Early Review Gideon Falls #1: the Speed of Pain
Jeff Lemire doesn’t sleep. Ever.
This is the only reasonable conclusion I can draw from the immense workload that the man puts out on the regular, whether it be as a writer (Bloodshot: Salvation, Moon Knight, Descender, and about a billion besides) or as an artist (his recent work on A.D.: After Death comes to mind among a girth of others), or as both artist and writer (Royal City, Trillium, Sweet Tooth, The Underwater Welder…the list goes on). I started working my way through his immense portfolio after discovering Trillium on a fluke at my local shop a few months back, which is more difficult than you might think: the minute I’m finishing one, Lemire is churning out thirty more.
One of those newly churned series is Gideon Falls, his latest authorial work alongside artist Andrea Sorrentino, colorist Dave Stewart, and letterer Steve Wands. Graphic Policy was fortunate enough to have the chance to review the first issue before its March release, and having done so I am now forced to revisit and expand upon my initial premise: Jeff Lemire doesn’t sleep – and with Gideon Falls, he and the rest of the creative team promise that none of us will either.
The initial adverts for Gideon Falls billed it as having something of a horror vibe, and without going into too details here the first issue promises something truly creepy to come. There’s a sense of some of the common threads that tie Lemire’s other works to each other, chief among them the premise of two disparate worlds lashed together by the machinations of A Veiled Grand Design, but rather than feel contrived or predictable this structural unity provides the familiarity normally associated with a genre study. Lemire’s world-blending manifests in the as-of-yet unspecified shared circumstances of city-bound obsessive Norton and errant, possibly disgraced Father Wilfred, culminating in a final pages reveal that can be described only as “creepy as all get-out”.
Ominously titled “The Speed of Evil”, Gideon Falls #1 carries a cinematic quality, the story unfolding as one might expect from the first act of a crime drama or, appropriately, psychological horror flick. We’re given glimpses of central charater Norton’s deteriorating mental state as he picks through his city’s garbage, alongside indications that he may not be as sick as others think he is, but it isn’t until the final few pages that the depths of his vision – or the depths of his psychosis – become clear. The same is true for Father Fred, a priest whose apparent exile to Gideon Falls isn’t touched upon save for vague flashbacks concerning an apparent fall from grace. While readers expecting any sense of the wherefores or hithertos out of issue one are going to leave sorely disappointed, those that dig a gripping sense of what’s-to-come will be delighted: we stumble onto the nuances of the mystery alongside the Norton and Fred, and so when they are perplexed or left with a chill, so too are we.
Lemire’s work couples nicely with Sorrentino’s character designs and backgrounds. The dinge of the city and the lazy small town atmosphere is carried nicely through Stewart’s contrasting warm/cool color schemes, and there is haze of decay over most everyone and everything that makes a few brilliant moments of red stand out as alien – and dangerous – in an otherwise fugue-like world. Sorrentino’s characters are distinct and yet ghostly, and a deliberate lack of detail around eyes and in expressions isn’t so much jarring as a little unsettling, especially fitting in a world that we begin to understand is not quite right.
I likewise applaud the creative team for its excellent use of silence: the panels are unencumbered by nearly all effect bubbles, which ironically makes the depicted ambient noises – the jangle of trash, the passing of a car, the rustle of a grassy field – all the more effective. It’s proof positive of the notion that less is more, and it likewise underscores the eerie, deliberate absence of something that runs throughout this largely-quiet first issue.
What that something is, I can’t say – not because this is a spoiler-free review, but because so many threads have been left purposefully loose that as a reader all I grasped was an off-putting sense of wrongness permeating the fabric of Fred and Norton’s world before a final reveal that, while shocking, delivered only more questions. I look forward to discovering what lurks beneath the surface of the desolate, deceptively innocent world that they inhabit – a world that isn’t quite right, but isn’t yet ready to tell its secrets.
Gideon Falls releases from Image this March, and if you’re a fan of a good story, eerie imagery, and bleak, evocative coloring – or you’d like to cure an excess of sleep with a solid case of the creeps – you should be first in line to pick it up.
Many thanks to Jeff Lemire for supplying Graphic Policy with an advance of Gideon Falls #1 to preview!