Writer: John Lees
Artist: Ryan Lee & Doug Garbark
The second chapter of John Lees’ new winter-set mystery-thriller, appropriately titled “THE CALM BEFORE”, does a great job of diving deeper into the lead characters’ psyches and building up more of the world — or town to be exact — of the story.
While our protagonist Abraham continues to struggle with the life-changing reveal from the previous issue, he isn’t the only one experiencing difficulties. Even his adopted sister Nancy has a lot to say about this dilemma (which I’m really enjoying). From the looks of it, she will play a significant role in this story arc; instead of just being relegated to the sidelines. This yin-yang dynamic between the two could be considered the heart of this issue and, without giving anything away, culminates wonderfully in the third arc.
Ryan Lee’s artwork is, as expected, once again great. Immediately we are treated to another cleverly designed set of creator credits. In the first issue, they were stylized to look like mountain peaks, and in this one, the font mimics melting snow. I really look forward to seeing what other ideas he came up with for future releases. Another neat aspect of the artwork is the stylistic juxtaposition between the settings and characters. While all the environments stay true to what you would expect to see in real life, his character designs don’t adhere to normal human proportions. Heads, for instance, will be abnormally large. Giving the people a more caricaturistic feel. An accurate comparison could be made to those portraits that street artists draw at theme parks or tourist destinations.
Each issue’s cover spotlights a character that is featured more in that respective story. In #2 this character is a large imposing man named Nolan Devreux; who seems at first glance like he could be trouble. This assumption is further supported when we hear a local rumor about his past that may or may not be true. But none of this has been proven either way so we can only guess at this point. Interesting to note as well is that Nolan actually made a brief appearance in one panel from the first issue when Abraham was first seen arriving in town. This goes to show just how well Lees has the pieces of the puzzle in place. Considering this will only be a limited five-issue arc, everything has to be well-organized to work properly and not feel so rushed.
In conclusion, while the overall premise of the series still remains a mystery, we have a solid foundation of the characters and why we should or should not care for them. And if the last few pages of this were any indication, next month should be a wild one. They are definitely not holding back on the violence.
Equally unsettling and entertaining as the first issue, #2 does a solid job at building up its characters and setting the stage for the rest of the series.