By Bo Stewart — Gideon Falls ended its first story arc earlier this year with a bang. Our trip into the sinister and supernatural Black Barn was a high point not only for the series, but for horror comics at large. Coming into Gideon Falls #7, I suspected we would likely face a dip in excitement, but thankfully that isn’t the case. Creators Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino very wisely treat issue seven like a season premiere of television. It’s maybe not as fast-paced as previous issues, but this comic effectively resets the board while also laying the groundwork for what’s to come in the arc ahead.
Gideon Falls is a strange-people-in-a-strange-town story done right. Ever since Twin Peaks became a cult classic, storytellers have tried and (more often than not) failed to replicate this sort of formula. It’s a delicate balance of finding the absurd in mundane moments, and precious few stories have the patience to let narratives like this build to crescendos. Once the town secret is revealed, the story quickly becomes stale. Gideon Falls #7’s greatest triumph is proving that the story of the Black Barn has legs.
The Barn’s origins, nature, and intent are the central mystery of this story. We got a small peek behind the curtain in #6 (in one of the best sequences of the year), but the full mysteries of the Barn won’t be revealed until the main character, Norton, achieves his goal of rebuilding the Barn…using the original materials that he’s collecting and keeping in jars. The undertaking of finding chips of wood, nails, screws, etc. spread all over town, and subsequently using them to rebuild the original Barn is overwhelming, especially as others continue to question Norton’s mental health. It gives the reader a keen insight into Norton’s mind and the suffocating presence the Barn has had and continues to have on his life.
Indeed, the second arc of this story is appropriately titled Sum of its Parts. Andrea Sorrentino’s art plays off this and engages the reader in ways no other book is currently doing. The panel variety is astounding, with each issue featuring at least one type of layout that I’ve personally never seen before. These innovative layouts give us a far better sense of who Norton is than any dialogue or narration ever could. For example, for the final page of Gideon Falls #7, the art is literally flipped vertically on its side. In most books, this would be a distraction, but here, the disorienting effect actively aids the storytelling. Like the title of this arc, each page adds up to more than the sum of its parts.
Gideon Falls is comics storytelling at its finest. It prioritizes mood and sense of place over fascination with a mysterious barn. Each page is littered with tension and oozes atmosphere. I think it’s this focus that makes Gideon Falls such a success where similar stories have been failures. It’s a comic that knows exactly what it is and after#7, I can confidently say I’m in for the long run.
Overall: Creators Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino treat Gideon Falls #7 like a season debut of television. This issue isn’t as fast-paced as some chapters from the first arc, but it thrives in character-driven moments. I’m eagerly awaiting the twists to come. Oh, and that cliffhanger… wow! 9.0/10
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Bo grinds for the man by day so he can create comics by night. He is the lesser half of the Stewart Brothers writing team and can be found on Twitter and Instagram @stewart_bros