ADVANCE REVIEW: POSTAL #1 Leaves You Looking for Answers

ADVANCE REVIEW: POSTAL #1 Leaves Readers Looking for Answers
“Postal #1”
(w) Matt Hawkins
(a) Isaac Goodhart
Image/Top Cow
$3.99

Postal is billed as a crime thriller, but it has one of the more curious twists on the genre in recent memory. Namely that it is a crime committed in a town populated entirely by criminals. In most mystery stories, it is the unsolved problem which is the driving thrust of the narrative. Postal turns that on it’s head by making the town itself an even more interesting aspect of the story than the characters or the mystery they’re trying to solve.

The town of Eden, Wyoming is a unique setting. While the idea of isolating criminal elements in a society of their own is not a new one (see the entire country of Australia), Eden seems to be nearly as idyllic as one could imagine. It is a town of small family restaurants, a churchgoing collection of residents, and a social structure small enough that every citizen knows each other by name.

It is against this sort of anachronistic backdrop which writer Matt Hawkins (Think Tank, Wildfire) has chosen to set this murder mystery. Hawkins excels at writing characters who are somewhat abnormal. Postal’s utilization of a Mark Shiffron, a protagonist who suffers from Aspergers Syndrome is an interesting choice, as it provides an internal monologue unfiltered by societal mores and norms. Placing a character such as Mark in an environment such as Eden creates a wonderful moral and behavioral contrast. Eden is largely populated by people for whom control is anathema, whose reactions are as outsized as their offenses, and who are restrained only by the threat of the draconian punishments which await them should they defy the town’s laws. Compare them to Mark, whose control is nearly absolute, and you see that Hawkins has deftly created a new twist on the “stranger in a strange land” theme. Though Mark is a native of Eden, he could not be more out of place.

Story-wise, the first issue of Postal effectively establishes most of the major players, primarily through the lens of Mark’s skewed, hyper-linear perception. This viewpoint is (by the nature of its viewer) somewhat simplistic, and will surely give way to more complex and varied examinations of the characters as the series moves on. In the meantime, it does have the unfortunate side-effect of making the characters come off as rather two-dimensional.

How Hawkins fleshes out the cast and, more importantly, the history of Eden itself will go a long way towards making this series completely solid. The after-matter of the book, done in the form of dossiers on the characters who make up the cast, suggests an as-yet-unseen watchful eye monitoring the activities of Eden’s citizenry. The nature of that presence, as well as its implications for the plot, represent a significant mystery for Hawkins to explore moving forward. I fully expect him to do so, and to season the mixture with a healthy heaping of socio-religious criticism. Hawkins has rarely if ever steered clear of controversy, and some of the religious themes contained in the first issue of Postal are sure to ruffle the feathers of some readers.

Handling art is relative newcomer Isaac Goodhart, one of the winners of Top Cow’s inaugural Talent Hunt competition. His style, while still raw and somewhat muddy, works well within the context of this series. There is a certain griminess to his landscapes, a disorder which seems slightly unnatural. In a contrasting sort of way, his interiors have such as ordered feeling that the characters occupying them seem a little out of place. It’s as if they do not quite belong in the Mayberry-esque world they inhabit.

Colorist Betsy Gonia’s work on the issue magnifies the otherworldly nature of the town of Eden. The washed-out tones she employs make it appear as if the entire world is being witnessed through a sort of soft filter, almost a kind of dream state. In this way the palette perfectly complements the skewed perspective of Mark and highlights the unnatural social dynamic of Eden itself.

Postal might seem on its surface like a simple “whodunnit” tale, but that is almost assuredly not the case. The very nature of the setting and the murky pasts of the characters who make up the cast of Postal make it a certainty that the title has a lot more to reveal in future issues.

VERDICT:

The complexity of the environment and the unique nature of it’s protagonist, combined with a compelling murder mystery and respectable art work combine to earn Postal a solid 8/10.

Josh Epstein

Josh Epstein is the Publisher for the Capeless Crusader website. He’s a lifelong comic nerd, and “Superman” is the first word he ever read aloud. He is also an actor, singer, and resident of a real-world Smallville.

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