Posted by: John Gholson
Written by Aaron Williams, 2009
Art by Fiona Staples
Maybe I’m “old school”, but when I buy an issue of a comic book, I want a story with a beginning, middle, and an end (even if the ending is a cliffhanger). I understand that this isn’t the nature of the industry anymore; everything is driven by trade paperback sales. Modern comics seem paced exclusively for six-issue collections, and if you happen to catch an individual issue in the middle of a six-issue arc, you’ll often get no explanation for what happened before and absolutely no resolution for anything within the issue itself. It’s a big part of the reason that I don’t pick up as many comics as I used to.
DC/Wildstorm’s new horror title NORTH 40 is as modern a comic as I’ve ever seen–an interesting first issue kick-off, followed by two issues of glacial pacing and underdeveloped characters and situations.I’m sure that the undercooked aspects of NORTH 40 are intended to create a feeling of mystery and intrigue that keeps you reading on a monthly basis, but, after three issues, writer Aaron Williams doesn’t dispense enough good information to sustain interest, issue to issue. It’s got to be a tough balancing act. It’s obvious Williams is playing his cards close to his vest, but because of that, I pretty much have no idea what’s going on in a given issue. Assuming Williams has some clarity on the way past issue number three, this type of storytelling would work fine in the trade paperback format. He may be building up to something in the next three issues. In a monthly format however, it’s lousy.
NORTH 40 is the story of the residents of Lufton, a podunk pitstop along Interstate 40 North, in some unnamed desert state where two of the town’s more “different” kids (a fat guy in a Cthulhu shirt and a snarky goth chick) unleash some not-exactly-explained evil on the town by reading from what appears to be the Necronomicon. As a result, the town ends up cut-off from the rest of the world, and a good portion of its population transform into paranormally powered monsters. A couple of the central protagonists are completely unchanged, namely B-movie stock character Sherriff Morgan and the blandly good-natured teen Wyatt Hinkle, but their goal after three issues doesn’t seem to run much deeper than a middling desire to figure out what’s going on. Most of that investigative action takes a backseat to perfunctory character introductions and their displays of odd powers.