When we last left the town of Stillwater (several months ago), things were bad. They haven’t gotten much better.
The issue brings us back, firmly, to the present. A bomb has gone off, Ted has brought his gun bros to the party, and Daniel and his mom find themselves forced into flight. Teetering on the knife’s edge of control shifting hands, the violent tendencies of the Judge’s subtle dictatorship reach a fever pitch now that he’s got a military force to lean into it.
For all its loaded potential, Stillwater continues to mete out its surprises and mysteries, savoring each unique piece of world-building in such a way that the implications linger after the comic closes. It’s those final page reveals that keep the reader coming back, while the moments of action—sword fights included—breeze mindlessly by. With a township that faces no mortality, action sequences like these are sapped of their impact and tend to drag the story down. One thirsts for some behind-closed-doors intrigue, some character introspection, some history, any of the stuff of substance that might truly shape immortals.
One concern, in scenes like the one above, is that not only do we not fear for the people being gunned down (they’ll get back shortly), we don’t know the people gunned down. We are doubly unconcerned for them, and this is where the series is straining; the outer-world stakes last issue promised—as well as character development like Ted’s —are too few.
Thank god, then, that the issue leaves us on the verge of exploring a small, incredibly interesting contingent of Stillwater: all those children that cannot grow up. It promises yet another dimension to the Judge’s injustice, and yet again we find ourselves waiting to see if the promise gets paid.
I truly want to love Stillwater. The premise is so strong, the creators are incredible, and the craftsmanship behind each issue is exceptional. But it’s becoming clear that it might just be a ‘wait to read’ sort of book, better read by the pile (or collected edition) than letting the issue-by-issue drag (particularly after this long, long delay) spoil what long-distance anticipation the book relies on.
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