Middlewest #6 // Review
Small town runaway Abel is really starting to fit-in with his new family at the traveling carnival, but a storm is coming which is reverberating out of the past in the sixth issue of writer Skottie Young’s Middlewest. A chapter of rising tension is brought to the page by artist Jorge Corona with colors by Jean-Francois Beaulieu. Now that the series has fully-established the world in which it’s going to roam, Young and Corona have an opportunity to develop a richer personality for everyone in the ensemble including carnival matriarch Maggie and her estranged husband Jeb.
As the issue opens, old man Jeb is talking to a raven. He tells it to warn Maggie of a coming storm that is wrapped up in the relationship between Abel and his father. Meanwhile, Abel has found himself integrated well with the traveling carnival that has become his home after a fairly shaky start. Maggie tells Abel that his debt to her is paid-off, but his decision to stay on with the carnival may prove to be a serious hazard as the storm that’s chasing him may come from within as phantoms of his past life continue to haunt him.
The dynamic of Young’s plot begins to really expand with this issue. All the basic players have been introduced and now he is taking the opportunity to really dive into the characters. As central as Abel has been to the series thus far, he’s far more central to this issue than he’s been in any previous issue. The issue explores Abel’s past in fragments of memories prompted by Maggie’s magic, but there’s also a vivid reflection of his past in his satisfaction with life on the road. In revealing more about Abel’s past, Young is revealing deeper mysteries about him in another intriguing issue.
The specific language of Corona’s artwork continues to give the Middlewest its own distinct voice. There’s an expressive exaggeration of anatomy and emotion that fits well within the Midwest-inspired small-town landscape in which the story rests. The dreamy detail-laden landscape of Abel’s memories make a vivid impact this issue as Maggie guides him through visuals he doesn’t completely understand that are given a beautifully vivid life thanks to dreamy reds and blues and blacks brought to the page by Beaulieu. Abel’s transformation at the end of the journey is a horrifying, visceral force of nature under the influence of Corona and Beaulieu.
Middlewest swings into a clever bit of momentum with this issue, which continues to develop through sharp bits of mystery that cut through every aspect of the issue from bits of plot resonating out of the dialogue to details drawn into key panels. Young, Corona and Beaulieu round out the first six issues of a series which clearly has a sweeping sense of momentum carrying through a fantasy mutation of the American midwest. From here, there’s the risk of a repetition feeding into the story now that all the basic elements of the story are in place, but Young and company feel inventive enough to maintain interest in future issues.