Pullbox Reviews: The Pale – A solid character-driven murder mystery…

As the Sheriff of Rocket Ridge, Terrence Logan has it pretty easy. Speeding tickets, civil disturbances, maybe some under-age drinking- there isn’t exactly a lot of variation in his day-to-day police work. That is until a strange encounter leads him to a grisly discovery in the desert wilderness- a mutilated corpse found with nothing besides a single white stone in its possession. Franklin Ink, a face-blind linguistics specialist with the FBI, might be the only person who knows the sinister truth behind the mysterious death.

I started reading through all five issues currently available, and came to a conclusion… Clan Fabares knows how to tell a story. From start to finish (so far), The Pale is an entertaining read that gives us some interesting people to follow around the desert town of Rocket Ridge, Arizona, with plenty of time to get to know them all- from surly Sheriff “I just turned 40 & don’t want a party” Logan, to Deputy Dawn “make a Mayberry joke & I’ll shoot you in the foot” Knotts, & of course FBI Agent Franklin “what’s wrong with bird watching anyway?” Ink. This title isn’t so much about the action as it is about the characters themselves.

Oh, and a murder. Or a string of murders.

Married couple and comicbook entrepreneurs Jay & Sanders Fabares (pronounced FAB-ray according to the About section of their website) have a lot to be proud of in this collaborative creation. The script work done by Sanders provides some great dialogue, giving the characters time to show their worth through what they do or say. While some, less patient readers might balk at the pace, the slower approach works well here. It gives us time to make up our own minds about who these people are through conversations, much like we do every day in real life. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of the “Meet Bob, father of two and an all-around great guy” narrative approach.

With the artwork, Jay Fabares does a lot with relatively little, taking a shaded black and white approach to her work. What I like with her style is that she doesn’t clutter the page with too much detail… something that I’ve been noticing lately in some other black and white titles. When there isn’t any color to help differentiate detail & create depth on the page, too much can confuse the images and keep a reader from being able to settle in on what’s important. Jay’s work is clean and concise, her backgrounds left faded or hazy while the focus of the panels is sharp.

The other clever detail that Jay plays with is one that I didn’t appreciate at first… FBI Agent Ink has a neurological condition called prosopagnosia, which makes him unable to recognize details in the faces of the people around him. It’s mentioned early on, but was really driven home when we’re shown Ink’s perspective as he’s looking around a room. At first I thought it was sort of a nod to a manga style, but then I realized that we were being shown what Agent Ink actually sees. It’s a great touch that’s not over-used in the series… just enough to give us a little insight into one of the title’s main characters.

If I were looking for some kind of comparison to give for The Pale, I’d say that it’s a little bit X-Files, a little bit Twin Peaks, and a little bit Longmire. The first four issues and the first couple pages of the fifth are available to read online at thepalecomic.com. You can also find the first three issues at ComiXology, and all five at ComiXcentral. It’s a great example of character driven storytelling that does really well when read straight through.

Settle in and enjoy…

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