Thursday, October 6, 2016

Dark Heartland: Countdown to Halloween (Day 6)


Writer Steve Niles is best known as the creator of such horror comics as 30 DAYS OF NIGHT, CRIMINAL MACABRE, REMAINS and ALEISTER ARCANE (among many others).  Artist Greg Ruth is mostly known as a terrific illustrator who sometimes works in comics.  His prior comic book work includes CONAN: Born on the Battlefield (with Kurt Busiek), Sudden Gravity, The Matrix Comics and INDEH (with Ethan Hawke).

Click to Enlarge this beautiful Ruth ROSEMARY'S BABY piece!

While at work today, I came across their collaboration FREAKS OF THE HEARTLAND and was reminded what a Bradburyesque piece of work it is.  And what an appropriate story it is for October as the light fails early and the leaves die and crunch underfoot.

Click to Enlarge the Atmosphere

FREAKS OF THE HEARTLAND is my favorite thing Niles has written and Greg Ruth’s brutal and beautiful art compliments it superbly.  In fact, the art is so brilliant, it could easily steal the show against the folksy dialog and straight-forward plot.  Pulling off uses of lighting that only the late great Gene Colan would attempt with seeming ease, Ruth illustrates a story of fear, prejudice, family and morality while the tale remains an excellent American gothic monster story.

Click to Enlarge the Brotherhood

Trevor is a boy growing up on an isolated farm in an isolated county in the middle of the American Midwest and his life is one of doing chores and minding his overbearing father.  However, ever since his younger brother, Will, was born six years ago, Trevor has known something is wrong in his world.

Click to Enlarge the Mob Rule

Will has been kept hidden all those years in the barn behind his home.  Strangely large and deformed and with weird abilities, he has been treated as an oddity—somewhere beneath humanity and above livestock.  But there are forces at work that are about to change his life and the life of his older brother.

The same fears that pushed Trevor’s parents to hide their younger son are abound again and the two brothers must band together to protect one another from the small town conspiracy that has gone on for years.  Along the way, they discover there are others like Will, other freaks who only want the dignity of a normal life.

It's hearty stuff...
My Grade: "A-"

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