Stillwater, Vol. 2: Always Loyal takes readers back to a town that’s not only frozen in time, but its residents are unable to die, no matter what bodily harm befalls them. It’s not easy to keep the law in Stillwater. Incarceration and even capital punishment lose their sting due to the town’s immortality. The law is handled by one man, the Judge, who is the absolute authority in the town. That all changes at the beginning of Volume 2, where outside forces are moving in and a faction inside the town is also attempting to fill the sudden power vacuum.
Volume 1: Rage, Rage introduced readers to many of the main players in this story. There’s Daniel, who is a recent resident of the town, having been smuggled out of town when he was a baby by his mother Laura. There’s also town hardcase, Ted, who has aspirations to be, if not the law in Stillwater, then its enforcer. In Volume 2, Ted has brought in some old military friends to help him take control, but there are also new factions making themselves known and they’ve had ample time to plan. People not part of Stilwater’s blessing (or curse) of immortality have died to keep the town’s secrets, but with battle lines being drawn, the town may soon no longer have secrets.
One would think that a town where literally no one can die means that there are no stakes, nothing really to fight for, but that immortality only lasts within Stillwater’s city limits, and Zdarsky’s story adds dramatic tension by having various factions fight for the direction of Stillwater. With many residents wanting to venture outside its borders, how long can Stillwater remain a secret? This conflict gives this book life where many other stories involving immortality, and basically an inability to die, might stall. Daniel’s place as the audience’s entry point, as well as the tale’s reluctant hero, should keep readers engaged in his individual plight and the overall plight of Stillwater’s citizens. Add in some elements where bodily injury is depicted in all its visceral and anatomically correct glory, and this title definitely earns its rating as an older teen/adult title.
Speaking of bodily injury, this is where Ramon Perez’s artwork shines. The review of Volume 1 goes into great detail about Perez’s use of color and linework, but he also doesn’t shy away from splattering the pages with gore. Bodies will be disemboweled, shot, blown apart, and burned, and seeing those same bodies knitting themselves together from normally life-ending injuries cements itself as a horror title, but Zdarsky’s story grounds the tale, preventing it from becoming just a comic about how many ways a body can explode.
Stillwater, Vol. 2 does its part to move the story along and leaves on a very interesting cliffhanger that signals the series could be rocketing toward a conclusion. Librarians that have Volume. 1 will definitely want Volume. 2 to continue the story. Those collection librarians who have yet to purchase either book, and who want to add to their horror graphic novel collection will want to visit Stillwater, a town that resists change, no matter how much blood is spilled.
Stillwater, Vol. 2: Always Loyal
By Chip Zdarsky
Art by Ramón Pérez
Publisher Age Rating: 16 years and up
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)
Creator Representation: Canadian