Daniel’s had a bad couple of days. Okay, maybe more than that. But he was fired from his job for not being a team player and shoving Kevin once, just once, and not even that hard. Then at the bar that night, he throws a punch at the bouncer and it goes about as well as expected. Then he gets unexpected news of an inheritance from a family member he’s never heard of in Stillwater, a city he’s never heard of. So when there are no signs pointing where his friends’ GPS is telling them to go, it’s just par for the course. And things are only going to get stranger from there, as it becomes clear that this isn’t just a town outside time in that charming small town way, but one where literally no one can die, or grow old, or change in any way. Welcome to Stillwater.  

The colors in Stillwater are absolutely fantastic. When Daniel’s outside the bar, there’s pink light spilling out into the blue night, and the way it falls across the people in the scene creates a real feeling of late nights lit up by neons and terrible club lighting. Then in the flashback scenes later on, there’s a sepia wash over everything, giving that nostalgic look like old faded photographs. Sound effects are colored to match the mood of the scene and the sound, adding to the movement of each scene. The linework is great, too, with lots of thick brush lines that add dimension and movement. Overall the art is incredibly effective at evoking mood and moment, which is crucial to helping set the stage for Stillwater’s style of spooky story. 

Then there’s the story, which takes some expected turns and some very unexpected ones that left me really wondering how all of this was going to end. I’m assuming this will be at least a three volume series, but honestly there’s so much room to explore this concept that I could see it easily running into five or more. There’s something of a Twilight Zone or Twin Peaks sense to it, with the normal world slowly twisting until it’s hard to remember what normal even means. I appreciate that Daniel isn’t a terribly likeable character, though that may turn away some readers. The premise of a town outside time means that, of course, each character has a mountain of secrets they’re hiding, and the creators do a great job of slowly unveiling everyone’s secrets without it feeling like a soap opera episode or too overloaded with reveals. 

This is a horror story in a lot of ways, and since we have the fact that people can’t die, naturally there will be several scenes of people getting hurt in ways that should be fatal but aren’t, including being buried alive for a week or shot point-blank with a shotgun. So there’s definitely some violence and gore. Even though it’s not on every page, when it’s there, they don’t shy away from the details, so that’s definitely something to consider when placing this in a library collection. 

Stillwater is a great option for libraries looking to diversify the kinds of stories in their adult graphic novel collection, since it has mystery but isn’t a ghost or spy story, and has violence but isn’t a nonstop bloodbath. It’s a solid drama with supernatural elements, which can have tons of cross appeal for fans of several genres. It doesn’t hurt that it’s just very well crafted, with the art and writing working well together to pull the story together.

Stillwater, vol. 1: Rage, Rage
By Chip Zdarsky
Art by Ramon K. Pérez, Mike Spicer
Image Comics, 2021
ISBN: 9781534318373
Publisher Age Rating: M
Series ISBNS and Order

NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)

  • Shannan

    | She/They Teen Services Librarian, San Antonio Public Library

    Features Writer

    Shannan waffled between English professor and librarian as career choices for all of college; eventually librarian won. She is a Teen Services Librarian with the San Antonio Public Library. When not running TTPRG games for their teens or teaching them how to bake, she's doing what she can to promote comics to anyone who will listen. At home they're likely deep in the middle of their latest cosplay project or watching B movies with her husband, while generally pushing the cats out of the way.

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