He’s only six years old, but the monstrously deformed Will towers over his older brother. Trevor looks after his younger brother with as much care as he can, though; and when it becomes clear that their father plans to kill Will, Trevor takes it upon himself to get his younger brother to safety.
When the two discover that Will might not be the only one of his kind, the two boys must make decisions that will not only have an impact on their own lives, but could reveal their small town’s dark secret.
My favourite thing about Freaks of the Heartland is the way in which it subverts your expectations – and not with a fanfare, but with a subtle shift in tone. Having just finished reading several comics that were pretty unreserved in making their distinctions between good and bad, it was a nice change of pace to instead be reading a story that approached this topic in a more thoughtful manner.
There are moments of action in this comic, but its primary focus is much more understated. Freaks of the Heartland raises questions about what truly makes something monstrous; and whether something as simple as being different is enough to justify fear.
By primarily telling this story from the perspective of children, Steve Niles is able to simplify what might otherwise be much more complex decisions on the part of his characters. I don’t think this is a negative thing; rather, I think it’s an opportunity to show the impacts of prejudice and fear on our decisions. It’s a smart decision.
Greg Ruth’s artwork is dark and sketchy, with a muted colour palette. You can tell that he’s worked closely with Niles to make sure that the personalities and emotions of their characters are conveyed in every panel; and his portrayal of the landscape also shows an appreciation for its character.
It feels like there’s a lot more story that could be told about the world in which Freaks of the Heartland takes place, so it’s a little disappointing that there’s only one volume. But, in terms of the story that is being told within the space of this volume, I did find that there was closure for its emotional arc. It was nice to have this pay-off.
If you can get your hands on a copy of Freaks of the Heartland, it’s well worth the read.