Writer: Rafael Scavone
Artist: Rafael De Latorre
Colourist: Wellei Manoel
Letterer: Bernardo Brice
Editor: Bis Stringer Horne
Publisher: ComiXology Originals

“You know how hard it is to survive in Hailstone in times like these”

Hailstone #1 introduces us to the eponymous Montana town, fallen on hard times, with relentless snow and with it an excruciating food shortage, leaving the townspeople hungry. To make matters worse members of the population keep going missing, most recently a girl named Mary – the fifth person to disappear.

Tensions are also running high as there’s a military arms factory in the town, who have plenty of food and could definitely be aiding the locals not only with the shortage of supplies, but also in searching for those who have gone missing.

My first impressions for Hailstone #1 was very much that I was getting started on what would perhaps be quite a bleak read about a struggling town trying to overcome the harshness of winter. Not to mention the harshness of the resident military. That certainly is the case, but there’s more to this story than just that.

In the book’s second scene we’re introduced to Sheriff Denton Ross and his Deputy Tobias, the two men charged with finding Mary and the other missing persons. Their inclusion within the story gives the whole narrative what feels like more of a murder mystery dynamic than I’d initially expected. It also shows how the Sheriff has to work to broker peace between the townspeople and the military to avoid any violence between the two groups. This ongoing animosity ultimately leads to a group consisting of just townsfolk heading out into the woods as darkness falls to search for Mary before it’s too late. Then things get twisty, very twisty.

Synopsis aside, this is a really well constructed first issue, considering I wasn’t even sure this was my kind of comic, the fact that I’m eagerly awaiting the next issue might tell you everything you need to know. While the previously mentioned bleakness is undeniably part of the story, the small town dynamic opens up the narrative to plenty of themes and possibilities I hadn’t expected. We see glimpses of the fear and racism towards the nearby Native Americans and the tension of the military hoarding supplies the people in the town so desperately need. There’s a real sense of inequality and anger lurking below the surface, which is a strong platform for fitting a lot of narrative into quite a small location.

Rafael De Latorre’s artwork suits the story really well, his establishing scenes show the stark landscape surrounding the town, and with it perhaps some hint of how difficult it would be to go missing in such a barren wasteland. I feel like Wellei Manoel’s colouring is a great addition to this overall feeling, it feels strange to say that his choice of palette adds to the overall bleakness on display, but that is the case. 

Hailstone #1 surprised me, and I’m glad it did. If nothing else it shows that it can be worth taking a chance on a book you’re not sure is for you. I don’t want to give too much away, but the ending of this issue has really piqued my interest and  I’m looking forward to sinking my teeth into the next issue.

4 angry villagers out of 5.

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