Review: Postal #5

It’s been a minute, Postal, but indeed much like a parcel you’re really looking forward to receiving, better late than never...which, upon further reflection, should totally be this book’s subtitle. I digress. If you haven’t been keeping up with this series, which is the coming of age story following a young autistic man named Mark as he navigates the perils of a town secretly peopled by thieves, murderers and other assorted charlatans, you should be. It is absolutely one of the best things currently under the Image banner, which is saying quite a lot. This issue, however, is something of a divergence; quite literally, in fact, as we follow Mark on a road trip set up by his mother, Mayor Shiffron, to pay off the local branch of USPS in exchange for his bastard little town’s continued anonymity. On the way back, however, Mark finds himself sidetracked by a pretty hippy girl with a gun (been there), and her zealous, bull mask-wearing cult leader, Ball. The majority of the issue that follows captures this weird little confab, and while it does boast the strokes of brilliance that have become hallmarks of the series, I’m still not sure how I feel about its direction.

This seems like a strange setup for Postal #5, not just because it takes Mark out of the town, or because it puts him into a role of power (and, indeed, judgement), but because his coincidental meeting with what is essentially a super villain somehow, and not in keeping with the series’ general direction. And look, I know that he comes from a town literally populated by every conceivable kind of criminal, and that his father is himself a cultish figure of abnormal stature, but that begs the question: why take him out of his pre-established setting, just to meet another kind of evil?

Not only does it feel like Postal #5 took a wrong turn somewhere and veered into another comic book, but because it tripped into a place both grim and fantastical, it sort of takes away from what makes the town, and all the threats within it and converging upon it, so special and terrifying. If the world is filled with proselytizing wannabe minotaurs, then what’s the point of Mark’s story?

Postal-#5Saying all of that, however, and despite my misgivings as regards plot, the dialogue we get in issue five is par excellence for the series. Whether it’s the conversation shared by Mark and Ball, or even the former’s inner monologue as he forces himself to tap into a violent destiny (which culminates in quite an intriguing character development), Hill and Hawkins’ style is filled with both an organic ease and palpitating menace. The way they are able to evoke a scene with descriptions so vividly detailed, so wetly described in Mark’s stilted yet poetic cadence is gripping stuff.

At the same time, Isaac Goodhart shows some great industry here in broadening his style, especially in the quasi-flashback storytelling of how Ball came to be who and what he is. And actually, I preferred his more surreal, malleable style in those scenes; their sketchier, frenetic approach feels more naturally suited to his talents, and they definitely worked better beneath Gonia’s colors, which continue to soak the surroundings in gobs of shadow. Yes, this artistic variance suited the scene well, but I would be just as happy seeing it as the pervasive style throughout Postal.

Issue five of this Top Cow/Image joint feels incongruous to the rest of the series’ storytelling, and an odd fit within the overall narrative. Luckily, Postal #5 doesn’t instantly exclude this title from being one of my most eagerly anticipated releases each month. Definitely check it out if you are, like me, already a firm follower of the series, but don’t make it a jumping-on point if you’re a new reader.

Score: 3/5

Postal #5 Writer: Bryan Hill/Matt Hawkins Artist: Isaac Goodhart Colorist: Betsy Gonia Publisher: Image/ Top Cow Price: $3.99 Release Date: 7/15/15 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital