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Jorge Corona

Middlewest: Books Two + Three

The three-volume Middlewest series was a mash-up of the classic hero’s journey, steampunk and The Wizard of Oz. The first book had been intriguing- it was about a teen runaway named Abel and how the toxic masculinity that his father has modeled affected him as dangerous magic begins to transform him into a monstrous creature.

Book Two

Abel’s breakdown in book one has led to him turning into a storm monster at the carnival in which he was taking refuge from his father. Ashamed at the destruction he caused, he runs away. I thought there was some nuanced dialogue about following him, with a friend wanting to follow him immediately, but the older leader of the carnival making the decision to stay and help the survivors regroup. Abel journeys into a forest with his sidekick, Fox, and discovers his grandfather, who has transformed part of the forest into a hellish winter landscape. His grandfather shows his true colors, and his cruelness drives Abel away into a nearby city where he is kidnapped to become a slave worker in nearby farm fields. All the while Abel’s father Dale continues searching for him. A bleak story about lack of self-control and its consequences.

Book Three

This last book was message-heavy! Abel gets to know the other youth trapped as farmhands, and their sad backstories make him realize he is not alone. Maggie, the carnival leader, is able to put together a group that wants to help Abel and they pick up new followers as they follow Abel’s trail. Dale has also found Abel, so all paths are converging for a battle. The generational rage is addressed, with sorrow and forgiveness concluding this three-part tale.

The art by Jorge Corona was fun and the bright colors by Jean-Francois Beaulieu incorporated a lot of pink, purple and orange that helped convey the emotional tone. This was a unique graphic novel series that brought up a lot of intriguing issues- but didn’t quite stick the landing. Dystopian and fantasy aspects tied into real and gritty personal plot threads, but I wasn’t sure at times what direction the narrative was going (and what happened to Abel’s mom?). Author Skottie Young has an interesting voice, and while this series didn’t do it for me, I will continue to seek out further work by him.

-Nancy

Middlewest

Skottie Young, known for his fanciful stories, does it again with Middlewest! It is an intriguing graphic novel that is a mash-up of the classic hero’s journey, steampunk and The Wizard of Oz.

Abel is a young teen living with his single Dad in the town of Farmington, and is going through the usual stages of teenage angst. But when he gets caught up with some friends and makes a poor choice his father overreacts and kicks Abel out of the house for an evening. They have words and his father flies into a fury transforming into a powerful tornado. Abel and his sidekick animal, Fox, escape onto a train but not before the tornado grabs him leaving a strange mark on his chest. Abel and the wisecracking Fox meet a hobo wizard that helps them escape from yet another bad situation, and eventually, they end up joining a traveling circus. All the while, Abel’s father is searching for him, and a mysterious woman at the circus might be able to help when chaos looms.

Jorge Corona’s art is reminiscent of Young’s I Hate Fairyland series, yet it is all his own. Abel’s world is an interesting mash-up of steampunk, fantasy and Midwest reality. The people are drawn with an exaggerated style that matches the fantasy aspect of the story. Corona includes details that will make you do a double-take, as he juxtaposes the every day with the fantastic.  Containers of some sort of pink liquid are everywhere, and while you assume they are fuel of some sort, it is never explained. The colors that Jean-Francois Beaulieu add are eye-popping, as they can veer between subdued colors of the surrounding countryside, and then they become bold especially in later sequences at the circus.

I was pleased with book one of this new series and will be interested in finding out what happens to Abel and how the toxic masculinity that his father has modeled will affect him as the dangerous magic is beginning to transform him.

-Nancy

Books Two and Three finished up this trilogy!

Young, Skottie, Jorge Corona & Jean-Francois Beaulieu. Middlewest. 2019.

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