Comic Book Review: Postal TPB Vol.1
Postal TPB Vol.1 (Postal Issues 1-4)
Bryan Hill, Matt Hawkins, Isaac Goodhart, Betsy Gonia, Linda Sejic
Top Cow Productions/Image Comics
June 24th, 2015
Postal, a title that speaks both to our protagonist’s occupation and to greater threats looming on the horizon, takes place in a fictionalized version (I hope) of Eden, Wyoming. Taken at face value, Eden is not unlike other middle American towns of its ilk. But like any good story, and this is a phenomenal story, there is much more to take in than what can me gleaned from the surface. We soon learn that Eden is a kind of haven for reforming criminals – a final chance before dangling at the gallows. Overseeing this niche population is Mayor Dana Shiffron. She is a woman who takes exactly zero nonsense and, at least for the first chapter of this tale, is shown to sit at the apex of the town’s food chain (a position supported by both Eden’s sheriff and its pistol packing priest). She is not a caricature, however, of some power hungry despot or anything quite as trite as that. On the contrary, her measured and intellectual approach to the task at hand paints her more as a world-weary custodian with little recourse but to rule with an iron fist. She is also the mother of Mark Shiffron, our lead character.
Our story follows Mark a young man who has Asperger’s Syndrome and acts as Eden’s lone postman. As a result of his condition, he is rendered socially awkward and is frequently disparaged by a number of the town’s inhabitants. Despite this, however, he carries out the duties of his station without fail. When a mangled letter crosses his path, we learn that this includes the transcription and subsequent delivery of any damaged correspondence. It is this seemingly mundane task that acts as the catalyst for the rest of the story. It also serves to gives us our first look into the inner-workings of Mark’s mind. While his condition may make it difficult for him to interact with others in a traditional manner, it also makes him prone to observing things that most might deem to be insignificant or innocuous. Case in point, the delivery of the transcribed letter puts him in a position to notice “red mud” on the recipient’s truck. He reasons, quite correctly, that this is odd given the surroundings. From that point forward, Postal really hits the ground running. Mark’s tenacity for order and clarity, another aspect of his personality that is ostensibly the result of having Asperger’s, propels him headlong down a road that leads to uncovering the first murder that Eden has witnessed in decades. For a town who’s existence hinges on discretion, it’s an event that could prove to be catastrophic.
One of the things that I found so refreshing about Bryan Hill and Matt Hawkins’ tale is the near break neck pacing of their narrative. This team wastes absolutely no time in letting the reader in on what is going on. Where other writers might have had their audience languish under a slow stream of teases and clues, Hill and Hawkins drop revelation after revelation. They do this masterfully and scribe an engaging tale that never really tries to buy time for itself. It’s a testament to their ability that the speed at which the layers of mystery surrounding Eden are peeled back does not ruin the book. Part of this, I believe, is owed to the way in which they have made Mark someone whom the audience can relate to. Under normal circumstances, a character of intellect and ability on his level could very easily be unlikable. By giving him a flaw, such as the handicap established in the first chapter of the book, the writers provided away to make him more human and, by consequence, closer to someone for whom success is not a foregone conclusion. I found myself rooting for Mark with every connection he made and worrying for his well-being when his obsession would get the better of him. This bond is also helped along by Isaac Goodhart’s artwork. While I wasn’t immediately captured by his style, I have to admit that it does work very well within the bounds of the story and helped the adventure come to life. That said, the book is not without some inconsistencies. On a few occasions, for example, Mark recovers a bit too quickly from some spectacular ass-kickings in order to keep up the pace of the plot. While this is not a deal breaker, it is somewhat jarring to see in a story that is otherwise assiduous in its treatment of its characters.
As the opening chapters of Postal come to a close, the writers set the stage for the continuing adventures of Mark Shiffron and company. What’s more, the last issue of this collected edition does a really great job of keeping us intrigued. Hill and Hawkins wisely establish a Wheedon-esque “big bad” and also hint at some potentially dark inclinations for our young detective. Ultimately, readers are given an intelligent, well-written and entirely disarming crime mystery. In fact, I have enjoyed this tale so very much that I can’t help but feel some personal shame for having taken so long to discover it. That said, I am confident that Top Cow has a winner on its hands here and I, for one, certainly hope to revisit the town Eden very, very soon.
Learn from my failings. Pick this book up now.
Postal TPB Vol. 1 collects issues 1-4 of series and releases on June 24th, 2015.
All images and slider courtesy of Top Cow Productions, Inc..