MIDDLEWEST #13 hits comic book stores on Wednesday, December 18th, and it’s unlike any issue that’s come before. Gone are the days of fantastical beasts and wild adventures (at least for the moment); all that lies ahead for Abel and Bobby is a life of enslavement on Raider’s ethol farm. Is there any hope for escape?
The story immediately takes the reader to Abel’s past and highlights his home life before his mother left. We witness a time in which his father was kind and supportive, even to the point of encouraging him in his paper route. Even on the difficult days, he reminds Abel that “a little hard work never hurt anyone.”
Flash forward an unknown period of time and we witness a terrible fight break out between Abel’s father and mother, which traumatizes the young boy. His mother leaves shortly after and readers see his father’s abusive tendencies erupt in full force. The seemingly benign messages he gave encouraging Abel to work hard morph into a toxic ideology that affects Abel throughout his experience on Raider Farms.
“A little hard work never hurt anyone”—this is the motto by which Raider and his cronies force their child slaves to perform work for them. This experience also brings back so many painful memories from his father, leaving Abel with no will left to fight back.
Writer Skottie Young highlights the horrors of our own reality through the fictional lives of Abel, Bobby, and the rest of the children held against their will on Raider’s farm. In them we see children with their own desires, fears, and ways of dealing with a system that effectively strips them of their humanity. Fortunately, Maggie, Jebediah, and Fox have honed in on their location and are ready to mobilize their community of other nomads affected by harsh systems within the world.
Jorge Corona’s penciling and ink work, Jean-Francois Beaulieus coloring, and Nate Piekos of Blambot’s lettering work well together throughout this issue. We see their unique elements come together to craft a realistic child trafficking setting that’s genuinely unsettling. Seeing depictions of children slaving over farms in the heat of the day, complete with an assortment of dark grays and browns of smoke clouds, evokes sorrow and rage. And what’s particularly effective is the use of small lettering sizes to represent the children whispering about their predicament, showing us just how low the evil men have brought their slaves beneath them.
Corona’s cover artwork places the spotlight on the series’ main characters and shows each in their unique conditions. We feel Abel’s sorrow as he’s harvesting ethol plants, and we rage against Raider as he stares out across his farm.
MIDDLEWEST #13 is call to action for Maggie, Jebediah, Fox, and the rest of the community. Too long they have let personal squabbles prevent them from working together; the kidnapping of Abel and Bobby was the perfect catalyst to spur them into action.
What did you think of the farm work the kids were forced to perform? Let us know in the comments below!