Middlewest #5 // Review
A boy and his fox have run afoul of some pretty wicked energies on a trip to a carnival in the Middlewest. They are aided by a girl and the robot she had created as they consult with the old woman who runs the festival in another issue written by Skottie Young with art by Jorge Corona and colors by Jean-Francois Beaulieu. There’s a unique voice resonating through another excursion into Middlewest’s distinct mixture of magic and advanced tech in a small-town midwestern fantasy world. A boy gains allies as he carves a path through a world shrouded in mystery.
As the issue opens, there’s a flashback to a time before Abel’s exile. He receives a crate from his mother. His father isn’t exactly happy about it. Shoot ahead to the present and Abel is overcome with energies that an old woman named Magdalena aids him in suppressing. He’s grateful to her. She’s stern but agrees to let him work for her carnival. She’s not letting on all she knows, but there’s work to be done, and Abel is thankful to have it. He quickly sets about the task of making himself useful in a place that is likely destined to be his new home.
Young continues to weave the foundations of a very immersive fantasy world without all that permanent exposition that so often goes along with fantasy world building. The world of Middlewest seems fantastic and fantastically dangerous, but it’s not a world that’s all that eager to deliver every last detail to readers all at once. Magdalena has great magic about her, but she’s far more concerned with the day-to-day operations of her carnival. Abel’s newfound friend Bobby know a great deal about advanced technology having built a nuts-and-bolts AI named clank from the ground up, but she’s not interested in making scientific marvels so much as she is maintaining rides like the vomit-encrusted Gravitor. This is the Middlewest and even the fantastic needs to keep its place in the background. It’s a refreshingly pragmatic approach to fantasy.
Corona’s art faithfully follows Young’s narrative with an art style that puts human drama front and center in panels that are populated by strange fantasy around the edges. Magdalena’s office is filled with all manner of strange relics that might have dazzling, little stories around them. The Mood causes an emotion shift across the aces of characters. When the tale ISN’T focussed on drama, the action in the foreground is amplified by Beaulieu’s radiantly vivid coloring. There are some charming visuals on the issue. Midway through the chapter, it’s raining at night. The robot Clank rests outside with Abel’s Fox. The two nonhuman sidekicks hang out and have a conversation amidst the many temporary shelters of carnies. It’s a very atmospheric moment for the issue.
Young and Corona are constructing something that feels quite distinctly unlike so much that litters the contemporary pop fantasy landscape. It’s grounded in standard fantasy elements, but Young and Corona are carving-out something that feels genuinely fantastic. No need to bog down the narrative in so much detail. Young and Corona are wisely allowing the fantasy to be fantastic on its own.