It’s that time of year again when horror stories start popping up in comics, and IDW has a doozy of a new series in Mountainhead. Written by John Lees and drawn by Ryan Lee, Mountainhead introduces a conspiracy theorist father (who is definitely off his rocker) and his son, who rob houses to avoid contact with society. They’re deeply afraid, but are their fears founded on fact or fiction?
So what’s it about?
The official summary 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. From writer John Lees (SINK) and artist Ryan Lee (ARCHER & ARMSTRONG), featuring colors from Doug Garbark and letters from Shawn Lee.
Why does this matter?
Given the proclivity of folks to believe in conspiracy theories these days, this story feels very well-timed. It’s also layered with twists and turns in this very first issue alone that will keep you on your toes as you try to make sense of this unique narrative.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
From the very start, this story has you questioning what is going with this father and son duo. Part of that is because Lee’s art (with colors by Doug Garbark) has a caricature look to it that’s unique and at times unnerving. The heads of these characters are bizarrely rendered, which makes for a distant sort of relationship as you make sense of their worldview and beliefs. At the same time, Lee makes you feel for the kid named Abraham in this story, who is clearly in a hard place as his father is openly talking about suicide to avoid being snatched by so-called death squads. It’s unfair for a kid at 13 to be robbing houses and practically taking care of his unstable father.
Narratively speaking, this issue keeps you on your toes. It opens with a massacre on a snowy mountain and the definition of mountainhead. It sets the stage for a story about madness and losing touch with reality. From there it shifts to the father/son duo who rob empty homes. Just as you start to get your bearings there, the plot shifts again and drops a twist you won’t see coming. By the end of the issue, the opening mountainhead definition comes full circle and Abraham is left to make sense of a brand new life in a snowy mountain town. The discombobulation is apparent and one could imagine Abraham’s sense of reality is twisted and still formulating. He seems to have a good head on his shoulders, but being indoctrinated for 10 years will change anyone.
Part of the horror of this series lies in the uneasy nature of understanding yourself and others around you. Lees and Lee do well to capture this unease with well-timed close-ups of things as simple as steak and the mashing of the meat in the mouth of a parental figure. Something isn’t quite right and whether it’s mental illness, Abraham being indoctrinated, or actual monsters running loose remains to be seen. That’s part of the fun though, as your interest will be piqued by what is really going on.
It can’t be perfect, can it?
There is a lot going on with this series and there’s so much it’s hard to gauge what it’s all really about. That may be part of the horror since it’s so chaotic and hard to pin down, but there are multiple themes at work that don’t quite add up by the end. It might come together later on, but from a child robbing homes to a nearly naked man running through the snowy woods, things aren’t quite adding up yet.
Is it good?
An intriguing new series that plays around with a child’s perspective in a chaotic and crazy world made further uneasy by an unhinged upbringing. It’s the kind of horror that focuses its lens on growing up in a world that doesn’t make sense.