You Should Read . . . NORTH 40 by Aaron Williams and Fiona Staples

It’s been said that all small towns have their secrets. Usually, said secrets are some kind of personal scandal that would impact the town, but not vastly change it. Not so in Aaron Williams and Fiona Staples’ North 40, where it results in the release of a Lovecraftian horror upon Lufton and surrounding Conover County.

Lufton is home to Vidette University, although the focus is on characters from the rural area surrounding it. Two residents, who see themselves as outsiders and long to leave, discover an old spellbook at Vidette U.’s library and unleash an ancient evil. This unearthly force creates a barrier around the county and magically changes most of the townspeople. It then falls to two more residents, along with a sheriff who seems to know more than most about the situation, to prevent the end of the world as we know it.

Williams does a good job creating a menacing atmosphere, but also mixing in bits of humor; the scenes in the local diner are particularly funny. Some of the ancillary characters border on tropes and stereotypes, but they ultimately do serve to move the plot forward. North 40 is relatively early comic work for Staples, and it hints at what would come in her later work. Her talent for detail and creating beautifully grotesque images are readily on display.

While the series does have an ending to the immediate danger, doors are left open that could still be explored. I don’t want to give away too much, but what about those outside of the barrier around Lufton? Surely someone must have noticed it. And what of those who were changed? As far as readers know, their transformations have not been undone. Unfortunately, I doubt a follow up will materialize since it’s been almost 10 years since North 40 was first published. And that sucks, because I’d like to see Williams and Staples revisit this world.

North 40 by Aaron Williams and Fiona Staples was published in single issue format by Wildstorm (a division of DC Comics) from 2009-2010. It was first collected in 2010 by Wildstorm, and reissued in 2015 as a part of DC’s Vertigo imprint.

Mike Machnikowski

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