Stillwater is an intriguing series thanks to a strong premise and the normally very appealing idea of never growing old. Chip Zdarsky and Ramón K Pérez are taking a classic human desire like eternal life and turning it on its head — especially from the perspective of children never growing older. Stillwater #9 marks a major turning point in the series and may just change everything.
This month’s issue opens with Daniel standing amongst the Stillwater children in some elaborate treehouses. It’s here he learns a bit more about their plight and the disturbing nature of a baby that never grows old. Meanwhile, the day-to-day functions of the town continue on and Ted is now Sheriff, but is he really in control? Zdarsky and Pérez play around with the power dynamic in a key scene that continues to show Ted isn’t respected. That lack of respect may just turn him into a bigger monster, especially with how the rest of this issue plays out.
The issue continues to play out very human emotions and the need to survive well. The creative team makes you feel a bit for Ted, even though he’s angry and in need of counseling. Maybe that’s thanks to his desire to be given respect rather than taking it. Soon, though, he’s back into fight or flight mode and kicking in teeth. There’s an added bonus of knowing a gunshot wound or head trauma won’t kill anyone in Stillwater as if the violence is emotional rather than physical. They still feel pain, but it’s the act itself and not the damage that lasts forever. Maybe that’s similar to real-life trauma, though in Stillwater it’s more overt.
Mike Spicer colors the issue with a great added atmosphere in each scene. A key fight scene after with Daniel and Ted, for instance, is cast in purples, which adds to the chaotic nature of the battle. Cool blues permeate the opening giving the treehouse village calming pureness. The end capitalizes on a raging fire and yellows and oranges that forebode a very bad situation for its characters.
Pérez’s art is incredibly expressive with animated facial expressions that can feel cartoonish in nature, but also deeply heartfelt. There’s cool texturing going on with Ben-Day dots and hash marks in the sky that add depth to key scenes. Trees in the environments help convey the fact that Stillwater is more of a place than a collection of buildings while also reminding us these scenes are taking place apart from the town proper. There’s good atmosphere with shadows of pretty trees in the sky or tree trunks that blend into the darkness.
Rus Wooton adds good lettering with balloons breaking into gutters, for instance, and good emphasis on keywords. There are quite a lot of sound effects, like a solid “Krnch!!!” when a car door is pried open.
Given the treehouses in the opening and how this book ends, one might guess Peter Pan experts could have a field day with this narrative. Stillwater #9 continues to blend human trauma and abuse with the functions of a premise that won’t let its characters die. Much like Y the Last Man or The Walking Dead, the narrative builds off a strong premise with great character writing.
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