Definitely Looking A Gift Horse In The Mouth: Reviewing ‘Stillwater’ #14

by Scott Redmond


The final ‘Stillwater’ story arc continues to bring big bold moves to the horror series as the town of Coldwater now must deal with the darkness that controls Stillwater, and a big big return most assuredly spells the beginning of the end. This remains such a brilliant, beautiful, dark, emotional, and powerful series from this truly amazing creative team.


When is a so-called gift actually more of a curse? Well, when the horror of immortality that was upon one town is forced upon the citizens of another town through essentially a militaristic dictatorship coup. A situation that is far too real for the citizens of Coldwater.

Following the discovery that the borders of the immortality field can be extended past Stillwater just by simply literally changing the borders on a map, the middle-aged man trapped in the body of a child Galen makes a huge move. This is the final story arc of Stillwater and rather than the whole arc being a wind-up or wind-down to a specific moment, Chip Zdarsky is using the issues to delve into and explain more about this horrific situation. Guessing how this will all end is not something I care to spend my time doing, not only because I prefer to see what the creators have come up with, but also because it would be near impossible to do at this point.

Since the first issue the scope and range of this title, which started as a look at the horror that comes from living forever and what people in a small town will do to protect that, has grown more and more. We’re given an interesting issue as Daniel and his companions (now known as “The Three” after Daniel’s ‘miraculous’ return from burning once the borders were changed six months prior to this issue) do not appear till the very end. Instead, we get a lot of Galen and the weeks spent taking over Coldwater, and some really interesting philosophical discussions about why this is a curse situation rather than a gift situation.

The idea that things like eating and other activities as well as pleasures are no longer necessary because of the immortality (yet also are something to do more of because of this immortality/healing) and what that can do to someone after a lifetime of doing those things is quite a conversation.

Ramón K Perez and Mike Spicer do such amazing work on this series, issue after issue. It’s really great when these series are able to continue in a way that keeps the whole creative team together so that there is a throughline artistically from start to finish. From the first issue to this one, they have nailed the small town ‘wholesomeness’ meets true horror vibes.

Stillwater had this almost idyllic look at the beginning that hid the horror we found was actually there, as the town became overwhelming more shadowed and darkened as the issues went along. Here we see Coldwater starting off as deep and dense but also bright and shiny much like Stillwater was, before Galen and his people infect this new town with their horrific curse.

Together this crew has built an entire fleshed-out world, with Perez’s depictions having such depth and weight to them, with really deep characters that feel real in so many ways. Having a lot of character moments means needing to nail the emotions, and Perez does that so well. Galen might be a man trapped in the body of a child which could fool you with that child-like innocence, but the way that Perez works with his facial expressions helps really showcase just how evil Galen truly is as a person. There is a dark glee radiating off him, and the same goes for others and the variety of emotions or states that they represent.

After a whole issue set at night, in this one, Spicer gets to play in the daylight and there is a great energy change. As noted before there is a more idyllic colorful vibe within Coldwater to start which makes it through the issue, but there are more and more shadows to be found as we move through the issue. As the darkness infect the town even more, and the residents we meet are not feeling gifted or taken care of in any way.

Though there are a few pages that play at night and the ones where characters are seen in just dark silhouette and there is little to no bright colors (just blacks and shades of sort of white) is so well done. It feels authentic to be someone observing figures that are pretty much in pure darkness from a distance.

All of this energy can also be found throughout the lettering as Rus Wooten makes sure to match the tone with any letters he adds to the page. All the emotion mentioned before is also felt through their words through simple measures like shrinking the font or growing the font to showcase when someone is softer or louder in their words. This allows us to know the volume/tone of their words, therefore we can hear and feel it even more as we read.

Stillwater #14 is now available from Image Comics


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