Flying a plane is all well and good, but people what people really care about is the landing. With the December release of an epic 80-page final issue to Gideon Falls, Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino proved they know how to touch ground.
Gideon Falls is a world-bending sci-fi horror story spread over 27 magnificently drawn pages. The story centers around a trio of characters pulled into the dark mystery of a Black Barn that continuously appears in the town of Gideon Falls and the evil that follows it. At the heart of the story is paint-mask-wearing Norton Sinclair, who spends the early days of the series digging through the city’s trash in search of broken bits of a Black Barn. Doctor Angela Xu is Norton’s psychologist, but she quickly becomes involved in the plot as she realizes there’s more truth than insanity in Norton’s beliefs. Finally there is Father Fred, a washed-up priest sent to serve in Gideon Falls — with no idea that he’s really part of an age-old fight against the demonic forces of the Black Barn.
The characters meet, interact, and are flung into separate adventures through a mesh of alternate realities as they all attempt to restore some normalcy to their world. What helps to set Gideon Falls apart from other sci-fi horror adventures is its dedication to allowing the character’s reactions to a world they don’t properly understand dictate the plot. In the book’s penultimate arc the characters get the bright idea of blowing up the metaphysical doorway being used by the insect-like demon hunting them all. Lemire delights in letting their logical decision lead to just more plot and chaos.
The final issue of Gideon Falls highlights the series’s signature combination of nightmarish and trippy visuals. Sorrentino’s artwork really shines here. With creative framing and a willingness to play with the standard format of a comic book, Sorrentino creates chilled-spines and blown-minds alongside a clever investigation of art-as-reality. Flipping over the book to follow upside-down action only to then see characters literally falling out of the pages creates an atmosphere in which it feels like the comic’s demons may leak into the living room at any moment.
Despite, or perhaps because of, its singular focus on following character motivation, Lemire’s plot keeps you guessing. One of the best facets of Gideon Falls is its ability to continually surprise without breaking its own rules or doubling back on its own mythology. The finale does nod back to the series’s past, but it avoids the time-travel trope of rewriting inconvenient moments in favor of sticking to the moment-by-moment experience of the characters. The result is a time-travel story that feels masterfully plotted but simultaneously leaves one a little unsatisfied, like being told to aim for the stars while sitting inside a planetarium.
The ending likely won’t please every fan of the series, but it’s hard to not grin while watching Gideon Falls paint itself into a corner, only to make the corner itself disappear.
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