ADVANCE REVIEW: Democracy is pushed to the limit in dramatic and suspenseful Stillwater #5

Written: Chip Zdarsky, Illustrated: Ramon K Perez, Colours: Mike Spicer, Lettering: Rus Wooton.

Doc has called a meeting, and the odds are now in their favour to put a vote to the judge for freedom of movement. The addition of Daniel has now given them a clear majority. Doc says it’s time to ask for a vote in the next town hall. Meanwhile the judge has asked Tanya the local Sheriff to take the body of Daniel's friend out of town to disguise any wrongdoing. He asks Ted to keep an eye on the borders, as tonight would be the night for anyone to try and make their escape, while everyone else is distracted at the meeting. However, will the judge, who feels vindicated in all that he’s done over the years, give the town folk even a chance to have a democratic vote on the matter of freedom of movement?

Zdarsky once again delivers a powerful issue, that despite not being full of action is still full of suspense and intrigue, as well as creating a book that not only ties well into the series so far, but also could be read as a one-off issue which reflects so many peoples' view of the world right now IRL. While we still are living through a pandemic, the right of peoples' freedom of movement is a hot topic of conversation to many, no matter what side of the discussion you find yourself in. This truly masterful writing builds to a crescendo, that is focused mostly within a courtroom. Something that’s not seen usually as such a action-packed or dramatic place, yet in the hands of Zdarsky the drama and suspense is thrilling. Despite us still not knowing the cause of this “curse,” we don’t feel burdened by this or anxious to find out, to try to understand. The “slow burn” approach really works for this series to keep up the tension. I personally think the mystery vid is scarier. As with most horror films, the scariest parts are always before the reveal, due to everyone’s imagination being different, so we can always add what’s scariest to us. I think this is the same here, the mystery is the scariest way to keep the audience on edge. Although we do get a rant from the judge about divine intervention, this just fuels our speculation and keeps the suspense high. This is why I feel that Zdarsky has a great approach to the book of “less means more,” when dealing with horror.

The artwork by Ramon K Perez and Mike Spicer is fantastic. The slightly muted colours of Spicer really helps draw out the fine detail in the pencils. It also helps keep the book grounded, even with such a sci-fi story. The darker colours also cause a more dramatic finish for the explicit elements. There’s a panel where we see a skeletal head. This is made more shocking by the dull colours, which make it seem so much more realistic.

However nothing is as good as when the excellent writing meets the fantastic art in the climax of the issue in the courtroom session. The colours are mostly beige just to lure the audience in to a false sense of security before the epic conclusion which erupts in colour. The suspense is build by the good writing and dynamic panel layout that feels like you’re watching a court drama. This issue would make a fantastic arc end due to the way its structured, which makes me think the creative team have something really special planned for the end.

Stillwater #5 will be released on 20th January from Image Comics and your local comic shop, as well as comixology

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