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Review – Stillwater #1 (Image Comics)

Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Chip Zdarsky
Artwork: Ramon K Perez
Colours: Mike Spicer
Letters: Rus Wooton
Release Date: 16th September 2020


Other than the talent evident in the creative team, I wasn’t sure what I was going into when getting the chance to review the first issue of this this new series from Image. I mean, there’s strong horror vibes coming from the cover which definitely tickles my fancy, but other than that I was braced for anything.

First up, I should say this new book is gorgeous. It’s bursting with cracking imagery and noteworthy panel use. Perez and Spicer seem to be bringing their A-game here, with details aplenty. The characters are memorable and the scene setting and ambient lighting tick all the boxes for me. Its presentation is like the HBO of comics, if that makes sense. I mentioned the use of panels, and it’s little things like arms overhanging or repetition of placement that really elevate this visual package. Where repetition is used, there’s sometimes a temptation to view it as lazy or rushed, but here it adds to the rhythm of the pacing and build up to the bigger picture.

So what is the bigger picture then?

The story starts off fairly humdrum, it has to be said. We have main protagonist Daniel, who, being blunt, is a bit hard to empathise with. Cocky, arrogant and violent, with dreams and aspirations of bettering themselves. Oh, and you can throw in the archetypal toxic friend who facilitates it all. It’s a tough sell to try and deliver engaging story driven through such a medium but the team do a great job here. Despite not buying into the characters, there’s a strength of writing, with tip top delivery from Wooton, which you can’t help but follow along with.

Plot-wise, we see Daniel get fired from his job, head out for a bawdy night out with mates and then wake up the following afternoon to find he’s been summoned to the law offices of some sleepy town in the sticks by the name of Stillwater. A great grand-aunt has left them an undisclosed sum and it all feels a bit too coincidental. It also doesn’t help that the town of Stillwater doesn’t seem to appear on the road signs or even in the knowledge of nearby locals; oh, and we have the creepy local cop too. It’s almost a clichéd horror movie set up, but it never comes across as staid or dialled-in. There’s clearly some considered choices being made here, and I’m loving them.

As we head into Stillwater, things are definitely not as they seem. This sleepy little town where nothing changes is almost a literal description, and there’s a sudden change in pacing and tension which is perfect for this type of story. The slow introduction of these characters leads to a satisfying concept pay-off and violence aplenty. From going in cold, I found myself won over by the strength of this debut issue. It’s not out-and-out horror, so there’s gonna be broader reader appeal here. Fair warning though, it’s not for the faint of heart. Either way, one to consider adding to the pull list.

Rating: 4/5.


[PREVIEW ARTWORK – CLICK TO ENLARGE]


The writer of this piece was: Adam Brown
Adam Tweets from @brother_rooster


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