Scottie Young says in the back of issue one that he likes kid-on-a-quest stories, and Middlewest is a great example of that. The comic is written by Scottie Young, art by Jorge Corona, colors by Jean-Francois Beaulieu, and with lettering by Nate Piekos of Blambot. Middlewest #1 is the start of a new comic from Image and it’s a testament to the unique stories that can be told in the comic medium when creators are given free rein over their creations. It could be a story many children could really love and relate to- if it weren’t rated mature.
Just like any book, the first few pages of a comic have to keep the readers interest enough to make them want more. The first five pages of Middlewest had me enraptured and not just because of Francois Beaulieu’s gorgeous coloring. Middlewest starts with a tornado man and a sweet kid in a bad place. Readers can immediately sympathize with Abel. His father berates him for waking up late for his paper route, his neighbors threaten canceling their service, and the weather makes his day even worse.
There seems to be an upside to Abel’s life though. He has friends, nerdy friends at that. One of whom may be a bit of a bad influence; but honestly, they make the same mistakes many of us did as kids. They don’t care about responsibility, try to steal stuff, and don’t go home when their parents tell them to. Randall the clerk says it best, “Kids do kid-stuff.”
This kicks off a series of events that leads to Abel’s quest. Namely, the reactions of Abel’s father. He makes his son sleep outside after the attempted thievery, backhands Abel for standing up for himself, and finally hints at a depressing backstory of mother abandonment. The mystery of the missing mother is certainly an intriguing one, and I’m hoping for a positive outcome. I’m just also not holding my breath based on my knowledge of fantasy tropes and what happens next.
Middlewest never shies away from the real barren harshness that many from the Midwest can identify with. The small touches in designing this small town are telling, from the beat-up old trucks and the rundown silos. This is a farming town wracked by poverty. As a poor kid, growing up in a trailer park with a crummy dad and some questionable friends, Abel doesn’t really have a lot going for him in the first issue. He has a talking fox though, which is more than enough to keep me interested, and now he has a quest to reconcile his family’s history.
Middlewest has something for every fantasy fan. There is enough world building in the art of the town to make me need to know more after only one panel, but further images of dirigibles and deco-punk trains make it clear this world is not our own. The characters are fleshed out after only two conversations. Finally, the magic that is imbued in so few pages makes this a must read especially for those who can identify with a character like Abel and those of us who also enjoy kid-on-a-quest stories as much as Scottie Young.
Rating: 4/5 talking woodland creatures