Middlewest #3 // Review
A boy named Abel continues his journey accompanied by a reluctant talking fox. Elsewhere his father deals with the fallout of a mystically disastrous outburst in the third strangely endearing chapter of Skottie Young’s Middlewest. Art is handled by Jorge Corona with color by Jean-Francois Beaulieu.
Abel and the fox are once again all alone in the dangerous countryside of the Middlewest. They have just enough time to shrug off the weight of recent events before encountering a troll lurking in a covered bridge. Meanwhile, Abel’s father stands naked in the ruins of his own wrath. Anger had turned him into a mystic hurricane and now that the dust has cleared on the calamity of that, he becomes aware that his son is missing.
Young’s journeys to a mystical mythical midwest unfold a little bit more in the third issue of an open-ended ongoing series. Earlier issues in the series have hinted at it, but here we begin to see the moral complexity of the fantasy in Young’s world. All too often magical fantasy relies on the shorthand of a conflict between good and evil. The big, extended recovery scene dominating this issue shows considerable sophistication beyond fairy tales of valiant heroes boldly facing sinister evil. Abel’s dad loves him quite a bit. But that love is abusive. (So much so that it causes him to literally become a hurricane.) This is not healthy. This is not natural. In the amplified magic of the fictitious Middlewest, violent anger doesn’t just had one household directly. It levels everything and it’s path. Nevertheless, the love from a father for his son persists.
Father is determined to find the son to keep him safe to protect him from everything but the one thing that might kill him: magically explosive paternal rage. There’s a clever economy to the way the story that doesn’t require a whole lot of narration our dialogue. As sophisticated as it as it is, Young knows exactly where he needs to be with it in order to deliver a story without over-rendering the world. He recognizes that he’s got plenty of time to develop everything. Right now he seems content to focus on the interpersonal drama and let the magic of his world flow from that.
Corona contrasts with him and drama against a an amplified backdrop of the rural Midwest. He makes the ominous and foreboding wilderness feel positively overwhelming in places. And also very beautiful. The wilderness is seen from the perspective of a small boy and his fox. It all looks so immense. Corona gives the fox plenty of personality left out overly anthropomorphizing it. There’s a real nature in the super natural as breathing on to the page by Corona. Beaulieu casts the visuals in very vibrant color which extends the feeling of a magically amplified Midwest with fluffy, white clouds across deep blue skies over trees and grass and other vegetation that or a symphony of different greens. When it needs to be dark and shadowed, Beaulieu where is that as well and very ominous and for boating moments. And when it needs to be fiery and magical, Beaulieu has no difficulty in delivering that to the page as well.
The world in which all of the action is going to be taking place is still developing at this point. It’s very reassuring to see the moral complexity lowered into this one. This is a coming-of-age magical fairy tale, but it’s going to be a very ethically complicated one. With the right economy of words and image in well-paced scenes, this third issue establishes important conventions this serial will hopefully continue to follow for many, many issues and what will hopefully be a very long run.