Norton and Father Fred encounter setbacks, another victim is claimed, and the Black Barn appears once more. Fans of Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino’s new psychological horror saga will find more to love in this second issue. Our review will contain minor spoilers.
Written by Jeff Lemire
Illustrated by Andrea Sorrentino
Colored by Dave Stewart
Lettered by Steve Wands
The brand-new supernatural mystery series by the acclaimed team of JEFF LEMIRE and ANDREA SORRENTINO (Old Man Logan, Green Arrow) continues. The mysteries of the “Black Barn” heighten as the reclusive Norton begins to unravel new clues just as a murder spree breaks out in the town of Gideon Falls. But how is it all connected?! The puzzle pieces begin to fall.
“Gideon Falls” is intrigued with duality. From its two main characters, the seen and the unseen, and mirror images, this concept is built into the comic’s double helix. Another dimension is lurking on the periphery of our reality, it would seem, and the Black Barn is our nexus. The barn is an eldritch place, a clear analogue to the Dark Tower from Steven King’s magnum opus or the Black Lodge from Twin Peaks. But Lemire and Sorrentino put their own spin on this creepy ultradimensional locale, and its appearance this issue is sure to burn deep into readers’ subconscious.
The first issue established that Norton and Father Fred are two sides of the same coin—not overtly, but visually. This is even further expounded on with the two covers for issues one and two. Norton is the urban to Father Fred’s rural. Norton’s head is the chaos of city life, overdeveloped and labyrinthine in its complexity like the piles of garbage he picks through. Darkness encroaches from all around him. Father Fred’s head is simpler, more open and pastoral. The city hasn’t reached him yet, but it approaches him on his outskirts. He is an outsider after all. These cover images illustrate the link between character and place. The places in which we live shape us in ways we can’t see.
Sorrentino continues to play with unconventional angles and page layouts, though experimentation is slightly toned down in this second issue. However, there are several visual callbacks to the first issue that reutilize similar panel structures and visual motifs. Norton appeared upside-down through much of the first issue, and Sorrentino employs rotation again here. The meaning of this can potentially spawn various interpretations. Norton has just taken an elevator up to his apartment. After he exits the elevator, the entire page is rotated 90 degrees, giving the effect that he is walking downward, undoing his upward progression. Or perhaps after Dr. Xu’s help, Norton is closer to equilibrium, working his way toward right-side up. Either way, clever visual layouts like this only help to enhance the story and deepen the mystery on an illustrative level.
Another panel shows Norton seemingly duplicated after refusing to answer his doctor’s question. It could’ve been a relatively insignificant panel, but Sorrentino and Dave Stewart go above and beyond to make this small panel special. A red outline of Norton is overlaid across the panel and shifted subtly to the right. He’s torn. He knows that revealing an answer won’t fit in with Xu’s conception of reality, and that awareness manifests itself in this sinister panel.
Steve Wands’s lettering deserves some recognition with how perfectly it translates the tone of the story in a visual way. His lettering feels scratchy as if etched into the word balloons by Norton’s warped nails. It suits the grit and grime of Sorrentino’s abrasive art masterfully. That scratched ink style is especially apparent in black shadows, as if something is clawing away the art to reveal what’s underneath it all. Dave Stewart overlays the art with dirty, earthy tones, as if pulling from a color composite of the rubbish Norton likes to dig through. A patina of dull grays, browns, and yellows cover Gideon Falls and its inhabitants. The dismal coloring only makes Stewart’s use of red more effective when it appears. That shade of evil candy apple red foreshadows its use later when it saturates the page as the Black Barn materializes. It’s truly a stunning use of color that other horror comics would do well to imitate.
‘All the Little Sinners Say Hallelujah!’ piles on more questions than answers in a relatively safer and less surprising affair than its premiere issue. The mystery remains engaging, though a lack of any answers slows down the pacing to a degree. New characters are introduced suggesting a greater conspiracy at work, enhancing the sense of dread and confusion that “Gideon Falls” expresses so well. Readers will want to stay on this psychological horror ride for its smart paneling, symbolic illustrations and intriguing story. ‘Til the Black Barn appears again…
Final Verdict: 8.0 – Mysterious, engaging and showcasing a team in full synchronicity, “Gideon Falls” #2 remains a must-read for fans of psychological horror.