Gideon Falls #1
Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Andrea Sorrentino and Dave Stewart
Lettering by Steve Wands
Published by Image Comics
'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10
Gideon Falls doesn’t just begin with a mystery, but is a puzzle waiting to be solved. It’s one that Jeff Lemire has been wrapping his mind around for the better part of the last two decades, and comes fully formed onto the page. Re-teaming the writer with Andrea Sorrentino, it may not always be clear what Lemire is up to just yet, but he is determined to suck you into its world.
What do a trash-hoarding man and a Catholic priest have in common? It sounds like the start of a terrible joke, but Lemire keeps the dots far apart in this first issue of his new ongoing series. Norton is a man obsessed with the city’s trash, determined that it holds some secret he is yet to fathom. Meanwhile, Father Fred arrives in the titular small town parish in the wake of his predecessor’s death. The two events are connected, but therein lies the intrigue.
Norman Sinclair was born of Lemire’s early experiments as a filmmaker in the 1990s, and it’s this visual origin that informs the pace of this debut issue. It’s evident that Lemire and Green Arrow/Old Man Logan collaborator Sorrentino know exactly where this entire story is going, and are content for the moment to lead us incrementally down the path. Each panel in the first act of the book is a beat, a clue, a stylistic signpost.
From the first page, Sorrentino’s art is designed to disorient. Norman is introduced upside-down against a red backdrop, with no sense of place or scale to inform us what we are looking at. Some panels are drawn as though we are looking at the scene through a wide-angled fisheye lens. At other times, Sorrentino will rip the panel right out of a crucial piece of art, removing Norman’s face entire from a fractured splash page.
As with his previous work, Sorrentino’s panelling is as much a part of the storytelling as the pencils within them. Early in the comic, a bright red circular panel highlights an item Norman has found, and the subsequent four panels beam out like precise rays of light to meticulously break down Norman’s methodical actions. Later, Sorrentino uses a two-page spread to make a visual collage of that same precise mind in torment, as polaroids float over cascading echoes of the scrounger to represent the fragility of his own construct.
For all of the familiar visual tricks Sorrentino employs, there’s a deliberate rough-around-the-edges feel to the book that makes this feel far more primal than his previous work. Even as the book settles into the more linear narrative (and cleaner art) of Father Fred’s primary arc, Dave Stewarts magnificent color art makes it appear as though shadows have been etched into the page rather than shaded, and this scratchiness permeates the rest of the book as well. His muted color palette keeps to the Earthier tones of the small town, exploding in brilliant reds during a climactic discovery.
It’s difficult to box Gideon Falls into a single genre at this early stage, but it begins with a frantic search and ends in blood. It’s a thriller, it’s horror, it’s literary, and it’s also something truly unique. With this new creator-owned series, we see two exemplary artists who share an unspoken symbiosis articulating that bond through sequential storytelling.