Things continue to take a dramatic turn in the conclusion of Stillwater’s first arc as officer Ted takes the law into his own hands.
What is it that truly makes someone a villain? This is a question that has been asked and answered in stories forever. Are they born that way, shaped by events outside of their control, or do they choose to be that way for their own reasons? Stillwater from Image Comics and Skybound Entertainment closes out its first arc by taking a good look at just what makes one of their villains tick.
Stillwater officer Ted has been portrayed as a brutal, crass, and colossal jerk since the very first issue. He is one who takes the protection of the small town’s immortality/healing secret very seriously. While living an immortal life for the last three decades has clearly been shown to take a toll upon the residents of Stillwater, Ted is in a different boat. His military background and attitude made him the perfect one to become the town’s enforcer, the doer of dirty deeds that need to be done quietly.
Some of the best-written villains are ones that are contemptible but also slightly sympathetic, and that is even the case with Ted. A lot of that comes down to the stellar work of Ramon K Perez and Mike Spicer on art. They do the heaviest of lifting as their work depicts not only how brutal Ted’s work for Stillwater truly is, but also the emotional toll it takes.
There is a perceived heaviness upon the man’s shoulders that is evident just from the art alone, a basket of emotions just waiting to be unleashed. There is happiness when he reconnects with those he had to cut off almost a decade before, followed by guilt over the duty he has to carry out for Stillwater, and then sadness when that leads to a brutal confrontation with someone he cares about.
When the story leaps forward almost twenty years, there is a noticeable change where the heaviness & emotions are gone and replaced with a hardness. The use of prominent shadows to hide portions of his face in both time frames is a wonderful tool as it keeps us from fully connecting with the character and works as an indicator of his rapid descent into the darkness.
Rus Wooton adds to all this with his lettering which knows exactly when to ratchet up to more prominent and bombastic in tone for the scene and when to be smaller and more subtle in some of the more intimate moments. It syncs well with the art, never pulling you out of the overall presentation. The use of bolds to emphasize certain words at the right time is always a great thing when done in these books because it helps to truly understand how each character is talking.
Chip Zdarsky continues to craft a compelling story and world because so many of these characters have been only partially explored but enough to really invest a reader in what happens to them. Ted’s gung-ho nature to protect the town leading to him wanting to rule it all makes perfect sense, and that desire leading to things spiraling out of control is a nice touch.
Rather than spend multiple arcs building the world and waiting to get to a big moment, Zdarsky once more subverts expectations and begins tearing it all down to complete the first arc. Daniel’s return to the town was said to be something that could unify it or tear it apart, and so far, both of those scenarios have come true within the span of two issues.
Stillwater #6 is now available from Image Comics & Skybound Entertainment at local comic shops and digitally through ComiXology.