Title: Middlewest #1
Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: November 21, 2018
Written by: Skottie Young
There are few comics that have left me as awestruck with their opening shot as Middlewest has just done with its own first offerings. Here we have something truly extraordinary. Pages filled with beauty and darkness, warm hearts and ice-cold brutality. Pages where we witness strange happenings amid almost recognizable landscapes, and most importantly of all, pages that have invoked my curiosity and instilled a gnawing demand to read more. To get lost ever deeper in this mysterious new landscape is paramount to my needs right now.
This is how first issues are supposed to be.
However, I’m jumping the gun and getting far ahead of myself here, and no doubt leaving you wondering what the heck lurks in Image Comics new adventure, Middlewest, that has its claws so deeply embedded within my comic book loving brain? So, let me lay a few world-building foundations.
Life in Middlewest
Middlewest #1, written by Skottie Young, is the story of a boy named Abel. He is a kid fighting to enjoy the trappings of young teenage life from beneath the dense shadow of an overbearing Father. He wakes at 4:30 am every day to deliver the papers to the residents of his hometown and has done so for two years. The two occasions he overslept were met with ferocity and anger from his lone parent. He is a kid walking beneath the dark cloud of a broken family home, and he is a kid afraid of the howling Middlewest winds that he believes threaten to whisk him away. Oh, and he is a kid with a companion in the shape of a talking fox.
Life in Middlewest #1 is mundane and every day one moment, and then deeply weird and unsettling the next. It’s akin to glimpsing life in a parallel universe whose differences are hidden in the details and at first almost go unseen, before making you double-take. In terms of grabbing the reader, I found myself completely hooked from the get-go.
Scottie Young Masterclass
What Skottie Young does so brilliantly within these first pages is build layer upon layer of mystery and intrigue. He manages this without ever really even bothering to explain too much at this early stage. Meaning, that when the final page is done there are just so many questions left unanswered, yet so much excitement at what those answers might be. The world is familiar, yet has obvious nods to another place altogether, so where exactly are we? Another dimension? A fantasy setting with earthly roots? An imagined place? And then we have the talking fox and the role this little creature plays in Abel’s life? Is the fox a figment of a youthful imagination? A coping mechanism? Or, perhaps the world is littered with other similar talking beasts? And, as the curtain falls on chapter one with Abel running from a storm that knows his name, that’s right it knows his name, we have to ask, just what adventure lies along the road ahead? With the only real answer being, I have no idea but let us buckle in for the ride!
An additional string in the bow of Skottie Young’s writing is an ability to pen genuine real-life dialogue. Conversations that feel so natural they just flow from the page without stutter or stumble. The fractures between Abel and his Dad are made all the more real, and all the more terrifying, thanks to this innate skill at producing real-life conversations, and it succeeds in raising the comic to even greater heights of immersion.
Skottie Young does a tremendous job of keeping his cards very close to his chest. As openings go, Middlewest #1 doesn’t so much put the various pieces into play ready for the unfolding tale ahead, as it gives us brief flittering glimpses through the haze of the game we are about to play, then leaves us guessing and thirsting for more. We are given a snapshot look into a fractured relationship between Father and son, a fleeting idea of supernatural forces at play, and a sniff that what lies ahead is an adventure bigger than most. And it’s beautiful.
The Magic of Jorge Corona
I must talk about the artwork in Middlewest #1 because, well, wow! Jorge Corona is less artist and more magician with his work here. The utterly spellbinding quality of his craft simply drips from every single panel of every last page until you can almost taste the dust of the Middlewest air on your tongue. Every character has personality, every emotion is captured beautifully. We feel Abel’s pain, we fear Abel’s Father, and we get completely absorbed by the delicate details of the landscape they inhabit. It is truly a thing of magnificent beauty that should be pored over time and time again until you’ve drunk in every single detail at play.
Verdict: Middlewest #1 is a wonderfully intriguing beginning to what I hope will blossom into a story for the ages. It has light moments that find a break in the overriding darkness, and it has some beauty within the bleak landscape. It is a strange beast that gives so little in terms of plot, yet fills the reader with an unquenchable thirst for more, and an overwhelming need to know how Abel’s life will go forward. Middlewest #1 is a blindingly strong first chapter in what I can only hope becomes a modern age classic.
- A deeply intriguing, mystery riddled opener
- Stunningly beautiful artwork
- Top-notch writing that draws the reader in
- The wait for issue two
- Could be too plot light for some
Neil is mostly a joystick twiddling, first-person shooting, double-jumping, coin collecting, bullet spraying, medic calling, lag complaining, button mashing, video game devotee. However, sometimes life calls for us to become the adult our age demands, and it’s at these times that Neil ignores the call and instead becomes a dice rolling, card drafting, traitor spotting, backstabbing, dungeon crawling, table flipping, coffee drinking board game fanatic. Life is short, play more games.