Storytelling through a visual medium is truly an art form. This isn’t just referring to special effects in movies and televisions but how graphic novels tell their stories. Everything from the placement of the panels to the colors the artists use to tell the story, even before one commits to memory the images the artist creates. One such story that takes advantage of the graphic novel format is Gideon Falls, written by Jeff Lemire and illustrated by Andrea Sorrentino, an otherworldly tale that takes place in cities, the countryside, and across multiple dimensions. Volumes 1-3 of this epic tale are collected in the Gideon Falls Deluxe Edition Book One, which collects the first part of an Eisner Award-winning story along with some fun extras for fans of the series.

Gideon Falls is a supernatural story that has multiple protagonists and settings all connected by the mysterious building known as the Black Barn. The Black Barn has woven itself into the history of Gideon Falls as it has entrenched itself into the minds of its lead characters. There is Norton Sinclair, an amnesiac who spends his days rifling through garbage of this grimy metropolis, looking for pieces of dark wood that call to him. Psychiatrist Angela Xu tries to help Norton, but she is soon pulled into Norton’s obsession. While at another Gideon Falls, Father Quinn, a spiritually and mentally exhausted priest, has come to the town’s church to replace the last priest who disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Soon, people are brutally killed, sane men go on murderous rampages, and there’s also the specter of the Smiling Man, something that wants to master the power of the Black Barn.

Jeff Lemire’s story blends different settings, from urban to rural to places outside of our own perception, as well as different genres, from mystery to science fiction to straight-up, gut-churning horror. This is a story that has a lot of moving cogs, but Lemire shows some skill in keeping all this complex machinery going. One of the bonuses of this collection is Lemire himself talking about the genesis of this particular story, especially how it was influenced by the TV show Twin Peaks, and fans of that show’s weird form of noir should definitely love what Lemire has concocted.

But another draw to this story is artwork that displays the mind-bending universes and disturbing inner worlds accessible through the Black Barn. Sorrentino uses everything from full-page spreads to a barrage of panels, from cityscapes to barren, minimalist landscapes, all to depict a surreal journey across time, space, and places where sanity is a cord pulled to the point of snapping. Sorrentino also leans into the horror and violence of the story, saturating the page in crimson. His artwork also gives a horrid, grinning face to the Smiling Man, whose inhuman grin is enough to give any Stephen King villain nightmares.

While the story is deep and the artwork is mesmerizing, this particular book has a lot to offer librarians who want to expand their horror collection without having to purchase multiple volumes. It also is a great purchase for those who enjoy looking at the behind-the-scenes featurettes on DVDs. Lemire walks the reader through how he created this particular tale, and the multiple variant covers showcase a bevy of artists who are just as qualified to terrify. Gideon Falls is a story I would recommend to anyone and this book is one I would recommend for those who want the story behind the story.

Gideon Falls Deluxe Edition, Book 1
By Jeff Lemire
Art by  Andrea Sorrentino
Abrams, 2021
ISBN: 9781534319189

Publisher Age Rating: 16 years and up

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

  • James

    | He/Him Circulation Librarian, Clark County Public Library

    Reviewer

    James Gardner is a Circulation Librarian at Clark County Public Library in Kentucky. Along with writing his own stories, he reviews horror for his own blog The Foreboding Home of the Scary Librarian and other places. But graphic novels are another love of his, having grown up loving Spider-Man and the X-Men. Reviewing graphic novels is a dream gig because the graphic novel is a medium that is full of great stories. One of the best things about being a librarian is always having an excuse to read graphic novels among other books, which is because readers’ advisory depends on reading books (while advising is the other half, of course). He also enjoys role-playing games, which is another opportunity for him to immerse himself in a story.

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