REVIEW: ‘The Down River People’

Reading Time: 2 minutes

The Down River People - But Why Tho?

The Down River People is an original graphic novel written by Adam Smith, illustrated by Matthew Fox, lettered by Mike Fiorentino, and published by BOOM! Studios’ imprint Achaia. Myers’ old man is gone, and he’s left with the license-less family bar. Panic attacks and a surprise visit from his estranged mother make things that much harder.

There are two disparate sides to The Down River People. There’s the devastatingly tragic story of Myers, the death of his father, and the challenge he has coping and moving forward. Then there’s the weird, weird church Myers’ mom and her new husband and daughter run. I’m not sure if the two elements here completely meld together in every way, but they certainly have their thematic balance. Watching Myer struggle with his father’s sudden death while trying to hold the bar together is really intense. And when he meets his estranged family, at first, it was very touching.

But then things start to get weird. Very weird. Supernatural weird. But the supernatural concerns, confusing as they get by the end, are also a metaphor for grief and acceptance. The chains that weigh Myer down are literal in the book but an absolutely keen analogy for how depression and anxiety can feel overtaking your body. It’s harrowingly relatable, even for readers who have not experienced the depth of trauma Myer has. And it’s a beautifully delivered message about why you can’t let tragedy and grief chain you down.

I only wish I understood what was going on in that part of the book better. The art in The Down River People, unfortunately, makes it somewhat difficult to discern characters from one another at times. Few panels in the over 200-page book have detailed faces, and with several characters related to each other, and some who aren’t but still look alike, it was hard to tell who was talking to whom throughout.

I do admire the art style. It’s washed out and blue; it looks like what a depressive episode on top of anxiety attacks on top of sudden and tragic loss feels like. I appreciate that so many of the comics pages are void of text, allowing the tragedy to speak for itself. It also lets the supernatural speak for itself, though, and in those parts of the comic, more explanation, even just the smallest bit, would have helped. It was super interesting, but not being able to tell the characters apart, it feels like it didn’t resolve.

The Down River People is tragic, but its confusing conclusion and difficulty distinguishing characters from one another hold it back from excellence. The emotional components are very strong, though; those parts of the book will have you feeling a lot. Ultimately, its message not to let tragedy and grief chain you down forever is very well delivered.

The Down River People is available wherever comics are sold.

The Down River People
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TL;DR

The Down River People is tragic, but its confusing conclusion and difficulty distinguishing characters from one another hold it back from excellence. The emotional components are very strong, though; those parts of the book will have you feeling a lot. Ultimately, its message not to let tragedy and grief chain you down forever is very well delivered.