A wild-and-wilder survival horror comic, Aaron Williams and Fiona Staples’ North 40 (Wildstorm) opens on a young small town couple as they gaze upon a restricted volume on loan from the Vidette U. library. Said book has a cyclopean tentacled face on its cover, but naturally our curious twosome think it’s nothing more than some geek’s concoction made up of an old dictionary and epoxy resin. They’re deadly wrong, of course. As a result, “They’ve weakened the bindings of an ancient power.”
With this weakening, all manner of nastiness breaks loose: the small town library is decimated, and the entire rural county is blocked from the rest of the world. Many of the town’s residents are transformed — some into grotesque Lovecraftian creatures, others into beings with preternatural powers — while the few wholly human remnants struggle to survive in the chaos. As is usual in tales of this ilk, both the area’s upper class and its low-lifes strive to take advantage of their new world, while its grizzled symbol of authority, the town sheriff, is sent scrambling all over the place to put out fires. Also on the side of righteousness: a diner waitress with second sight, a young deputy with the ability to fly and a scythe-wielding girl who is drafted into the fray by an ambiguous witchy hag. The resulting bloody violence proves visually inventive: artist Staples has a sure hand with outlandish human mutations and flying body parts and is up to scripter Williams’ entertainingly monstrous conceits.
Horror comic fans, if they haven’t ventured onto this particular trek of country highway yet, should decidedly be pleased. As a writer, Williams can occasionally overdo the rural narrative pone, but he keeps you reading through his large cast’s grisly travails. In North 40, creatures both organic and biomechanical run amuck throughout the imprisoned county to effectively horrific results.
“I got told all of kinds o’ stories ‘bout what Heaven would be like,” the series narrator says near the end of this only partially resolved six-ish collection. “No starvin’ folk, no crippled kids, and everybody livin’ in a mansion o’ gold. But then I figger, if there’s all that and more, how come most gods’re all so HUNGRY?”
Theological concerns aside, the answer to this ‘un is obvious. It’s so we can get cool panels of emerging Elder Gods snatching poor victims and chopping their bodies in two, right?