Written by Joshua Hale Fialkov
Art by Noel Tuazon
I really don't know why I've never read this book before now. Creators Joshua Hale Fialkov and Noel Tuazon made Tumor together, an excellent detective graphic novel, and independently of each other, I've loved Fialkov's Echoes, and am very excited to see a new issue of Tuazon's Foster, whenever it's supposed to come out (issue three is very, very late). I've seen Elk's Run numerous times, but it wasn't until recently that I decided to finally buy it and read it.
It's excellent. Elk's Ridge is the name of a small former mining town in West Virginia. When we first see it, it looks like any other idyllic small American town, but slowly the reader comes to realize that all is not as it seems. The town was populated by Vietnam War vets who wanted a better life, and they've gravitated around John Kohler, a charismatic and firm man who has a vision for the town.
The area is completely cut off from the outside world, accessible only by a tunnel that goes through the surrounding mountains. The rest of the area is surrounded by electrified fence, and supplies are brought in only occasionally. Things sound great, but not to the teenagers who live in the town, are bored out of their minds, and a frustrated by a lack of young girls to get to know. John's son, also a John, is our protagonist.
The story opens with John and his friends playing in the tunnel, a place that is forbidden for them to go, especially after dark. The youngest of the boys is hit by a car, driven by one of the neighbours who has decided to flee the town. This death leads to the execution of the man, and later of the police who come looking for him. This is turn leads to John Jr. stepping up his rebellious nature, as he discovers new information about the father that he already hates so much.
Fialkov does a masterful job of combining usual teenage angst with the isolationism of a certain breed of Americans. This story touches on events like those in Ruby Ridge and Waco Texas, while also tapping into post-9/11 fear of the wider world. It's a very effective combination, and he uses the location well to create a very exciting climax. Tuazon's art is never very detailed, and that works well here to help propel some of the uncertainty of this story. This book is a very solid psychological adventure, and I recommend it.