Middlewest #1 is a magically real book and one that will have you guessing, after the first issue, what is real and what isn’t.
On the surface, this looks like the story of a son and his ever-angry trailer-trash dad never seeing eye-to-eye and the boy’s every move criticised by said father. Abel, the boy in question, is late for his usual paper round, and given that it’s Saturday, this problem only further escalates as he meets up with friends and decides to play hooky and enjoy the weekend playing computer games. Well, that’s the plan anyway. And we know what happens to the best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men right?
But, as Abel rides round this All-American mid-west town – the kinda place the American Pickers would have a field day in – there are signs that not all is as it should be. Each building seems to have attached to its sides strange canisters of pink liquid, with several rackety-shack buildings even having their own personal blimps tethered to their sides.
The big showdown of this first issue seems real enough, given the hints laid down by writer Skottie Young (I Hate Fairyland) and artist Jorge Corona (No.1 With A Bullet) that imply we ain’t in Kansas anymore, but to what level the magic is real and what is in Abel’s mind is yet to be revealed. After all, he seems to be the only person who can talk with the fox who follows him along his newspaper route. Is it all in his mind? Somehow, I doubt it. While subsequent issues of this ongoing series will have more to say on this matter, for now, it does have a sense of The Wizard of Oz about it – the mid-west All-American setting, the tempestuous, destructive tornadoes and, of course, the whole cast of characters, even right down to the kindly old man who owns the local convenience store. I wouldn’t have been surprised to see a young Clark Kent walk into shot at any point, either.
Young’s writing skills have certainly been well-established through his critically acclaimed book, I Hate Fairyland and now this book, too. In many ways it is familiar, playing on the conventions of small town America we are all so familiar with from a plethora of stories set in such places. But, it has the air of magic to it that I can’t wait to see develope as a force upon Abel’s life, which takes a rather dramatic and unexpected turn by the end of this debut issue.
For me, though, the real big takeaway from this book is Jorge Corona’s artwork. It’s come on leaps and bounds since I last saw it in No.1 With A Bullet. Whether it’s because of his partnership with Young on this project, or otherwise, Corona’s artwork evaluates this book and gives it a style akin to Young’s own manic work, with more than a touch of Sean Gordon-Murphy too, to keep it grounded.
A promising first issue that keeps the readers on their toes as we start to sense that the familiar isn’t that familiar to us after all. To say Abel and his father’s relationship is rather tempestuous is an understatement, let’s put it that way. But, you’ll have to pick up the book when it’s out on November 21st if you want to know more.