Carnivals aren’t meant to last. They’re temporary by design, but that’s part of what makes them special. You appreciate them while they’re around because they’re not always there. While it’s possible that’s the meaning Mad Cave Studio’s was going for with the title of their new series, Show’s End, there’s another option, too: end of the line.
Carnivals end but not usually as fast as the one in this comic has been doing lately. It’s like in the new AT&T commercial, where the mother and son change their mind about riding the Ferris wheel after the operator says they’ll move to the next town, if something happens. That’s essentially what’s going on here, except the carnies aren’t willingly leaving. They’re being run out of town by villagers with guns who blame them for their dead livestock.
Somebody killed them (or at least something) but was it the carnival people? That’s for writer, Anthony Cleveland, to disclose with letterer, Justin Birch’s, help. Loralye is our main eyes into this world. She’s new to the carnival, but it quickly becomes her refuge in more ways than one. Exuding all the charm and rascally spirit of an Oliver Twist or Peter Rabbit, it’s through Loralye that the carnival is what it’s supposed to be – a magical escape.
One of my favorite panels this issue is the moment she decides to go to the fair, with Jef Sadzinski’s art drawing to mind Lotte Reiniger’s animation (her earliest films came out in the 20’s when this story takes place). He uses this style one other time towards the end, but the impression left is very different.
Overall, these introductory scenes to the carnival are some of Sadzinski’s best work. Most of the booths are out of focus yet there’s just enough detail for readers to bask in the variety of acts and wares on display. Hopefully we get to meet more of these performers in future issues.
Julian Gonzalez’s colors give an inviting warmth to the grounds, and it’s very much a kid’s perspective, with Loralye sneaking some caramel from the candy apple stand or finding a way beneath the bleachers so she can watch the show for free. She’s a scrappy survivalist – no harm intended – yet it’s in the overreactions by some of the adults to her petty crimes that the carnival starts to go horribly wrong.
Show’s End isn’t a children’s comic. These harsh moments are the reason why, but while violence doesn’t belong in this world, it does exist there, which is why you tellingly find so many prepared for these attacks. This is the “show’s end” I feel is coming – when the “norms,” as Dax, the ringmaster, calls them, go too far, and the carnival has to stand up for its chosen family.
Fans of the TV show Carnivàle might not find the same religious elements but the balance between light and dark is there, as are the supernatural aspects that always keep life busy.
Show’s End #1 goes on sale August 7th from Mad Cave Studios and is worth a try if you enjoy the carnival setting and its entertainers.