Mr. Vertigo Reviews 68: Gideon Falls Vol. 1 – Black Barn; Silver Volume 4; My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies

Gideon Falls Vol. 1: Black Barn
Jeff Lemire & Andrea Sorrentino; Dave Stewart, colors
Image Comics, 2018

The quiet village of Gideon Falls is a haunted place. Some believe in the existence of a black barn, a supernatural place that reappears periodically, causing townspeople to turn to evil. A mental patient named Norton has been obsessively collecting physical evidence of its existence. His therapist Angie naturally thinks it is an unhealthy obsession–until she has a vision of the barn herself. The new parish priest, Father Wilfred (call him Fred) soon is drawn in. He also has a vision of the barn, and discovers that his predecessor was a member of the Ploughmen, a secret society that guards the town from the darkness of the black barn.

I have seen Goodreads comments complaining that the series moves too slowly. But the first issue introduces several key characters, shows the barn a few times, and ends in a the mysterious reappearance of the former pastor (thought drowned weeks past) and a murder! That seems like plenty of action to me. By the end of this arc Father Fred has been inside the Black Barn, which is more of a supernatural entity than a physical place. Sheriff Clara has been attacked (and apparently also been inside the barn, although she does not remember) and has been temporarily reunited with her father, Doc Sutton–who is the leader of the Ploughmen. But the experience has convinced her that her long-lost brother Danny is still alive. And Norton and Angie think they have found the original physical location of the Black Barn.

Plenty of open questions for future arcs to explore. The series establishes a spooky vibe right from the start, reminding me a bit of Tim Seeley & Mike Norton’s Revival (especially the rural setting) and Scott Snyder & Jock’s Wytches (which seems to be coming back after a very long hiatus). Sorrentino has a loose, impressionistic style, with an odd minimalist way of drawing facial expressions. Stewart’s colors play a large role in establishing the different settings, as well as time of day. Gideon Falls has the makings of a great horror comic series, and I look forward to reading more.

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Silver Volume 4
Stephan Franck, writer & illustrator
Dark Planet Comics, 2018

The final volume in Franck’s noir vampire caper sees the con completed. It’s a complex story involving double-crosses, unexpected meetings, and some esoteric vampire lore (involving swapping one country’s soil for another, as well as ghost Old Ones who the vampire king invokes to bodily move his castle to a new location). Like all great cons, the mark is unaware of the full scope of the con, and even participates in his own downfall in the end. SPOILER ALERT! The rest of my review goes unavoidably into some surprise plot points.

So complex it’s a bit hard to follow: at some point I intend to go back and reread the whole series. But the big irony is that just as the con was about to fail–as the team had the treasure on the getaway train, but was overtaken by the vampire king and his soldiers on horseback–the whole thing is resolved by the Chinese military, who swoop in to route the vampires and seize the treasure (which was Chinese to start with). This turns out to be the crew’s plan all along, including cutting Finnigan out of it. The series was so carefully plotted that I suspect there were clues about this earlier which I missed.

Back in New York, Finnigan receives an invitation to fly to France. He reunites with Sledge (aka Rosalyn) and the Chinese boy Tao (the one who can see the future). In her last vampire battle on the train, Rosalyn discovered that her sister Bernice–whose capture by a group of vampires was what started her on her vampire-hunting path–is alive. So the trio goes off to find her. In his Afterward Franck reveals that this plot twist came as a surprise to him as well, and that there will be more Silver after all. This volume is the end of the caper, but not the end of the line for all of the characters. It will be interesting to see what they get up to.

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My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies
Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips
Image Comics, 2018

Didn’t realize until I started reading this that it is subtitled “A Criminal novella.” None of the recurring Criminal characters appear, but it does indeed feature lots of criminal behavior, so the connection is there. Ellie is the young woman with the hero worship of drug addicts referenced in the title. Shortly after the story opens we find her in rehab: but saying her heart isn’t really in it is a massive understatement. Her fascination with junkies is fueled by older jazz and rock music created while under the influence, which she heard on the mix-tapes her mother had sent to her father while he was in prison.

So Ellie is just putting in time, and prides herself on being a bad influence on fellow patient Skip. There are intimations that she may have ulterior motives for seducing him, but nothing explicit. When they are caught outside after lights out, she convinces him to run away with her (with the additional motive that they are both likely to fail a drug test). They spend some time as romantic young outlaw lovers, crashing in vacated houses and selling drugs for money.

In the end Ellie’s real agenda starts to become clear, but Skip is completely clueless until she sells him out. It is a surprising twist that is worthy of the Criminal series, even if much of the story is less involving than usual. In many ways this is more a story of bad family dynamics than criminal actions. But as always Brubaker and Phillips form a dynamic team, and the novella is well worth reading.

About marksullivan5

Freelance Journalist & Musician; Senior Contributor, All About Jazz.com; writing on comics at mrvertigocomics.com & No Flying, No Tights.com
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