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Gideon Falls, Volume 1: The Black Barn: 08/20/19

Gideon Falls, Volume 1: The Black Barn

Gideon Falls, Vol. 1: The Black Barn by Jeff Lemire is the start of a new graphic novel series that seems to have been inspired by the uhoric inconsistencies and remote setting of his Black Hammer series.

The Black Barn which covers the first five issues, introduces an evil threat in the form on a barn that is haunting the dreams and waking moments of a young man. Meanwhile in a farming town, there's rumor of a barn that appears and disappears, whose appearance harkens a run of violent murders.

The young man is compelled to collect nails, bits of wood and other construction debris. He has been cataloging them and storing them. His obsession has cost him his freedom, having been diagnosed as mentally ill and hospitalized on and off during his adult life. Now out, he's trying to avoid the compulsion to collect, but his therapist is starting to feel the influence of the black barn too.

Meanwhile in the farming town, a middle aged priest has been sent to replace the priest who recently died. He arrives just as the murders begin. He ends up a person of interest, and eventually a friend of the sheriff who questioned him.

If this were prose, the rural and city stories would be presented as alternating chapters. It would be a way to unite the two protagonists and to hint that the two barns are one and the same. As this is a comic, the artwork does the work of the alternating chapters. There are times throughout the book where the two men are working towards similar goals, where one's panels are drawn upside down, to mirror the other's actions. As the two plots become even more entwined, the panels are broken up into pieces, like a mosaic.

And that brings me to this comic's position on the road narrative spectrum. So far every single piece I've read by Jeff Lamire has been on the spectrum, and all of them fairly high up (on the fantasy end). This volume is no different.

With parallel protagonists or travelers, we have the classic scarecrow and minotaur pairing (99). The young man in the city, while he might seems like a minotaur — trapped by mental illness and a compulsion he doesn't want — he's actually the scarecrow. He's the one who is compelled to save the city from the influences of the black barn but with incomplete knowledge, is drawn to bring the black barn into the city by rebuilding it. The priest, meanwhile, is the minotaur, trapped in a rural town during a murder spree. He's at ground zero of the black barn and while he's trying to help, feels rather helpless about the process.

The destination is uhoria — no time (CC). First sign of that is the barn's history of appearing and disappearing through time. It is a ghost building. But there is also the question of how do the rural town and the city relate to each other. That too is a uhoric connection, though how exactly isn't fully examined in this volume.

The route, then, is cornfield (FF) — a popular method in Lemire's work. While no corn is shown in Sorrentino's panels, the barn itself is a stand in for the fields. The fact that in the farming town it shows up in various fields further implies the cornfield. To get to the barn, at least in the priest's world, one has to go through a field. In the city, the barn harkens to places where there are fields— including cornfields.

Put all together, Gideon Falls, Volume 1: The Black Barn is the tale of a scarecrow and a minotaur traveling to uhoria via the cornfield.

The second volume is Original Sins which I have read and will be reviewing in the next couple of weeks.

Five stars

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