Back in 2005 Steve Niles (30 Days of Night, Criminal Macabre) and Greg Ruth (The Matrix, Conan) introduced us to an endearing and damaged young boy named Trevor. He’s a simple kid, living in a small Midwestern town with his farming family. Trevor’s problems seem at first to stem from his father’s drinking problem and a nasty temperament but we soon discover that there is much more on Trevor’s mind and in his heart. His family hides a secret, a younger brother to Trevor, who is quite different and hidden away in the dark. Trevor loves his brother dearly and looks out for him as best he can, while under the cruel control of his father.
Freaks of the Heartland is a touching and painful story of a town embarrassed of their blemishes, and what happens when one brave boy makes the choice to stand up for what he knows is right, no matter what sacrifices he must make in the process. The story is not complex, rather quite simplistic and all the more raw for it. It’s the kind of book you can’t put down until you’re finished, largely because you’re rooting for the good guys to win and just can’t stop until you know that they do. Steve Niles does a beautiful job of building of Trevor’s story with layers of sadness, loyalty and triumph.
I can not underestimate the quality and aesthetic importance of Greg Ruth’s art to this book. Freaks of the Heartland would not have the depth and edge that it depends on without the perfect style he brings. Most panels play out more like individual paintings, each made up of heavy brush strokes and gorgeous landscapes of blended color.
The collected hard cover edition of this book was released July 04 by Dark Horse comics. It also includes some great notes and sketches from Greg Ruth on the character development, along with each individual cover for the original issues.
If you haven’t read Freaks of the Heartland before, I highly recommend it. I am a big fan of hard cover collections, especially for unique comics like this one, which I believe will be a classic to return to again and again.