Strangehaven #15

By Gary Spencer Millidge
32 pages, black and white
Published by Abiogenesis Press

Good things come to those who wait. There are some books for which a new issue is reason to celebrate, like Jason Lutes’s Berlin or Daniel Clowes’s Eightball. Another book that’s definitely on that list is Gary Spencer Millidge’s Strangehaven; if a trade-off for a speedy frequency is intensely high quality, I don’t mind that one bit. It just makes the payoff all the sweeter.

Strangehaven was an odd town even before Alex Hunter stumbled into it and discovered he couldn’t leave. Secret brotherhoods lurk underneath polite society, spouses engage in destructive wars against each other, and sergeants have long conversations with their stuffed teddy bear. When Peter Webb, Beverley Webb, and Suzie Tang find a way to leave Strangehaven for good, the entire town is turned upside down, because their way out was through a murder, an apparent suicide, and a mysterious disappearance leaving behind only a bloody dress. But with each new piece of information, the story is just getting more and more intricate instead of simple…

It takes a lot of guts to open your story with a seven-page monologue, but Millidge doesn’t just do that, he pulls it off brilliantly. It’s a great way to have all the evidence in the recent deaths get gathered together into one place, it reminds us of faces we might have forgotten, and it gives us another side of Sergeant Clarke that we hadn’t seen before. More importantly, it starts building up the tension levels as we start looking at the larger picture and Clarke puts his doubts on the table. It’s a tension that continues to rise as we check in with the other storylines, each adding a layer of unease to the issue. The reminder of the deaths of the Webbs suddenly makes Alex Hunter and Doctor Housemen both seem much more vulnerable, their predicaments all the more breath-catching. It’s a great balance of elements, and it comes to a great climax at the end of the issue with a sudden new piece of evidence. There more thrills in this single issue of Strangehaven than in a year’s worth of soap operas (and certainly more quality, but you already knew that).

Millidge’s art has always been praised for its photo-realism, and Millidge’s current storyline is no exception to that. It says a lot that we can spend the first part of the latest issue looking at Millidge’s paintings of characters’s photographs pinned onto a cork board and each person not only looks distinct and original, but just looking at them instantly brings back memories of their character. Millidge keeps his storytelling distinct and to the point, with three rows of panels on each page. The intent here is to keep your eye flowing across the page, with the art itself letting you know when to pause. Ultimately, the central character of Strangehaven is the village itself—the combination of all the people together—and Strangehaven #15 brings them all together in its art and shows you what a diverse and yet unified character it is. I don’t think there are many artists that could pull this effect off, but with Millidge it just seems natural.

Even most people who only buy trade paperbacks will agree that there are exceptions that need to be made, and one of them is Strangehaven. Millidge makes sure that each issue is an event in its own right, and something you simply can’t wait for. It’s apt that Alex Hunter discovered he was unable to leave Strangehaven after arriving, because you’ll feel the same way once you read the comic. Strangehaven #15 is on sale now at better comic book stores everywhere.

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