Are you looking forward to a new comic book but it’s impossible for you to wait for its release before you know what we thought about it? That’s why there’s DoomRocket’s Advanced Reviews — now we assess books you can’t even buy yet. This week: ‘Middlewest’ #1, out November 21 from Image Comics.
THIS ADVANCE REVIEW OF ‘MIDDLEWEST’ #1 CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS.
by Mickey Rivera. A boy stands face to face with a monster made of dust and wind. Its glowing maw and whirlwind claws reach out for him, but the kid stands obstinate—he is sick of being afraid of this haunted landscape and its looming terrors. With tears in his eyes and his fists clenched he roars at the skyborne revenant to leave him alone, before the two of them collide in mutual hatred. You could say the weather in Middlewest gets pretty hostile, but it’s actually not the only thing threatening its young protagonist.
Some parts of the United States are famous for being forgotten. On either shore of this country we can find cities about whom countless stories and comics have been written. But the Midwest, so rudely referred to as “fly-over country” by some, gets little love. Middlewest, a strange new fantasy comic written by Skottie Young, with incredible art and colors by Jorge Corona and Jean-Francois Beaulieu, is aiming to change that. Telling the story of a young boy named Abel whose family is broken and whose friends are misfits, this introductory issue is a slice of awkward childhood with a bitter crust. It provides precious few details, but the art and setting gives plenty to draw you in.
The vast majority of the Midwest economy is agriculture; blue-collar jobs predominate. Middlewest is set in a small rural town laid on vast fields of farmland and prairie, and its population is meant to mirror this working class atmosphere. Scottie Young writes the Midwest using classic American archetypes (dare I say, stereotypes): Abel’s abusive father serves as the main motivator for Abel’s deep hatred of his hometown. His friends are well meaning but mischievous dopes who nearly get him arrested. Though they can afford to get in trouble, Abel’s violent father is much less forgiving.
Not much else is revealed about the people of this town, save for a charming old codger running a convenience store, which leaves this first issue feeling oddly vacant. But lurking behind the grass and sky are some strange otherworldly powers that have yet to be named. When we first meet Abel he is dreaming of flat grasslands that host weather systems possessed by glowering beasts, hateful monsters that seem to embody an evil lurking beneath the pastoral peace of Middlewest. As he wakes to the sound of his father berating him and sets about his paper delivery route, the wind conspires to blow his goods all over town. By the end of this book, these supernatural forces make a dramatic appearance, but for the most part Middlewest plays it cool with its rural American magical realism.
Abel has a pet fox that keeps him company when he’s alone. The Calvin & Hobbes parallel is unavoidable, but the fact that this hallucinatory relationship is helping the kid cope with an abusive father makes the whimsy feel sharp. There are many other odd and as yet unexplained details that add an otherworldly sheen to the whole production. For instance, each domicile in town comes equipped with a tank or two of bubblegum pink fluid that feeds into it. Whatever it is it’s essential, though the role it serves is a complete mystery. Corona’s cartooning and Beaulieu’s colors depict a Midwest that resembles true life save for some subtle and not so subtle mutations.
Middlewest has gorgeous art and an odd but compelling story. There’s a lot of dark feelings swirling within that form a striking contrast to the vibrant art—and, when it works, it works wonderfully. It will hit hard for the right reader. Others may simply enjoy its whimsical take on the rural Midwestern aesthetic, a look that I’ve always found myself drawn to for reasons unknown. Regardless of the reason, this comic has the potential to add a layer of magic to the traumas and joys of childhood.
Written by Skottie Young.
Art by Jorge Corona.
Colors by Jean-Francois Beaulieu.
Letters by Nate Piekos.
7.5 out of 10
‘Middlewest’ #1 hits stores November 21.