Review by Karl Verhoven
“I’m making a map. God help me, I think I’m going to need it”. He is. Jeff Lemire ended Original Sins by explaining something readers of that and The Black Barn may have noticed: the two primary characters never met. He also left the puzzle of there being a second Norton Sinclair, a farmer from the 1880s. That’s the era opening Stations of the Cross, the religious references flooding out as Father Jeremiah Burke goes on a horrific and disorienting journey no-one should ever have to endure. That journey explains much of the background behind Gideon Falls, not spelling everything out, but disclosing enough so we can join some dots.
For all that the stations of the cross are intended to comfort, much of Stations of the Cross considers the lost faced with the inexplicable and human atrocities beyond comprehension. How does the rational mind process a gurning horror with a bloody smile gleefully proclaiming “I am the shadow at the centre”? Likewise, therapist Angie Xu applies rationality to the fractured mind, but what if that rationality offers no comfort to the evidence of her own eyes?
Gideon Falls requiring an adaptable artist has already been established, and the wildness Andrea Sorrentino supplies here exceeds what’s been needed before. Back in the 1960s and 1970s a favourite theme of underground comics was the artist attempting to illustrate the disorienting psychedelia brought on by controlled substances, the world warping and devolving around them. Sorrentino’s form of that is the bad trip, and he develops magnificent structure and symmetry to illustrate it, Dave Stewart’s colours again so sympathetically selected for emphasis.
People found themselves elsewhere at the end of Original Sins, and Father Jeremiah’s journey over three chapters means it’s some while before we see how they adapt. Surely no-one will expect it’s well. Alongside that there’s an explanation as to one minor character’s previous capricious attitude and a missing person reappears. While Lemire is taking his time with Gideon Falls, to the extent that the three books so far could be seen as a prologue, there’s never any sense of artificially extending a slim plot for the sake of it. The visuals are consistently stimulating and the puzzles sustain the suspense all the way to a chilling chapter ending to be picked up in The Pentocolus.
This content can also be found in the hardcover compilation The Legend of the Black Barn.