“It’s fine to be needed, but it’s better to feel wanted.”
A fantastical quest through the rural Midwest. That’s the premise Middlewest has been exploring through backwater towns, magical old hermits living in scrapyards, and a carnival with a little more to it than meets the eye. It may be filled with elements and locations we can’t begin to understand, but it contains characters, personality, and an atmosphere that makes the book feel like home, even if it’s not the home we may have wanted. Skottie Young, Jorge Corona, Jean-Francois Beaulieu, and Nate Piekos are working with a phenomenal concept that, like Abel, is young, fresh, and holds a ton of potential.
Middlewest is a journey in every sense of the word. With each turn of the page, you feel you are growing and traveling to new lands, emotions, and states of being right along with Abel, and that feeling continues in Middlewest #6. Abel has remained in the same physical location or with the same cast of characters longer than one might have expected, but that doesn’t mean his journey has ended. It has instead become a mental and emotional journey rather than a physical one. It still largely stays true to its youthful sense of adventure and playful atmosphere centered around Fox and Abel’s journey to discover more about who he is, but it remains daring and unafraid to to discuss important topics surrounding familial abuse and the dangers of uncontrollable anger.
The issue starts a bit differently from the rest. A beautiful teal sky lights up the night thanks to Beaulieu’s beautiful color work. Its a color we’ve rarely seen throughout the series but effectively draws the reader in during the first few pages. In many ways, Beaulieu is the star of this issue, as each scene contains its own distinct color scheme that adds personality and flair to every moment while connecting it tho those before and after. The teal sky provides a mysticism that we’ve already seen from Jeb’s character, but the reader is even more surprised to learn how utterly destroyed he and his home are after Abel’s father storms through. Each character is fleshed out and brought to life by the art and lettering in this book. We may not be able to relate to traveling carnival workings in the rural Midwest, a talking fox, or a sassy robot, but we can related to their radiant smiles, vibrant words, and down-to-earth attitudes. They’re a family in a nontraditional sense, and there is something about that we can all identify with. A home doesn’t need to remain in one place to be a home, and we’re learning that right along with Abel in Middlewest #6.
The location designs are what really make the issue stand out. Despite lasting only one page, the night life of the carnival is cheerful and contagious. We quickly move to a tear down and move out process on a fresh spring day, with its spirited blues and greens, and take root in a far away desert village that gives off a rustic and worn air with sandy browns and weathered yellows. Piekos’s lettering also changes from dialogue spoken directly from the characters’ mouths to dialogue attributed by the color of the balloon. It further adds to the idea of planting roots and calling a new place home. Comic worlds tends to be big, extravagant, detailed, grand, and verbose. Middlewest is uncharacteristically small. It’s mysterious yet familiar, homey and uncomplicated, and simple in all of the best ways. The towns of Middlewest are place you’d want to visit while traveling the country on a road trip or taking a weekend away from the big city, and it’s this creative team that gives them life.
There are two scenes, however, that really make Middlewest #6 stand out. The first is a conversation between Abel and Bobby containing Young’s powerful dialogue that contains words about family and the idea of feeling wanted that are sure to hit home. In many ways, Abel has been lonely his whole life. His father may love him, but he’s never been able to express that love, and Fox is not exactly the loving type either. These people and this carnival have been the first to show Abel what it means to be loved, welcomed and wanted, and that’s something that we all need. The second scene takes place inside of Abel’s mind. It is striking and inspires awe. It contains Young’s words of innocence, love, fear and anger, but more important are the images. Corona unleashes his full artistic talents here fully supported by Beaulieu’s colors. Grayscale and red are such a powerful combination that conveys unbridled, raw emotion. Each image has a purpose and is brought forth with chaos but still a level of calm, and when loose tools and machinery are flying around, it’s easy to see how it’s connected to the rest of the issue.
Middlewest #6 is a promising continuation that shows us more of Abel’s limitless potential as a character and a human being. It’s a story sure to excite many readers, old and new, and ensure we’ll be along for the quest through the Midwest all the way ’til the end.