Ouch!

Publisher: Image & Skybound
Creator/Writer: Chip Zdarsky
Creator/Artist: Ramon K Perez
Colourist: Mike Spicer
Letterer: Rus Wooton

What I love about Stillwater is that there is no easy answer to the dilemma the town is in. You can keep killing those at the top but then who takes their place? How can you give people who want to leave the chance? The situation as it is is unsustainable which means drastic action. Laura is back and prepared to take that action. Her plan will have wide reverberations and more to the point could forever alter Stillwater.

You get a sense of impending do or die (quite literally) through Daniel’s journal thoughts toward the beginning of the issue. I like this neat way of getting a glimpse of what Daniel is thinking and it works well narratively. It can be a bit of a cliché to have the phrase ‘Tonight I finally live. Or tonight I finally die’. Yet it works here. It works as a journal entry, it works as a dramatic device because it feels like things have been building and there needs to be a release. Plus life and death is not straightforward in Stillwater and never has been. Living takes on a whole weighted meaning.

It’s a small band putting things into motion. There’s Daniel, Laura, Tanya and Clara. It’s an interesting mix (and mostly women you’ll notice). Laura remains the driving force, it’s her plan and her desire for change. She is still stewing in the bitterness of not being able to raise her son normally. Tanya is an interesting ally given that she came to Stillwater to escape death that was bearing down on her. She even committed murder to stay in Stillwater as the sheriff. Yet here she is ready to take it down. Hers is an interesting journey. Then there’s poor Clara who is basically just along for the ride as her house was a safe place.

There’s a real contrast here compared to earlier issues when we had a bomb, a larger resistance and now it’s down to a handful of people. Sometimes it takes a small group to make a difference. However it won’t be easy. Galen has the children on his side and as we know they are if anything more deadly than the adults in Stillwater. The confrontation between Galen and Laura is very tense. There’s some interesting power play at work. The child who is now something else and the adult who never got old. Both victims of a twisted immortality.

The art really helps with the tension too. There’s a really nice use of shadows and so much of this is carried out under the cover of darkness. Characters silhouetted and acting in the shadows. The town itself at night, with the shadows surrounding the town hall. I really like the way Galen’s office is lit with the desk lamp. It’s just so atmospheric and rather pretty. You will rarely see desk lamp light look that good.

Of course there’s also the excellent gore as well. I rather like the pink tinge some of the blood has, it gives it that slightly off normal vibe which is what Stillwater is. Someone can bleed but they won’t necessarily die. Although there’s some inventive ways of getting around this this issue. The art though does bring the slightly unnatural gore. Like bullets blowing someone’s brain out and throat slashing.

I also like the art focus on characters. Their faces, their actions and reactions. I also really believed the mother/son connection between Laura and Daniel. I hadn’t fully appreciated how alike they look and how their expressions are so similar. This issue really highlighted that for me and I thought it was a nice touch. After-all Daniel is now pretty close to the age his mother appears to be. But they definitely share that same determined glint in their eyes.

The ending was really shocking. The cover gives you some idea of where things are heading but things do not play out at all like I was expecting and the entire concept of Stillwater seems to be in flux. This issue is a real game changer as we approach the climax, more than anything that’s come before. I don’t feel anything can be predicted now and the ultimate fate of these characters could be anything. Good stuff.

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