By Jarred A. Luján — Gideon Falls is back this week, once again thrusting readers into the most insane mystery happening in all of modern comics. This is a series wherein almost every single issues has left its audience with bigger questions than it went in with. Gideon Falls #13 is no different.
First and foremost, writer Jeff Lemire knows how to plot a mystery. Here’s the thing: if you read my last review on this book, you’ll know my favorite part of Gideon Falls is how little we really know about what’s going on. This lack of knowledge gives this story an added layer of horror. In the last two issues, however, that’s changed quite a bit. We as an audience now have a growing idea of what’s been going on in Gideon Falls. Maybe not entirely and definitely not perfectly, but we have far more info than we did a few issues back.
So, the obvious difficulty that comes with revealing that sort of information is the risk of losing some of the edge I talked about last time. The question, as a storyteller, needs to be how do you reveal information to your audience without losing one of the terror and intrigue that have been such valuable parts of the book?
Lemire’s approach is kind of brilliant: shift the question. While we now have some idea of what is going on in Gideon Falls, the last two issues have demanded we ask “Who is behind it?” The transition feels very blink-and-you’ll-miss-it, but we’re definitely pursuing the identity of an antagonist far more than we were before. Obviously, this is a part of the broader “What is happening?” mystery, but this shift keeps us on our toes and remains the shroud that has made the book the best horror title on shelves right now, possibly ever.
Yet, there’s a second part of this shift. Lemire has disconnected us from the characters we know and started to put the focus on ones we know almost nothing about. We’ve changed the setting a few times, and as we move around worlds, our Smiling Man antagonist’s motivations are starting to come out. Using these new characters and expanding on them is another way to keep us out of “the know.” It’s the equivalent of starting to get really good at Monopoly, then Jeff Lemire comes to your house, flips over the board, and demands you play chess.
I said a lot about artist Andrea Sorrentino in my last review and much of my praise for him is the same here: this book would crumble without him. At this point, it should be obvious that it isn’t because I think the plot is bad, but Sorrentino is just the glue of it. Sorrentino has such a unique approach to this book, with his panel layouts (my favorite one in this issue is a real eye catcher), his big spreads, and the uneasiness that comes every time we see the Smiling Man—all of it is the perfect style for this comic. If you were ever looking for a graphic story that shows the power and diversity of sequential art as a storytelling medium, Sorrentino’s work in this series is pretty damn close to a textbook for it.
Overall: Gideon Falls #13 deserves all the money I can (and will) throw at it. 9.0/10
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Jarred A. Luján makes comics, studies existential philosophy, and listens to hip-hop too loudly. For bad jokes and dog pictures, you can follow him on Twitter.