W – John Lees A – Ryan Lee C – Doug Arbark L – Shawn Lee
Mountainhead’s solicit reads: Abraham Stubbs and his father Noah roam America in a nomadic existence. Convinced they are being pursued by sinister government forces, Noah has them living off the grid, burgling houses to survive. Elsewhere, on Mount Rector, the lone survivor of a climbing expedition staggers homeward, covered in blood. Both are on an inevitable collision course with the picturesque Canadian resort town of Braeriach.
The opening sequence of this book forces you to take notice. The visuals are unmistakable. No, we don’t know exactly what caused the scene but the result of what took place is very clear. It ain’t pretty and the lone survivor mentioned in the solicit undoubtedly has some serious issues running around his noggin. The same goes for Noah, the father figure that is bringing his son along on robberies to perpetuate an existence “off the grid” that is clearly due to the issues running around in his head. That theme, of being in our head, runs throughout the opening chapter of Mountainhead.
Inset at different points of the book are the “evil eyes” that adorn the cover. One can posit a rather good guess as to the truth of what they represent but the script leaves enough open that your interpretation may not quite be correct. There’s a particular scene where father explains, or at least attempts, to son just what it is that’s running through his head. It’s not an exposition dump by any means. It illustrates the the very real mental anguish of a father that truly believes in certain things and has very real fears for his son. Is it conspiracy or something more sinister? Is he crazy? Is there truth in what he says? Is the truth even more evil than the fairy tale that seemingly has been created? This approach to one half of the horror in this book is a wonderful analogue for the fractured minds that exist in our world. That opening scene though? It represents the other half of the horror that has only been touched on. Something very real does exist in this story and it is looming over the personal touchings of how we’re introduced to Abraham [the son]. The book is fast paced and keeps coming wave after wave.
It isn’t just the overt styling, but the subtle design elements as well that improve the overall experience in the pages of this book. Eisner-esque creator credits at the beginning, non conventional panel framing, and the usage of scenery for imagery in itself has helped to create an extremely pleasant reading experience on top of the excellent story presented. It is becoming less and less common that in comics today that the entirety of the creative team compliments and enhances the work of each of the other members. This first issue of Mountainhead is a complete effort with all of the elements not just working together but in perfect unison. Not only is the dialogue powerful in setting the tone and relationship between father and son, but the expressional delivery in the scenes does just as much delivering of story as the narrative does.
With the hand in hand approach the story comes across infinitely better than as individual elements each standing strong on their own (which they do). Mountainhead is a psychological terror ride that will surely evoke strong emotion with its first issue. That is purposeful and it works. The additional driving home from the visual presentation of the book pushes the door open and pulls the reader in.
Out NCBD August 28th!