More backstory as the intrigue grows in slow-moving Stillwater #8 ADVANCE REVIEW

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

It’s been a week since Stillwater sheriff Tanya had gone on a road trip to dispose of the body of Daniel's CEO friend Tony. She takes a sip from her hip flask as she reminisces about the events that lead her here. Back in 1996 she was working as an administrator for city hall in Coldwater. They are responsible for looking over figures from the county. She notices something off about Stillwater so wants to go do some investigating. She finds a very nice and yet unhappy sheriff who dismisses her ideas that there’s something wrong with the judge. Before she knows it, he’s breaking into her house, and after seeing the devastation that is her life, he offers her a new start.

The last time we saw sheriff Tayna was in issue #5. She was instructed by the judge to go dispose of Tony as far from Stillwater as possible. In this time, so much has happened that I had actually forgotten what she was doing and why she was gone. So I did have to catch up with the previous few issues to remind myself. This is always the problem with reading something month to month. You can forget what has happened. So it was 3 months ago in real time that we last saw the character, which is a long time to try to keep up with every aspect of the story. Something else that has hindered it slightly would be the flashbacks that we’ve been getting the last few issues. Now it is great to have the backstory to the characters and to understand their arc or even their motivations for doing things, however it was actually the end of issue #5 that we had the big explosive ending of the City Hall being blown up. Yet we are still hardly past that after 3 more issues. This is definitely a drawback for me, as I’m desperate for the main story to progress, we have been getting history of characters. For example, in this book there are only 5 pages dedicated to the present day, which is only 22% of the whole issue.

One of the first things that stood out to me was the beautiful artwork. I much prefer art that looks a little more polished, and this is what we get here. Ramon K Perez’s art is just simply stunning. I especially like the cover page: the portrait of Tanya. At first glance it looks very reminiscent of the first cover page, with a skeletal figure and a black mass branching out. However in the context of the story, it shows how this issue is peeling away the layers of the character, showing her damage emotionally and physically. The black mass being the symbol for the cancer that’s growing.

When it comes to the emotion portrayed within the story, this is an issue filled with it. Stillwater has never shied away from violence or making things slightly uncomfortable when it comes to tyrannical regimes, and now we can add deep emotional connections to the list. The way both the art and the writing tell this traumatic story of Tanya is proving that Chip Zdarsky has a masterful gift for storytelling, no matter what is depicted.

Overall, despite my problems about forwarding the plot too slowly, this was a well written and drawn book, that just shows how good the creative team are. I do wonder if the experience would be different and more satisfying in a trade, but either way, the talent on display is undeniable and it truly makes for some immersive storytelling.

Stillwater issue #8 will be released from Image comics on 16th June from your local comic shop as well as comixology.

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