A surprisingly human-focused Gideon Falls falters for the first time.
After Gideon Falls #6, it seemed that Lemire and Sorrentino had set Norton, Dr. Xu, Fred, and Clara down a path of Lynchian horror that was incapable of misstep. Issue seven instead sets the record straight.
No, it says, this story does still need some breathing room, some time to develop in new, compelling and human ways, but also slower directions without immediate payoff, without clear reasoning or satisfying answers — and maybe instead even less satisfying implications. That’s okay, of course, but also sets this arc up to feel a bit like a sophomore slump.
What’s it about? Image’s preview reads:
“ORIGINAL SINS,” Part One After the mind-blowing events of the first arc, Norton digs deeper into the mystery of the Black Barn, and secrets of his past begin to come to light. Meanwhile, Father Fred does some digging of his own and learns the hard way that some secrets should just stay buried.
Lemire writes a compelling, often thrilling, labyrinthian mystery, that should be immediately clear — and with issue seven here, it still is. However, we’ve simply got too many elements going forward now without a unifying direction that things are starting to feel aimless. Fred is possibly struggling with his faith, as well as whether he believes in the Black Barn, as is Clara, also beset with questions about her father, her brother and Joe Reddy. And even still, we have Norton and Dr. Xu’s story moving forward: a building of the barn but also a cityscape Gideon Falls set aside from the farm world of the other character’s lives. That city story is then heightened and complicated by the intrusion of a seemingly human, but potentially supernatural, interloper that skyrockets the stakes for a shocking but confusing cliffhanger of an ending.
It’s all well written, human feeling, oppressive stuff that is totally in keeping with the tonal direction and focus of the narrative thus far. Make no mistake, though — Clara’s revelation and Xu’s warmth toward Norton feel especially deserved; if you have liked the story thus far this issue will not disappoint. It’s just also started to feel readily overwhelming.
In fact, it unfortunately just doesn’t feel sustainable for much longer without a crossing of paths, a unifying element or lead. How much longer can things continue in this way? How much longer are readers going to be willing to follow along while new characters, villains, and entire twists and storylines are introduced without payoff on others? Is everything going to be defrauded by the introduction of a human villain, stripping the story of all its great reality-bending moments (I hope not)? These are legitimate concerns that of course didn’t impact the incredible first arc/volume but that Lemire might need to start considering soon and start to feel pressing here.
Luckily, Sorrentino’s efforts feel entirely with merit and energy even when the narrative weighs us down. The layouts here are as impressive as ever, the first page an inverted and devilish grasp on a young boy now broken and the final page a grinning smile of his evil puppeteer feel especially well done.
Ultimately, we’re quickly reaching the point here where Gideon Falls will need to decide what it wants to be: a concise, satisfactory, Lynchian horror story or a jumbled, human, but half-baked amalgamation of ideas. This issue truly splits the difference. I hope future things, like everything before, chooses the former.