What happens to a small town when a huge department store opens? Is there a boost to local economy? An influx of new jobs? Do random fires combust? Do strange psychic disturbances take over the community? Only time will tell what will happen to Holland, Michigan after the grand opening of the new mega-store EVERYTHING.
An interesting premise in the age of ’80s nostalgia and hyper consumption, Christopher Cantwell (writer of She Could Fly and co-creator of AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire) partners up with acclaimed artist I.N.J. Culbard (The New Deadwardians, Brink) to deliver this gripping book.
Everything captures that department store paranoia and amplifies it to the whole town. The childish feeling that a store is so big you could easily get lost, twisted to the feeling that something just isn’t right with Everything. Cantwell displays a sound understanding of the form with excellent pacing helped by the balance of silent panels. The color palette adds another dimension to the book. The soft pastels of some scenes reinforce the ’80s feeling whereas the strong primary colors of the Everything store conveys an uneasy sense of familiarity. It’s this idea that Everything is safe and reliable that unsettles the reader as the plot progresses.
As an opening chapter, the book expertly introduces readers to a small cast of characters. There’s the depressed Lori, whose breakfast of raw eggs and vodka as well as her no-nonsense attitude is amusingly welcoming. Then there’s the perfect store manager Shirley, who appears as manufactured as the products in the Everything store catalog. There’s more than enough to hook readers with characters we want to know more about.
If there is any critique of this opening issue it would be the ending is a tad surprising, in the sense that there is a strong ramping up of the tension but then the book just…ends. It’s like there isn’t an ending so much as the story just stops. As a testament to Cantwell’s skill as a writer, this is a seriously good hook, but it doesn’t quite qualify as a cliffhanger. Readers may well turn the last page to see what happens next only to discover that’s it for this month.
With that said, Everything is a welcome addition to the “new out this week” shelves across the comic stores of the country. As a small-town mystery tale it could see comparisons to Twin Peaks and Stranger Things further down the line, but while allusions to those series are minor with issue one, this is a great book for fans of those style of stories. If you’re looking for an unsettling mystery that genuinely hooks a reader, then Everything is for you.