When dealing with the esoteric and the surreal as part of a story, there are a lot of ways to go. I should say, I feel like there are a lot of bad, easy ways to go. Like, “Let’s throw everything into the pot, and the story not making sense will be weird!” There are fewer ways that actually work, but when they do, it can jostle your sense of reality. The creative team of Gideon Falls, a story about a place called the Black Barn that rests half in an alternate reality and half in the unconscious mind, and how it affects a certain group of people like a star slowly sucking everything circling it into its field of gravity, treads a fine line.
The first five issues have unfolded through two different storylines and four different main characters. In a city, a psychiatrist has become more involved with her patient than she’d probably like. The patient collects random items from the city streets, and he doesn’t know why, only that it has something to do with the Black Barn. After a few incredible creepy moments, the psychiatrist is finally persuaded that the Black Barn is real. Then, in the countryside, a priest with a questionable past has been sent to a small community. On his first day, he followed someone who he thought was his predecessor into a field and instead stumbled upon a dead body. His path was enmeshed with the local sheriff, whose father just happens to believe in the Black Barn…she does not. Over these issues, the Black Barn has shown itself more and more until this past issue when our priest ran headlong into it…
The build-up for the Black Barn was really, exceptionally well handled. Honestly, it’s been an unnerving experience for me seeing only glimpses into it. The promise of experiencing the Black Barn so early in the series was surprising to me, but I’ve been anticipating it for a month. After reading the issue, I have mixed feelings. Obviously, I have no idea how this will be used in future issues, and even though it was a brief episode into the Barn (getting a glimpse of only the first layer?), I still feel like it was too early to see as much as I did. Yes, moments of it were very effective – Sorrentino and Stewart do an amazing job reshaping reality in a way that reminds you of living out a nightmare – but using the Barn to see brief flashbacks that have no dramatic context didn’t work for me. I don’t think things like the Barn are as interesting when they are used as a device for exposition.
Honestly, though, it’s a minor hiccup in an otherwise incredible experience that has left us with another intriguing cliffhanger. Chances are that this hiccup may smooth itself over when we see how the first trip into the Black Barn ends up affecting the characters…
Creative Team: Jeff Lemire (story), Andrea Sorrentino (art), Dave Stewart (colors), Steve Wands (letters)
Publisher: Image Comics
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