The Storm In The Barn
Set in Dust Bowl-era America, this comic manages to communicate a surprisingly powerful amount of emotion while being fundamentally wordless. Although the dreariness of the setting does detract a bit from the power of the story, it is an effective story all in all.
The story centers on Jack Clark, the 11-year old son of a farmer who, like all of his neighbors, can no longer do much farming, the soil having turned to lifeless dust and the rain having disappeared. Jack's older sister has come down with the "dust pneumonia," which keeps her confined to bed and coughing frequently. Jack himself is at rather a loss: he's bullied by older boys and viewed contemptuously by his own father, who treats him like a child.
One night Jack notices strange lights in the barn of the next door neighbors, who have packed up and left. going inside, he catches a glimpse of a mysterious figure with a face like a rainstorm, but is unable to figure out who this person is. Determined to do something, Jack decides to find the figure and confront him, to find him and discover what is going on.
I loved this story's use of fairytales, from Jack's sister reading "Ozma of Oz" by L. Frank Baum to the town bartender's mangled versions of various Jack tales (featuring a heroic young man named Jack fighting, tricking and defeating giants and the like). All of this helps set up the tone of the story, so when the story of "the Storm in the Barn" itself becomes a fairytale it isn't shocking.
I also must credit Matt Phelan, who wrote and drew all of the comic, with the way he composed one scene, where the men of the town have gathered together all of the jackrabbits caught around town, so that they can be bludgeoned to death. What is shown and what isn't gives the entire sequence an enormous amount of power.
Unfortunately, the rest of the comic can be a bit dreary. This is something of the point, but the complete brownness of everything around our hero doesn't exactly excite me. There's just something dynamic that is missing, except for in choice scenes like the one mentioned above or when Jack confronts the shadowy individual with the face like rain.
All in all, it's worth at least one read, but I don't think it's quite worth buying. An interesting story, but not the most gripping one.
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