I don’t know if I totally grasped the ending of this book, but that doesn’t change the fact that I really enjoyed the journey to get there. Butcher Street is a strange book, filled with interesting characters and an overall mystery that will have you turning the pages as quickly as you can. Even still, the book is filled with a deeply emotional plot that intensifies all the way up until the ending.
The story begins with Michael waking up on the floor of an apartment. His mind reaches out for the reassuring presence of his wife Gabi, but then as he awakens more the narrative reveals to us that it’s impossible for her to be there with him… even if he doesn’t know where he is. He begins looking around the apartment he’s in and discovers pictures of Gabi and him all around. Thinking it’s some kind of sick joke he leaves the apartment and heads out to the street. When he cracks open the exterior door he’s welcomed by all of his new neighbors.
It’s a large group of people that vary from different ages to ethnic backgrounds. A man in a tacky button up approaches him and introduces himself as Aaron and his wife Ruth. He lets Michael know that the “block captain” Mr. Stubbs informed him of his arrival. Still confused Michael lets them all know that he’s not staying and just needs to find his car to get out of there. Aaron lets him know that his car isn’t here and that he can’t leave, but Michael pushes past him and tells them all to back off from him. Ruth asks Aaron if he thinks Michael is going to hurt himself, but Aaron says there isn’t much they can do to help him until he comes around.
Michael hits the streets and begins walking towards the familiar city in the distance, but every turn leads to a dead end. After yet another dead end a toy doll pegs him on the top of his head. He looks up to find a young boy ducking in a window. Having nothing better to do, Michael heads up the fire escape to talk to the boy. As he does another woman from the greeting party comes in. She uses two hand canes to walk and becomes a support system for Michael later on in the story. Michael asks Anna (the woman) how he can get out and she tells him that there is no way out.
Pissed off Michael continues searching for an escape until he comes to a sewer lid. He finds a crowbar and opens the lid. A guy playing basketball comes over to him a tries to sway him from heading down but Michael gives him attitude. He asks if it’s the way out and the guy tells him it’s not, but Michael heads down any ways thinking he’s getting closer to escaping Butcher Street. Once down in the sewers though he begins to lose his way and what’s worse is that he’s not alone down there.
The mystery continues for Michael as he tries to escape Butcher Street, but also figure out what has brought him there in the first place and why it is exactly that he and the others can’t leave. The ending is heavy. I’m still digesting it and I read the book over a week ago.
As a character Michael is very unlikeable at first. It’s the perfect start for the story though, because it’s about his journey and acceptance of the event(s) that have brought him to where he is now. As his journey continues he becomes more and more likeable as a character and this is mostly due to the fact that the reader continues to learn about his past. He’s a dickhead for a reason and when you find out why, it really makes sense. This was a very good story filled with interesting characters and an engaging mystery. I think some people will read the ending and totally get everything, but for me it just didn’t quite click. I don’t think that was the fault of the writing by any means though. I think the writing did a great job of making the story very immersive for the reader and I can confirm that I was sucked into the story for sure.
Templesmith creates a wonderful cover for this book, but thankfully it’s not his art inside. I don’t mean that as a slam towards him, but I don’t think his style overall would have matched it. The interior art matched the story, but it’s not without its imperfections. I enjoyed it, but a lot of the scenery was lacking details. I wasn’t a huge fan of the character faces and a lot of the close ups on the faces where needlessly darkened by shadows. Even still, the art supports the writing and at the end of the day that’s one of the most important aspects of its function.
I knew absolutely nothing going into this book, but it quickly sunk its hooks in me. I enjoyed the mystery and the character development and I even liked the ending. The book surprised the hell out of me with how damn good it was. If you’re looking for a read that is immersive, but gives you plenty to think about at the same time, then I’d highly recommend checking this book out. The book isn’t out until June, but I would talk to your local comic shop and pre-order since they may not be ordering it.
Writer: Justin Robinson
Artist: Steve Wands
Publisher: Arcana Studios
Release Date: 6/26/13