In typical eerie fashion, Elk’s Ridge, West Virginia seems like the perfect rural town to grow up. Practically sliced out of the idolized and nostalgic 1950s, this community appears to be filled with residents who know each other’s names and watch out for one another. However, when one of the residents gets behind the wheel after drinking, he sets the snowball rolling that will mean utter destruction for the town. The man kills a teenager and the town, to say the least, is not happy.
John is a teenager whose hormones and wanderlust are getting the best of him. Nobody but delivery drivers ever enter or leave Elk’s Ridge, but John is determined to escape. His father is not so keen on the idea, and the growing tension between the two decisively splits when John witnesses his father lead a lynch mob to kill the drunk driver. Before things can cool down, policemen from outside Elk’s Ridge are investigating the missing driver, but soon they, too, fall prey to the violence of John’s father. Realizing the extremely fragile situation he and his friends are in, they plot to escape from the town and report to authorities the crazy events they have witnessed. However, John’s father will stop at nothing to maintain the peace and keep outsiders from ruining his utopia. John and his friends must race through the town and even take arms against their parents in this symbolic battle to break free from one’s origins.
Brutal is probably the best way to describe Elk's Run. The storytelling is simple and easy to follow, leaving readers’ minds to contemplate the darker tones and themes of the graphic novel. The depth to which John’s father (and the rest of the community) will go and his self-righteous dignity at doing it may disgust readers, but at the same time, his obsession with protection might evoke some powerful parallels in today’s world. Allegorically, the lengths to which John and his friends must go in order to break free speaks to tension of parent and child—how far a parent goes to protect his (or her) child and how flagrantly that child attempts to escape from under the rule of his (or her) parents.
Minimalist backgrounds and vague human sketches add to the dreary, bleak undertones of the plot. This lack of clarity makes it even easier for readers to reflect themselves into the story and make the leap from observer to character. The range of colored hues and tints through certain pages again further reflects the story’s mood and tone. The art provides excellence ambience for this tale.
Fialkov, Tuazon, and Keating deliver a powerfully dark tale that can prove overwhelming in some ways. While the body count may not equal that of other graphic novels, the story nonetheless proves brutal and poignant. With complimenting artwork, this graphic novel will certainly win readers over—at least those who can stomach the brutality.