Fans of horror may be initially familiar with authors like Stephen King and Dean Koontz whose words have spawned quite a few nightmares, but when authors and artists collaborate they can create spine-tingling horror thanks to the graphic novel medium. For libraries with a horror and graphic novel fanbase looking to expand their adult collection, there are many terrifying tales out there, including Gideon Falls, Volume 4: The Pentoculus, written by Jeff Lemire and drawn by Andrea Sorrentino. This tale blends alternate dimensions, otherworldly evil, and broken, morally-conflicted characters into a mature, mind-bending story.
The overarching plot of Gideon Falls centers on the Black Barn, which serves many roles in the story. It is the MacGuffin that many of the characters are after, the doorway to different realities, and the location of an archaic device called the Pentoculus Machine. Much of the action takes place in the town of Gideon Falls, which in one reality is a grimy industrial city, and in another reality is an idyllic rural town. A man who knows himself as Norton Sinclair has been to both cities and has been obsessed with the Black Barn ever since it pulled him from small town Gideon Falls where he grew up. Also in pursuit of the Black Barn is a Laughing Man, a monster who could rival Stephen King’s killer clown Pennywise in depravity and menace. Others delving into the mystery of the Black Barn are people from both versions of Gideon Falls, from a skeptical doctor to a world-weary priest, as well as the Ploughmen, a secret group who are either trying to unravel the secrets of the Black Barn or just destroy it.
Merely having to explain that there are two different versions of Gideon Falls should have readers expecting a Gordian knot of a plot from Jeff Lemire, author of such graphic novel oddities as Sweet Tooth. There are a lot of characters for the reader to keep track of, including the secret organizations and religious hierarchies that are trying to discover the Barn’s secrets. It can even be quite intimidating jumping into the fourth volume of the series when there has been so much written that has set up the plot in this volume. Completists who like to have the whole story may want to look at purchasing the earlier volumes, but volume four does a decent job of reminding the reader who characters are, what their motivations are, and most importantly, which Gideon Falls they’re from. Lemire’s narrative splits its time between these two Gideon Falls, and volume four pushes these characters not only outside of their home dimensions but outside their comfort zones.
Sorrentino’s artwork, while depicting gore and violence that puts this title squarely in the adult category, also incorporates a style that shows how horror graphic novels are about more than showing illustrated blood and guts. The layout of this book perfectly showcases a story and device that exists between multiple realities, from psychedelic artwork to minimalist images. Color choices like the generous use of the color red, especially in the depiction of the Laughing Man, show the horrors awaiting those who search for the Barn.
This volume can be an exhausting read, but exhausting in the way a roller coaster that doesn’t skimp on the loops and boomerang turns can leave you exhausted. Volume four of Gideon Falls is not only a fun read, but it also showcases the potential of the horror genre and the graphic novel medium. Purchasing this could tempt one to collect the previous volumes, so be warned. However, having all of these volumes in your library’s Adult Graphic Novel collection or your personal collection wouldn’t be a bad thing. Any work that can combine gorgeously rendered gore, flawed heroes out of their depth, and a frayed-at-the-edges universe is something that even a horror fan who believes that horror graphic novels are subpar should see.
Gideon Falls, Vol. 4: The Pentoculus
By Jeff Lemire
Art by Andrea Sorrentino
Image Comics, 2020
Publisher Age Rating: 16 to adult
Series ISBNS and Order
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)
Creator Representation: Canadian