Advance Review: Middlewest #2 Serves Up Magic Realism Dipped In Americana

by Olly MacNamee

When last we saw Abel and his traveling companion the fox (he’s not big on the whole name thing, apparently) they were about to embark on a quest through the magical landscape of Middlewest, an all-American vista that evokes the spirit of The Wizard of Oz and other modern stories soaked in Americana. For many it will be a familiar world, but with the dash of steampunk technology at the fringes that elevates this comic onto the wonderful world of timeless fantasy. While Abel is very much a boy of the modern world, the visuals and overall aesthetics of the book, so majestically rendered by Jorge Corona from Skottie Young’s script, seem, at times, from another era. A world of traveling carneys, snake oil salesmen, and open plains where anything is possible.

In this issue, Abel is met by a kindly old mentor-like figure in the shape of old man Jeb, who saves the young boy from a rather creepy looking creature by the name of Caw. As we are introduced to Jeb’s home. A home that encapsulates the tone of this book beautifully. It seems like a magical mash-up of carnival castoffs and abandoned American automobiles of yesteryear. Jeb’s main abode is an old school bus; an iconic American vehicle that adds to the aforementioned aesthetics of this gentle, cozy comic. A world you want to be a part of and travel to see. A mythologised America with the offer of adventure and open roads.
The plot thickens, and with out hero having crossed the first threshold and having met his mentor, he is now ready to move onto the next stage in that quest; test, allies and enemies. I suspect a creature like Caw – all skeletal bones and billowing, scrappy garments flailing in the wind – will return further on down the line, but for now Abel and his foxy friend seem to be safe. Although there is that matter of the burning insignia in his chest and his dad-turned-tornado-monster to deal with.

The colouring of Jean-Francois Beaulieu only adds to the sense of magic, as he deftly establishes a nighttime setting for most of this issue’s unfolding action, and I’m enjoying the use of less pronounced, rectangular speech balloons, by Nate Piekos, that work really well when placed alongside the art. There may not be too much happening in this issue, but it’s a stunning book to behold and full of interesting characters with the promise of more to come. A beautifully crafted book that has a glowing warmth to it that is as a result of the art, the story and the relationship between Abel and his traveling companion. I can see why the first issue was such a success.
Middlewest #2 is available this Wednesday, the 19th of December from Image Comics.

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