Middlewest #4 // Review
The journey of a boy and his fox continues as the pair navigate through a touring carnival in the latest issue of Skottie Young’s Middlewest, brought to page and panel by artist Jorge Corona and colorist Jean-Francois Beaulieu. A parallel pair of characters are introduced as Abel and Fox do what they need to do in order to survive the bright lights of an evening at the carnival in another enjoyable journey into the mythic amplification that is the Middlewest.
Following a lead by an old wizard in the previous issue, Abel and Fox skulk around a traveling carnival at night. Abel’s hungry but has no money, so Fox suggests that they scavenge for food via theft. Well aware of his previous misfortune with theft, Abel is reluctant to go along with the plan, but the two manage to meet with some success. Their actions draw the attentions of a mechanic girl named Bobby and her clanking metal creation Wrench.
Young’s tale finds a novel location for the young coming-of-Age adventure that is drawn directly out of the darker end of folksy Americana. With the introduction of Bobby and Clank, Young finds a nice contrast the supernatural boy with his animal companion. Super-techie Bobby’s relationship with the robot she created mirrors Abel’s relationship with the wild fox in clever counterpoint that steers the narrative clear of the tired, traditional “journey of a young male hero into adulthood” framework that has been overworked in hero fiction. With Bobby and Clank, there’s an opportunity for something far deeper than cliche. The witty dialogue between girl and robot mirrors of the witty dialogue between boy and fox with clever humor.
Jorge Corona constructs the garish mood of a touring carnival against the natural beauty between the lights with clever subtlety. The motion and emotion of Able is brought to the page in an engaging way that further develop the relationship between him and the fox. The design on Bobby and Clank is a nice counterpoint to the visual of Able and Fox. The towering shiny, metal robot is loyal to the tiny techie while the wily fox slinks around leading the relatively tall boy into trouble. Corona leaves plenty of room for Beaulieu to embellish the traveling carnival with vibrant, tastefully garish color and sullen shadows. Background color and delicately delivered shadow lend Fox striking emotion without over-anthropomorphizing a character who really needs to have the physics appearance of an animal in order to make the dynamic between boy and fox feel genuine. Outside the immediate drama, Beaulieu’s colors lend atmospheric luminosity to lights whether they’re the bulbs of the carnival, the single glowing eye of Wrench or distant stars in the night.
Young and company beautifully broaden the world of Middlewest this issue. The journey of Able and Fox and Bobby and Wrench looks like it’s starting to develop into something truly unique in an issue that feels viscerally powerful amidst the lights, popcorn and barkers of a carnival.