Middlewest #8 is published by Image Comics, written by Skottie Young, art by Jorge Corona, colors by Jean-Francois Beaulieu, lettering by Nate Piekos. With the Hurst fair in ruins, and Abel run off to find his mom, the mood is pretty bleak as we continue our journey through the Middlewest. Plus, with Abel’s dad continuing his pursuit, things are likely to get worse before they get better.
The themes present in this book have always taken center stage throughout the narrative. Concepts like anger, pain, fear, trust, and abandonment have all been front and center with many characters we have met in our time in the Middlewest.
Middlewest #8 went in a direction that I wasn’t expecting. This issue spent much of its time exploring the concepts of fear and anger, or more importantly, how the former can lead to the latter. In addition it explored how anger is used as a shield to hide from fear. While there is no monologue that spells this out per se, I found the actions and reactions of character to situations time and again reinforce these concepts. Ultimately, that is what makes this book’s approach to these issues so compelling.
The concepts woven into the story are never force fed to the reader, halting the narrative to take you by the hand and explain to you every emotion and what you should take from it. Instead, it presents you with the situation and lets you pass your own judgement. I think we can all agree Abel’s dad does some pretty bad things to Abel, but how bad is he?
Is he a heartless monster? Or, perhaps is he just as scared as Abel without the tools to properly process his fears and so chooses the path that allows him the easiest release from the fear is anger and violence.
Over and over as I read, and reread, Middlewest #8, I couldn’t help but feel that many in our society could see a harsh reflection in Abel’s dad. Every person that lashes out in anger when an old story changes, when their favorite movie series isn’t what they want it to be anymore, or when someone questions a concept they’ve always taken for granted. How much easier it is to simply lash out and rage, rather than face the terrifying truth that they might have been wrong?
These feelings and concepts are perfectly reflected in the art of Middlewest #8 as it continues to balance the cartoony style of the characters with the dark moods presented by the story. In this way, the art has grown on me immensely as I feel a more realistic style of art might allow Middlewest to become too dark, to the point of becoming overbearing. Instead, it allows enough separation from the real to permit the reader to feel for the characters and the places they find themselves, while allowing the distance to keep from being consumed by them.
As I’m sure is evidenced in all that I’ve said above, Middlewest continues to be an emotional and thought provoking piece of art I couldn’t put down. The characters continue to feel shockingly real and I am filled with a compulsion to continue to take this journey with them, no matter how many tears I shed along the way.
Middlewest continues to be an emotional and thought provoking piece of art I couldn’t put down