Despite this being a new arc, this is not a new jumping-on point for the series as it hits the ground running from the last issue and doesn’t let up on the horror and brutality till the final page revelation. This is the moment that has been building for six issues and it hits with perfect looks at what lurks within humanity. Every single moment comes to terrifying life thanks to the emotional detailed art and the atmospheric and moody color palate.
If there is one thing that fiction has reminded us over all these years it’s that there is a fine line between utopia and dystopia. Things that seem to be great or have the potential to be beneficial or a paradise for all are often corrupted and twisted by the few, those who crave power and will grab it by any means necessary. After a few months break, that’s where the folks of the town of Stillwater find themselves in issue seven of the Image Comics series.
Through the first arc, Chip Zdarsky, Ramon K. Perez, Mike Spicer, and Rus Wooten introduced the town of Stillwater and the immortality its population had been gifted with while showcasing what a curse it had become. Characters were introduced, backstories dived into, secrets revealed and tensions were ratcheted up as the return of a young man who actually escaped the town set a powder keg of things into motion. A powder keg that led to the courthouse literally blowing up during a big town meeting.
With all the foundational work out of the way, the series latest issue is free to just really lean hard into the brutality and horror of this situation. There is an intriguing point raised that brutal violence and injury aren’t a horrific thing within this community anymore because of the healing and immortality gifted to them. What is more of a blasphemous crime is the destruction of property, because that leads to lots of work and possible attention being brought to the town that is trying to stay hidden.
Perez, Spicer, and Wooten expertly maintain the almost claustrophobic panic-inducing terror of the issue as the brutal scenes are first showcased openly in the fiery glow in town and then in dark encroaching shadows. Spicer’s coloring takes on some really cool tones as it shifts readily between the more yellows of the fire glow to purples of the night to almost greens of a darkened interior and shadowy wooded areas.
They capture the frantic pace as every bit of the brutal violent action taking place is felt, the broken twisted bodies and the right in your face SFX surrounding the actions being taken. Every bit of emotion is clear within the facial expressions and body language and draws the audience in more as they are literally watching the crumbling of a community into the type of authoritative realm that many of us fear.
In spite of the whole immortality thing, what makes Stillwater really work is that the horror is not derived from some supernatural element or creature. It’s a look at the horror that is created all the time by humanity. The judge took control of this town and meted out punishment in order to keep it secret from the outside world, and now the outside world has arrived and together with the judge is making life even worse for those within.
Zdarsky is a master at drawing stories out in a way that gives you a ton to chew on and leaves you wanting more in the best way possible. There is still tons that we don’t know about this town and tons of the residents but each issue is a full meal that leaves you sated for the moment. There is probably enough backstory and materials to keep the series running for quite some time all on its own.
Stillwater #7 is now on sale from Image Comics in print and digitally.