This is the final volume in the saga of Middlewest, a story that follows a young boy named Abel who lives with his father in a strange, magical, American Midwest-type area called Middlewest. Abel’s mother left the family and the grief, plus latent anger issues, has turned Abel’s father into an abusive, belligerent man. One day, his anger is too much to control, and Abel’s father turns into a monster that resembles a giant tornado. Abel runs away from the monster and decides to try to find his mother. He finds a place among a traveling group of circus performers, but the latent magical ability that rested in his father is awoken in Abel as well. He leaves the circus group in hopes of finding answers about this destructive power.
At the end of volume two, Abel is kidnapped by Raider, a powerful and corrupt farmer, and volume three opens up with him being forced to work on a farm that grows the explosive but valuable fuel source for the world’s combustion engines. As friends struggle to find a way to rescue Able and the other kid-workers from Raider’s grasp, Abel is promoted to group leader and Abel decides to use his new status to plan an escape for his small group of kid-workers.
This ending for this pretty intricate series feels a little bit rushed and there are a lot of story elements left unanswered. It feels very much like there could have been more volumes and more world building with explanations of how the magic is all working, especially the different storms that afflict Abel’s family. There are some pieces, especially surrounding the character Maggie, that are completely unexplained, yet the characters seem know what’s going on and who she is, like it’s something the reader should know. There’s no falling action at all. The climax happens, then the resolution is almost the next page. The resolution of the conflict with Abel’s father is also really quick and a little dissatisfying. Abel’s father has spent two volumes searching for Abel, but within a few panels of some strong words from Abel, he is convinced to see things Abel’s way and gives up what he has been fighting for this whole series.
All this complaining is to say that Young has created a rich world that I wanted to spend more time in. Most of the characters were deep, complex creatures that I could have easily followed for a few more volumes. The whole series has a running theme of “adults are terrible humans,” and it seems they are made this way because of the harshness of Middlewest itself. So, how are readers of this adult fantasy series supposed to leave satisfied when Abel’s father, the standard-bearer in the theme of “adults are trash,” is barely made to change and see the error of his ways? Maggie and Jeb are the decent adults in the story and they are sort of left on the sidelines at the end. There are so many things in this series that are fantastic, but the ending could really use some more room to breathe.
Corona’s illustrations and coloring throughout this series have been a high point. Much of Middlewest is a raw, natural landscape, and these illustrations are lush and vivid. In the wintery world where Abel’s grandfather is hiding out, the snowy landscape makes you feel chilly as Abel gets deeper in. Mike Huddleston’s covers are beautiful works of art, layered with details and richly colored. The illustrations of this series are definitely a highlight of the whole work.
Despite the rushed ending, this is still a stellar series with some really great characters. Image rates this title for Mature audiences, but this could easily be part of high school collections. There is some adult language, a bit of violence, and some dark moments, including child abuse, that are shown on the page.
Middlewest, vol. 3
By Skottie Young
Art by Jorge Corona
Image Comics, 2020
Publisher Age Rating: Mature
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)