Mad Cave Studios 2019
On Sale August 7th 2019
Diamond Code: JUN191829
Written by Anthony Cleveland
Illustrated by Jef Sadzinski
Coloured by Julian Gonzalez
Lettered by Justin Birch
Equal parts brutal and beautiful, Show’s End takes place in Georgia during the 1920s and follows Loralye, a 12-year-old runaway seeking refuge with a travelling group of freak show performers. At first, she isn’t welcomed for being too “ordinary.” But what her new found family doesn’t know, is that Loralye is hiding a secret more freakish than anyone could ever imagine!
Not going to lie but when I first saw the cover my immediate thought was oh American Horror Story inspired. If you think about it the Carnival back in the day was the only place where folks with disorders or deformities could congregate and work without judgement although their being “freaks” is what the folks are wanting to see. There are tropes, see universal acts, that we always see in these like the strong man, bearded lady and more so it shouldn’t come as a surprise to see at least a few here right right.
Now this is my introduction to Anthony and his work and I have to say I'm quite impressed with his talent and his skill for storytelling. The way that this story is structured is sensational and the opening is one that captures the readers’ attention straight away and not only encourages the reader to want more but it has that effect where you have the desire or need to know more. There is power within a mother’s love and without that well crazy stuff can happen. Still the folks we are introduced to, one of whom I am fervently hoping is going to be a main villain, really do set this up beautifully.
There is quite a nice ebb & flow to the book as the story & plot development has some action and intrigue woven through it. The pacing is spot on and this characterisation draws the reader in deeper and deeper till there is no denying you are a part of the story now. As kid I think the circus was still a huge draw and as I got older I noticed it continued to wane to the point where it’s almost a legend of a bygone era. So running away to join the carnival is brought to life perfectly and showcases the attraction of doing just that.
Jef does some marvellous work on the interiors here. His creativity and imagination in bringing these folks to life is superbly done. The linework that we see and how he utilises their varying weights to bring out this kind of attention to detail is stupendous. The faces, facial expressions and how they convey feelings, emotions and further the characterisation is exceptional. I am a huge fan of how we see the composition in the panels and how backgrounds are utilised to expand the moments and bring us a size and scope to this world. The way page layouts are utilised and how we see the angles and perspective inside the panels show off a very strong eye for storytelling. The colour work that we see is utterly delightful. To see the white tattoo style body on the one guy and the way light sources are utilised to show shading and shadows is great. There is also some very nice colour blocking and gradation effects as well and really does set the tone, mood and feel for the book.
Anthony is able to layer the story here and show how townsfolk react to the carnival and how their actions define them while also showing how the carny’s see themselves as a family. There’s a harshness as well and we see hope and longing. This is freakishly good, and Anthony’s freakishly good looking, as the story takes through the range of emotions that you’d never associate with a story such as this. Amazingly well written and illustrated this continues to show why Mad Cave Studios is on the rise and shows no sign of slowing down.