By Dustin Cabeal
There are points in some creator’s careers in which they hit a point of almost superstardom in the industry. They can do no wrong with their fan base, and their fan base buys a lot of comics. You can likely think of countless creators like this, some of them are still at that level while others have fallen from grace. I have stopped this practice after years of over-inflating comics that didn’t deserve it because the writer or artist was, “really good.” It’s a dangerous practice, and it’s one that I, unfortunately, see that happening to Jeff Lemire more and more. That’s not to say that he doesn’t make good comics. He actually has a couple out at the moment that are better than good, but that doesn’t mean everything he releases is gold.
Now, you might be thinking that all of this is to set up a review in which I unapologetically bash his new title Gideon Falls. Instead, I want you just to understand that I’m not giving it the score at the bottom just because Jeff Lemire’s name is on it or because I’m reading before it’s widely released. No, Gideon Falls is good because it's just a damn fine comic book. My only goal for a review is to make people understand the quality of the comic that is on the page, be it good or bad, and that while the creators attached to it made it that way, it’s not exempt of criticism because of who made it.
In some ways, Lemire is trying a simpler version of one of his first Image Comics in which you had to flip the book to read the entire story. Instead, he has two narratives running towards each other, but seemingly on opposite sides of each other. The first narrative is about a man that is hunting and looking for specific pieces of trash. He has a medical condition we later learn, and so his trash collecting is supposedly tied to it. We learn through his narration that there is more than him just collecting trash and using it as a way to control chaos.
On the other side of the story, we find a Priest that’s been sent to the town of Gideon Falls to replace a recently deceased padre. Through the Priest’s opening conversation, we learn that he’s had a troubled past and is reluctant to go back out into the world. His character is a difficult read at the moment. Lemire gives us insight into his past, but so much of his present is tied to one particular scene that we don’t get to know him the way we do the first character.
There is a lot more going on in this town, and both men are connected to it somehow. It would be easy to spoil more of this first issue, but it’s the twisted supernatural side of the story that stands out. There is one particular page that was beautiful, haunting and downright creepy. It stole the show and came at a surprising moment. Until that scene, the story seemed to be slowly building up the plotline and characters, but then this page hits and flips the world upside down. It’s possible that it did that as well, we don’t know yet.
Lemire, being an artist himself, tends to collaborate with artists quite well. He trusts the artist to covey as much of the story as possible. Our opening pages of trash collection have almost no dialogue, and yet everything we need to know is conveyed on the page. When the narration does kick in, it runs counter to the art. It's not a narration for what you’re reading, but instead a narration for what’s important to the story. The art is showing and developing the story in a completely different way which is what makes for the best kind of narration.
As for the artist, Andrea Sorrentino is the breakout star for this issue. Sorrentino’s artwork is dark, scratchy and the definition of gritty. There’s grit to every panel, but it gives the comic a dark personality and an eerie tone. You could easily give this to another artist, and the story would still work. It could be bight and vibrant and still get the point across. Lemire’s writing is solid in that way, but it’s Sorrentino’s artwork and Dave Stewart’s coloring that gives it a tone that it needs. Make no mistake, in the hands of another artist; this could easily be an average to boring comic book. With Sorrentino’s details that come through all the grittiness, it makes it a fantastic looking comic. Again, the one page I don’t want to spoil was so incredible that I didn’t even want to continue. It was reminiscent of a few TV shows I’ve seen and enjoyed. It captured that same eeriness, but on the page, without any movement or acting to help it. Sorrentino makes the characters actors, helping them come to life.
Gideon Falls is off to a wonderful start, but that doesn’t mean much in comics anymore. Over the past few years, more and more comics have failed or bombed on the second issue making it extremely difficult to buy into a story with only one sampling available. Especially with what’s being built up in this story, we’re going to need more issues to read. But hey, at least there’s a strong desire to read more. It’s unlikely that anyone that picks up Gideon Falls is going to be disappointed by it, in fact, it’ll probably start a lot of conversations when it hits shelves in March.
Gideon Falls #1