Published on October 25th, 2018 | by Dana Folkard
MIDDLEWEST #1 ADVANCED REVIEW
Summary: Thought-provoking and immersive. A truly wonderful introduction.
The enchanting new series from Image Comics called Middlewest explores a land of hidden magic and adventure. Written by Skottie Young, with art by Jorge Corona, this tale follows a hapless young teenage boy who is swept up in an adventure as he runs away from his family’s stormy past.
The story follows a young teenage boy called Abel. Abel lives at home with his father, where he gets up early every morning so he can do the local paper round. It’s 8:30 on a Saturday morning with Abel still asleep in bed, having missed his usual 4:30 rise. Bit of a bummer, and most parents would normally let something like this slide with not much more than a warning, but unfortunately for Abel, his dad is a bit of a brutal hardass. After a heated exchange, Abel quickly gathers his things and scoots off to work, collecting his magical talking foxy companion in the process…wait, did I just say magical talking fox? I did indeed. You see, Abel lives in a land where magic exists and talking foxes are apart of the everyday normal occurrences. We see glimmers of this magic throughout the story and the landscape. Things look and feel familiar but kind of strange, subtly distorted and altered in a way that will make you linger on each page to take in all the small details.
So, things quickly progress and the story gains momentum when Abel is suddenly invited by his friends to partake in an ol’ tabletop gaming marathon. The only downside is that Abel was warned by his father to return home after finishing work, but being a wide-eyed and rebellious teen, Abel dismisses his curfew and heads out with his mates instead. After some peer pressure by his friends, one thing leads to another and Abel finds himself in a bit of a pickle as he is caught red-handed stealing. This new doesn’t sit well with his father, in fact he is beyond furious and unleashes a hectic tirade of abuse directed at Abel. A storm is brewing within his father, and Abel is quite literally caught in the middle of it.
This is a moving and powerful introduction to this new series. Straight away, I found myself feeling deeply sorry for Abel and his lot in life. The poor kid is on his own, living with a hateful and abusive father who shows little to no love towards him. The dynamic between father and son is quite confronting, as we see his dad lash out in cruel and abusive ways. I thought that Skottie Young nailed their argument perfectly, effortlessly capturing the defiant nature of a fed-up teenager as he tries to grapple with the crumbling relationship he has with his spiteful and vindictive father.
I also want to quickly mention the talking fox and the role that he plays in the story. To me he feels like a kind of guiding presence or familiar for Abel. He’s a kind of moral compass and conscience that follows him around, speaking and advising him of what he should and shouldn’t do. The fox is clearly a protector and there is a close bond there, a friendship that would naturally be very important for Abel, as without this little fox, he would be quite alone and isolated in this world. Magical companions like this always bring with them curious tales of their own, so I’m intrigued to know where this little guy comes from and why he hangs around with Abel.
Jorge Corona’s art is absolutely lovely. My word, this man can create a wonderful visual narrative. His linework is fine and detailed and works a treat when capturing the close emotional expressions that we see between Abel and his father. There is a kind of eeriness prevalent in this landscape, sparsely populated with unusual houses and tanks filled with pink fluid. It looks vast and isolated, which makes Abel look small and lonely and works nicely at heightening the inner-turmoil that he is experiencing. I also quite like how angular the people look and how this contrast nicely to the softness of the landscape. The colouring by Jean-Francois Beaulieu is both vibrant and magical, and perfectly reinforces the tone of the story. I love it.
Overall, I thought that this was a compelling, though-provoking and enchanting introduction. Everything comes together nicely, from the art, to the writing, pacing and palette. Definitely give this comic a go. I think this is going to be something special.
I’m giving this issue 5 out of 5 stars!
CREATIVE TEAM: Skottie Young, Jorge Corona and Jean-Francois Beaulieu
PUBLISHER: Image Comics
PUBLICATION DATE: November 21, 2018
REVIEWER: Dana Folkard