Announced in 2017, Gideon Falls was billed as Jeff Lemire’s unique take on the horror genre, focused on exploring the idea of a source of evil versus relying on gore. The series received early accolades, winning best new series at the 2019 Eisner awards, with Dave Stewart winning best coloring the following year. In addition, the series is set to be developed into a TV show (though the current status is ‘in development’).
Off of the success of other titles like Sweet Tooth, Essex County and The Nobody, the chance to visit his exploration of the horror genre in such a large compendium makes for an intriguing prospect. Certainly, the deluxe edition in hardcover and 400+ pages acts as the best way to collect the series, but is the acclaim around the title deserved?
What is it About?
“The lives of a reclusive young man obsessed with a conspiracy in the city’s trash and a washed-up Catholic priest arriving in a small town full of dark secrets become intertwined around the mysterious legend of The Black Barn―an otherworldly building alleged to have appeared in both the city and the small town throughout history, bringing death and mad-ness in its wake.”
Giving the impression of etched art, the visuals are gorgeously detailed when it comes to landscapes and conveying a sense of the unknown through its experimental panel work. Notably, the page layouts contort in surreal ways that give the work an almost cinematic feel. For example, upside down panels that slowly turn in on themselves to switch the focus of the narrative to another character. Furthermore, double page spreads are striking with a multitude of mini panels that really convey the idea of the story being told through a shattered mind – not to mention capturing the insidious nature of the horror polluting Gideon Falls. Adding a nice visual flair to cap off the already stellar work, the edition features the full covers that use maps or naturalistic scenes to create wonderfully inventive portraits of the characters. All in all, the series is stunning in its visual presentation and is reason alone to champion the title.
Thankfully, the work is not just style of substance as the narrative dwells in the dark corners of the human psyche. At first suggesting a paranoia among the residents of Gideon falls, the idea of fear conjured through paranoia dissipates as the Black Barn and its nightmarish owner starts to openly terrorize residents (think DC’s ‘house of mystery’ but exponentially hellbent on causing chaos). On top of this, the series hints at a greater conspiracy of cult activity in support of the black barn, time travel, and occult evil. Abstract at points, all these elements tie together in a cohesive story that is easy to consume.
The team of Jeff Lemire, Andrea Sorrentino and Dave Stewart works wonderfully well together. While the story was constructed by Lemire, with this release including the mini concept comic with his art, his aesthetic would not have captured the nightmare fuel that Sorrentino is able to create. This is particularly true in the image of the grinning man, a corrupted evil entity that has a sort of ‘creepypasta vibe’ to the design. Interweaving all of this, Dave Stewart’s muted coloring works ideal for the horror capturing that sense of ‘suburban gothic’ aesthetic. Conversely, when dealing with the abstract, the coloring becomes expressive to aptly match the shifting tone. Ultimately, the work is masterfully crafted and representative of three creators at the top of their game.
What Does Not Work?
Andrea Sorrentino’s aesthetic perfectly conveys surreal horror within the paneling and frenetic textures. However, facial features are rather muddy and lack greater expression. This is a minor complaint when comparing the work as a whole, but the lack of discernible features and emotive responses does, ever so slightly, stunt the impact of the work.
The book does come at a higher price – this in itself is not a deterrent given the amount of content and presentation. Nevertheless, fans who have already collected the single issues, or softcover graphic novels, may not want to shell out for the new edition.
Where Can I Read It?
Published by Image Comics, the book is set to release September 21, 2021 and is available for pre-order through Amazon. Your local comic book retailer may also have stock.
Gideon Falls is a masterfully crafted ‘southern gothic’ horror story, punctuated by richly textured and surreal art. The panels meld together in mind-melting fashion without losing the flow of the narrative – the work is utterly stunning. Furthermore, the story is consistently unsettling and has a pervasive sense of dark mystery that draws the reader deep into its twisted confines.
If you have yet to check out the series, or are a completist when it comes to versions of releases, this title is a must own for fans of horror comics. A delightful vision of madness, Gideon Falls is a frightful slice of cursed Americana.
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