There are a lot of comics out there, but some just stand out head and shoulders above the pack. With “Don’t Miss This” we want to spotlight those series we think need to be on your pull list. This week, we’d like to draw your attention to “Gideon Falls,” a creepy time and space-warping horror book from Image Comics that the staff of Multiversity named the best new series of 2018. With issue 12, the series begins its third story arc so it’s no better time to remind readers of its continuing excellence.
Who is this by?
“Gideon Falls” is written by Jeff Lemire, one of the hardest working creative forces in comics. In addition to creating the Eisner-winning Black Hammer-verse, the heir apparent to Mignola’s Hellboy mythology at Dark Horse Comics, the once DC exclusive creator during the New 52 era has written recent runs of projects from DC (“The Terrifics”), Marvel (“Moon Knight”), and Valiant (Bloodshot) while also cultivating creator-owned projects like “Trillium,” “Royal City,” “Descender,” and its follow-up “Ascender.” He even has a project due out this Summer from the fledgling TKO Studios with artist and fellow Eisner winner Gabriel Walta (“The Visions”). The series artist for “Gideon Falls” is Andrea Sorentino, an Italian artist who has collaborated with Lemire in the past decade on “Green Arrow” for DC and “Old Man Logan” for Marvel, and “Gideon Falls” is a project that marks a reunion of two creators who were clearly enthusiastic about working with each other again. The title’s moody and provocative color palette is provided by the legendary and multiple Eisner-winning Dave Stewart. Steve Wands provides the accomplished lettering and polished design of the book.
What’s it all about?
That’s an excellent question that’s difficult to answer in a succinct way, and Lemire has done an clever job of teasing out details of the plot’s mystery over the first eleven issues. Frankly, at this point, readers don’t really know the answer to what it’s all about even as issue eleven (the final installment in the second arc) dropped the equivalent of a narrative atom bomb, releasing the pressure valve on its growing sense of dread while providing some clarity about the book’s inscrutable twists and growing central mystery. It’s truly an out of the frying pan and into the fire twist that brings down the curtain on the first act of the series before shifting the story to the year 1886 in issue 12. Without spoiling anything for readers new to the series, the action up to this point largely takes place in two inexorably linked locations and follows the story of a troubled and OCD-driven man named Norton Sinclair at one location and a priest with a troubled history Father Fred Quinn in the other. The supporting cast is led by Dr. Ana Xu, Sinclair’s therapist and confidante, along with Sheriff Clara Miller, the small-town peacekeeper who partners with Father Quinn after a mysterious death. To reveal what these two sets of characters have in common steals some of the joy of the series, but suffice it to say there is a connection that ties into the book’s very title. And there’s a barn, a fearsome black barn that is central to the book’s plot, but perhaps I’ve said too much already. The less you know going into this book the better.
What makes it so great?
The solicit information for “Gideon Falls” issue 12 contains a reference to heading through the looking glass back to Gideon Falls, and the Lewis Carroll analogy is apt. The book is like stepping into a world unlike ours but also one that is unnervingly familiar. While there are no March Hares quite yet, a mischievous and time-stopping Hatter takes center stage at the end of the second arc leading astute readers to wonder if this is in fact Lemire’s horror take on a classic children’s story premise. It’s no surprise at this point that Lemire can craft a compelling comic book narrative, but the way that he unfurls the story while keeping readers disoriented in this fugue state of a book is masterful. Sorrentino’s thin-lined and scratchy dreamlike visuals up the ante appropriately, and his shattered glass panels signal a descent into a kind of madness. If not madness, then the proceedings have the feeling of a waking nightmare unafraid to insert disturbing supernatural elements into bucolic or busy urban settings. Nothing can prepare readers for the sense of dread that the book evokes while alternating day-to-day mundanity with unsettling visuals and reveals through dialogue, and the level of terror that the book achieves with very little explicit gore is astounding, choosing instead to withhold the danger both real and in the lead characters’ minds until the last gut-wrenching moment. In short, if you’re a fan of horror comics, Lemire’s first foray into the genre leaves little to be desired. For the horror averse, everything that critics are saying is true so don’t miss out. Just read it during the day or with the lights on.
How can you read it?
In addition to the first installment of the third arc (issue 12), the second volume also releases this week and collects issues 7 through 11. The first volume, containing issues 1 through 6, is also available from purveyors of fine comic books everywhere. Following last year’s news that Hivemind has purchased the rights to turn “Gideon Falls” into a television show, an oversized library edition (similar to the treatment that Dark Horse Comics afforded the first two volumes of Lemire’s “Black Hammer” series) is almost certainly in the offing as well although nothing has been officially announced. If digital comics are your preferred format, the series is available on Comixology as well as Google Play, and the first volume is currently $3.99, an attractive six issues for the price of one value. The two-tiered discounting of $1.99 and $.99 is also in effect for digital back issues.