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Gideon Falls #11 review: Secret of the Barn

Norton and Wilfred face to face at last! But what truly lies beyond the door?

Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino, Dave Stewart
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“Did I find you or did you find me?”

It has all led to this. Every single issue, of the ten up until this point, acting as a step in the long walk to truth has brought us here. The creative team of Jeff Lemire, Andrea Sorrentino, Dave Stewart and Steve Wands have carefully maneuvered us through every careful twist and tie in the complex narrative spanning everything from small towns to multiversal crossroads. What initially seemed to be a simple supernatural mystery has blown out to be so much more, surprising many of us over the course of the run so far. But no issue may hold more surprises than #12, which finally sees our two protagonists not only meet for the very first time but also confront the horror that’s been haunting them all this time. Acting as both the concluding chapter of the book’s second arc and seemingly the first arc of the story, it’s an issue with a lot on its back. Yet it pulls off its hefty task with confidence and ease that any reader of the book has now come to expect from the team by now.

Lemire’s an engine of prolific creative work with hit after hit; Sorrentino is one of the best artists of his generation, boasting dynamic layouts and experimental visual storytelling techniques, whilst Stewart is one of the industry’s best colorists, able to imbue each panel with purpose and clarity. And Wands is a strikingly remarkable letterer who always delivers. They prove all this once more in the issue, showing why Gideon Falls is one of the best comics out in the market right now.Symmetry has been a key element in the story thus far, owing to its dual nature in the form of its two leads, Norton and Fred. One is a victim trying to uncover what it is that truly happened to him, while the other is a priest pursuing that very same mystery amongst a string of various others. Over the course of the narrative, we’ve seen them toil over and over in search of the truth that’s proven ever so elusive. And the issue keeps with that, displaying mind-blowing visuals that stretch the medium to its absolute limits, with Sorrentino’s incredible prowess on display. Going even as far back as Green Arrow, he’s long been able to present readers with stimulating and exciting imagery that stood out in its complexity of design whilst brimming with a simple elegance which made things easy to navigate. In a book where panels of story become infinity symbols and Frank Quitely-esque pages are the norm, considering it is Sorrentino, it’s to be expected, but it’s never not impressive. Working in perfect sync with Lemire, Stewart and Wands, he utilizes the medium to great effect, whether it be horrifying double page spreads of the antagonist, 9-panel grids of the protagonists being trapped with their greatest horror or even the breakdown of an individual into tiny panels to convey a state and an event of change. Sorrentino makes it look easy.

But another key element here is Stewart’s colorwork, which helps form the backbone of Gideon Falls. With an emphasis and mastery on reds, blacks and whites, he’s very much been a vital part of the storytelling since day one, especially as the reds indicate the presence, influence or power of the key antagonistic force in the book: The Black Barn. Here, Stewart gets to go all out, with the heroes firmly locked into the horrific space that’s haunted their lives. But even beyond that, what’s worth talking about is how Stewart’s versatile skillset and ability to seamlessly blend various palettes into one cohesive whole makes the book what it is. It’s evident through out the run as a whole, with #6 especially showcasing warm color work, which runs in great contrast to the aesthetic of the book. But here it comes into sharp focus once more, as shown even in the pages here, wherein Norton Sinclair, the first and true murderer of Gideon Falls is colored differently in order to contrast the heroes, steeped often in grays and blacks. Even different contexts get their own distinct looks, from old flashbacks to the 1800s and Barn’s inner secret, which are given a dried out look emphasizing the lines to the wide worlds that are present in the universe it accesses. They’re brought to life in a glorious mishmash, with mustard yellow, murky red and the usual aesthetics so identifiable with the book being thrown in.

And through all that, we learn. We finally have some level of understanding of what lies in the Barn and a hint at what it may be seeking. Our two leads get a great dose of history from the first and true Norton and see where things stand, before things take a huge turn and both end up in places they’d least expect, setting the stage for a whole new era of Gideon Falls.

Scary as ever, meticulously well-crafted as we’ve come to expect, Gideon Falls continues to be a brilliant and thrilling ride full of surprises and horrific truths. Lemire is once more writing that which he does best: tales of families, secrets, ancient powers and legacies that must be confronted and dealt with in order to find peace and harmony with oneself and one’s family. It may be a bit early to say, but even with an oeuvre full of varied and astonishing work that sets a high standard, this may just be Lemire’s opus. And it holds true for Sorrentino as well. Both have great work together and independently, but they’re both at their best when they work with one another. Sometimes teams just click, like your Morrisons and Quitelys, your Brubakers and Philips, and this one never fails to. They consistently enhance and challenge each other, bringing out the absolute best of creatives who’re incredible to begin with on their own.

Gideon Falls #11
Is it good?
Deeply dreadful and awe-inspiring as ever, Gideon Falls brings its second arc to a heart-pounding conclusion that not only delivers on expectations but raises the bar for the book.
The visually inventive and dynamic layouts and storytelling continues, evident in this issue as ever
A powerful conclusion which raises questions whilst also paving the way for new story avenues
A dramatic reveal that deliver on promises and help contextualize some of the past incidents, whilst retaining enough mystery and intrigue to keep the momentum going
Dave Stewart's astonishing colorwork, which helps tell so much of the story with its wide range of palettes to suit every moment whilst also working in conjunction with Lemire, Sorrentino and Wands' work
Wands' letters, which elevate every word of the script, acting as the perfect bridge and balance between Sorrentino, Stewart and Lemire.
Lemire and Sorrentino's creative sensibilities, which not only work in perfect harmony, but effectively enhance one another to deliver a refined work
10
Fantastic
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