to greater understanding of at least one of the characters as the plot moves forward.
Gideon Falls comes off in its first issue as David Lynchian, boasting shades of the sort of dark mythology that underlaid Twin Peaks while some of Sorrentino’s dystopian urbanscapes evoke sets from Lynch’s first film, Eraserhead. It’s foolhardy to predict what is to come in an ongoing Lemire book (anybody have a read yet on where he’s going with Descender?), but my early impression is that Gideon Falls is concerned with a certain type of existential horror, and that it aims to disturb readers on a deep and personal level rather than to settle for quick or gory scares.
I should also note that colorist Dave Stewart’s contribution is invaluable here, that the palette in each scene really layers and intensifies the tones and moods established by Lemire’s script and Sorrentino’s artwork.
Overall: this is a first issue deserving of a large and devoted audience, and given the star power of its creators, it will likely find it. I think the intrigue and the high quality of the storytelling will ultimately make this a book we'll be following for the long haul. 9.6/10
(W) Jeff Lemire (A/CA) Andrea Sorrentino
A brand-new ongoing series from the acclaimed bestselling creative team of Old Man Logan and Green Arrow! The lives of a reclusive young man obsessed with a conspiracy in the city's trash, and a washed-up Catholic priest arriving in a small town full of dark secrets, become intertwined around the mysterious legend of The Black Barn, an otherworldly building that is alleged to have appeared in both the city and the small town, throughout history, bringing death and madness in its wake.
Rural mystery and urban horror collide in this character-driven meditation on obsession, mental illness, and faith.
In Shops: Mar 07, 2018
SPECIAL NOTE: Gideon Falls was one of our most anticipated comics of 2018. Be sure to check out the rest! Also, Jeff Lemire had the unique distinction of landing a book in both our top 5 AND our Top 6 - 15 Comics of 2017!
Zack Quaintance is a journalist who also writes fiction and makes comics. Find him on Twitter at @zackquaintance. He lives in Sacramento, California.