Strangehaven: Brotherhood (2000)

Strangehaven is a town somewhere in the middle of nowhere in England, where people stray by accident and never leave. "If she doesn’t want you to leave, then you ain’t goin’ nowhere. …The village, Alex. She’s a living thing, just like you or I. You’re here for a reason. We’re all here for a reason. This is where you’re supposed to be right now. Don’t waste time trying to figure it out." one character says to another as they discuss their unusual town. The fact is that it’s a damn interesting town, with its predilection for strange characters. There’s Megaron, who’s half Amazonian warrior, and Adam who thinks he’s a space alien. There are many more ordinary folks too, including a strange predilection the town has for twins. And there’s also a secret society in the town, acting on its own behalf, carrying great secrets.
This is an extremely odd book. On one hand, it’s a very languid and charming look at the ins and outs of a small town. Writer/artist Gary Millidge takes great pains to really explore his characters, and make the readers get a feel for who they really are and for the lives they’ve led. He’s quite fond of two or three page autobiographical flashbacks in which characters tell their stories. It’s an interesting technique because it literally allows the characters to speak for themselves in this narrative. We get involved in the characters, really being involved in their odd lives.
There’s one scene that especially caught my imagination. There’s a character whose life is spinning out of control. He sits in front of the TV watching Fawlty Towers thinking about his wretched life when Basil Fawlty steps out of the TV and begins lecturing the man about his life. Sure, it’s not a totally original twist, but damn it, it’s Basil Fawlty, John Cleese! How cool is that?
At the same time, something odd is going on in the small town of Strangehaven, and we readers have trouble really focusing on it. Just what is the magnetic focus of the town? How does it keep people in its orbit without them spinning out? Just what is the secret society, and how does its inexorable movements cause the fascinating ending which concludes this issue?
If I have one complaint about this book, it’s that the drama of the secret society is too hidden within the pages. Millidge is subtle, and there are undercurrents of tension in the story, but they’re not tremendously overt. Maybe that’s a British thing, but as an American I always want to see more menace.
Anyway, wonderful book. Check it out.

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