‘Postal: The Complete Collection’ - Hardcover Review

Small towns are strange places, all with their own cultures, customs, and sets of rules. Each of them is unique, and many are insular, with tight-knit communities that look out for each other at all costs. In Eden, Wyoming, the concept of a close community is obvious. In the middle of nowhere, this small town lives by its own rules, setting itself as a haven for second chances. Founded by those who live in defiance of the law and run by those with criminal histories of their own, Eden has one major rule: There will be no crime inside the limits of Eden, Wyoming. Breaking this cardinal rule brings dire consequences, handed down by the co-founder of the town, Mayor Laura Shiffron. Along with her son Mark, the town postman who lives with Asperger Syndrome, they attempt to keep the peace . . . which goes about as well as expected when the entire town is made up of those who've made mistakes or who take pleasure in operating under a different system of right and wrong.

Without getting too much into the story, the series focuses on Mark as he does his best to live in a town full of people who could pose danger to him. This is even more difficult thanks to his condition, as his Asperger's is often viewed as a deficiency, instead of just a difference; however, Mark seems to enjoy his life, for the most part, recognizing how people treat him while still being who he is. A mostly mundane life is upended, however, as the secrets of Eden's founding begin to find new life and its insular lifestyle is threatened, beginning with the return of Eden's other founder: Mark's father Issac.

It's a challenge to write about this book and not give too much away, as this collection encompasses the whole series, as well as two one-shots focused on Laura and Mark, respectively. Seeing the series as a complete work gives it an entirely new perspective, as it's more akin to watching a thrilling film unfold before your eyes instead of something more episodic, getting weeks to absorb the contents before being able to dive back into the world. As a closed story, it's engrossing, difficult to see at points, and a brilliant look at events coming full circle, the dangers of living off the grid, and the cost of redemption.

Instead of looking at this from the perspective of story, I think it would be better to use the lens of character. Any time a character with a developmental disorder is shown in media, it's a bit of a tightrope. Write it well, and it's a look at both the differences of those living with those disorders, as well as a look at how anyone living with them is similar to anyone living without. Write it poorly, and it's a parody of something people live with every day - a potential insult to those who have dealt with more than their fair share of disparaging remarks and actions. Thankfully, Mark is a well-rounded character who feels like he is living with his condition but is not defined by it, which does the book a tremendous service. That kind of care can go a long way, and surrounding Mark is a cast of colorful, yet very flawed, characters who don't seem out of place in this type of society. Laura is hardened and protective. Issac is ruthless and terrifying. Maggie, a server at the town diner and Mark's love interest, is kind, caring, and not without her own share of secrets. Surrounding a well-defined character with others who truly feel like a part of their environment helps immerse the reader in this world, making the winding story even more satisfying.

That wouldn't be possible without series creator and Top Cow Productions President (the Image Comics imprint which released the series) Matt Hawkins. Hawkins has carved his own place in comics through thought-provoking and thoroughly researched titles like Think Tank, one of my favorite comics of the latest upswing in the medium's popularity. And to be honest, Hawkins' work on Think Tank is one of the biggest reasons to give this series a shot, thanks to terrific storytelling as well as a glut of research into the series' topic. Knowing the amount of work that was done behind the scenes on Think Tank, it was easy to feel that same type of dedication to Postal.

Joining Hawkins on the project is Bryan Edward Hill, a terrific writer in his own right, who brought his own style and writing philosophy to the series. While most of the credit for the existence of the title is given to Hawkins, Hill's contribution to the series arguably holds more weight, especially since he was able to make the series his own once he took over the series after the first dozen issues. Hill's work has been stellar throughout, making this a powerful creative team.

Postal is made stronger still by the emergence of 2013 Top Cow Talent Hunt winner Issac Goodhart who is credited as the main artist for the core title. (The very talented Raffaele Ienco did the work on the Postal: Mark one-shot, as well as the Postal: Deliverance continuation of the series.) Goodhart does an excellent job, making the dreary town of Eden look like a stunning Midwestern portrait, with some macabre twists.

Combined, the full Postal series is a mammoth adventure into the depths of a very uncharacteristic underworld, full of realized characters and heavy subject matter. It might not be the most accessible of concepts, but that's one of the things that makes the series great. With a talented team of creators, stellar storytelling, and some truly gorgeous art, Postal is a series that took many, including me, by surprise which means one simple thing: It's well worth getting it as a whole and enjoying everything it has to offer.


Creative Team: Matt Hawkins, Bryan Edward Hill (writers), Issac Goodhart (artist)
Publisher: Image Comics / Top Cow
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