Written by Chip Zdarsky, Illustrated by Ramon K Perez, Colours by Mike Spicer, Lettering by Rus Wooton.
We open within an office, and are straight away introduced to our main “hero,” Daniel. Over the first few pages we see that he has a short temper, and it can get him into trouble. He loses his job, goes out to drink away his sorrows, and gets into a fight. He wakes the next day to be given an envelope by a mysterious man, saying he has some inheritance coming to him in Stillwater. This leads him and his friend to find Stillwater and see how much he’s getting, and if it can it be enough to help him sort out his life. However, when they get there, they find out that no one can die in the town; that’s not a promise, it’s a threat.
Zdarsky and Perez have created a very interesting premise with this one. The idea that citizens of a town can live forever as long as they are within the borders, is a great concept. Add to this the fact that our protagonist isn’t the most likable of people. With his short fuse, we are forced to have both sympathy for him when the consequences of his actions catch up to him, yet we also can’t fully support him because of those actions. This combination could have lead to an action/fantasy story, however it’s rather obvious from the start that we have something closer to horror. The front page is classic horror with the use of the skeleton. Within the pages we also get some traditional horror tropes, for example at the petrol station where they stop off, the employee has no idea where Stillwater is. In addition, there are a few masterful panels when they arrive that are deadly silent, with hardly anyone walking around.
I love the colours by Mike Spicer, the way that they look slightly watered down and not quite polished really adds to the atmosphere of the book. Following on from that, the art is great; in some of the panels, I really got a classic '80s vibe from it. The angles used when they are driving around, as the “camera” has a close-up, over the top of the sunglasses. However something that really blew my mind was the way that not just panels but pages, are played with. We start the book with a couple of panels shifted slightly to the right. Something that is barely noticeable, yet after that first page, then we get shifts from left to right on alternate pages.
This is another was to unsettle the reader, as they are never being centred. This kind of trick is used within the horror industry to keep the audience unsettled, so they never feel like they know what will happen. This shifting of the pages is very subtle yet incredibly effective. This shows the creativeness of the team, to keep people on their toes not just through the narrative but also through visuals.
Overall this was a very enjoyable first issue, setting the stage for what’s to come and yet giving enough character depth for them to not feel hollow. If you are a fan of Zdarsky’s work or a fan of horror, I think there’s a lot to enjoy here, even things that you may pick up on a second read.
Stillwater #1 from Image Comics will be released on 16th September from your local comic shop as well as comixology