Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Skottie Young
Artist: Jorge Corona
Colours: Jean-Francois Beaulieu
Lettering: Nake Piekos
Release Date: 21st November 2018
Reviewing Middlewest, you can’t help but start with the artwork of Jorge Corona; it’s gorgeous. Reading this put me in mind of a dark Studio Ghibli with talking animals, strange science (maybe chem-punk?), and a conflicted, if not outright tortured, young protagonist. Let me back up a bit though…
This is the story of young Abel, a paperboy with an abusive father and a crappy paper round, who also happens to know a talking fox and has some of those friends we’ve all had who could get us to do things we knew we shouldn’t.
The day starts out rough for Abel, and proceeds to get worse as he’s caught shoplifting, albeit by a reasonable old timey shopkeeper, leading to a traumatic showdown with his dad. If I said anymore I’d ruin the surprise, and the longer it sits with me, the more intrigued I am by the events of this book. Middlewest spins a modern fantasy which further blurs the lines of reality, leaving me unsure at this stage whether what we’re seeing is ‘real’ or Abel’s perceptions of what’s happening. Either would be just fine with me.
The setting is wonderful in the true sense of the word, with odd weather and strange architectural additions. Power seems to be derived from tanks of pink liquid found on buildings and vehicles; there are even air balloons to round off the aesthetic. Despite all of this, it still feels like my impression of these old forgotten towns. As a Brit, we often think of fields as far as the eye can see, old pick-ups and trailers, and these stereotypes aren’t broken down, just twisted and corrupted further into this dark fantasy.
There’s a danger that this could be seen as style over substance but writer Skottie Young provides more than enough meat here to keep the reader entertained. It’s easy to empathise with Abel and really fall into this story and be blown along. The juxtaposition of the clean lines and bright colours with the dark events and climax are deeply unsettling but I’m not sure if that’s perhaps a case of me reading too much into it. I have a feeling that we always try to find a deeper meaning or allegory and sometimes miss the enjoyment of the story being told.
Ultimately I enjoyed this and will definitely be following the series, but in saying that there’s maybe just a touch of me wanting to like this more than I actually do.
The writer of this piece was: Adam Brown
Adam Tweets from @brother_rooster