Comics, Reviews

Fishflies #1 Review: Small Town Strangeness

Step into Jeff Lemire's latest story about a small, rural town that is infested by something much stranger than what appears on the surface.

Fishflies #1 Review Cover
Image: Image Comics
By: Javier ReyesFeb 23, 2024, 2:05 AM

Fishflies #1

Review
Rating
9
Good
Fishflies #1 Full Cover

Writer: Jeff Lemire

Artist: Jeff Lemire

Publisher: Image Comics

Release Date: July 11, 2023

Page Count: 64

Format: Comic

Jeff Lemire lays the foundation for another emotionally captivating story set in a small town that's plagued by bizarre occurrences. With each issue being an extended 64 pages long, "Fishflies" is set to be a unique exploration of Lemire's creative storytelling prowess.

There’s something about Jeff Lemire comics that hit differently, particularly when they are set in small towns where some strange happenings are going on. Take “The Underwater Welder.” It’s about a man coming to grips with the memories of his upbringing as he reflects on his impending fatherhood. Then in “Royal City” it’s about a family haunted by the ghost of their youngest member and how that tragedy shaped their lives. Themes of familial dynamics and personal growth resonate through many of Lemire’s best works, as they allow him to explore deeply human stories and sprinkle in just the right amount of fantasy and peculiarity.

Now, with “Fishflies,” we find ourselves back in a small town, this time with its own secret lurking in the bushes. But as familiar as its particulars are, Lemire pulls off in making another captivating story that’s both grounded and fantastical. Here is my review of the first issue of “Fishflies.”

Kids visiting the store

Story Overview

Set in the small town of Belle River, “Fishflies” is the story of a young girl named Franny Fox and her connection with one very strange friend. The story takes place during the town’s dreaded fishfly season. It’s when the Belle River gets plagued by thousands of flies born from the town’s main river. Everything from buildings to cars gets covered by these swarming insects that quickly die out after a week or two. It’s as gross as you can imagine and a nuisance to everyone in town.

One night, a group of boys go out to the local convenience store and then get greeted by a blanket of dead fishflies at the entrance. It takes a small bet for one of the boys to trudge through the sea of corpses and make it into the store. That’s where the boy is confronted by a scared and reckless man holding a gun. That meeting leads to a tragedy that sets off a chain of bizarre events that finds its way into the backyard of young Franny Fox.

A fugitive on the run

Review

The biggest standout about the comic is its format. At 64 pages long, it’s over twice the length of regular issues. But despite its extended presentation, reading through the first issue went by in a breeze. Lemire has never been a writer known to talk your ear off. With this longer format, Lemire gets to spread his wings more as a visual storyteller. The comic will go on stretches of pages where not a single word is said. The eeriness of the setting and the visceral character expressions speak louder than any extended monologue or introspection ever could. The rawness of Lemire’s signature art style adds plenty of grit to his stories, making them feel more grounded and captivating.

Something that has always caught my eye about Lemire’s artwork is his paneling. In his works like “Trillium” and “The Underwater Welder,” Lemire experimented with highly creative layouts that elevated the mind-bending nature of those stories. For “Fishflies,” he went with a more subtle approach to his paneling while still playing with connections to the story. On pages where fishflies are shown swarming parts of the town, their infestation spreads even beyond the comic’s panels. In some instances, you’ll see flies crawling all over the borders of the pages. This effect makes what is supposed to be a natural occurrence in the story feel otherworldly within the realm of a comic book. It’s a nice touch that creeps up on you as it simulates the unsettling experience of fishfly season itself.

Now, what intrigues me the most about the story is its focal point, the little girl Franny Fox. She’s young, naive, and has an unwavering heart of gold. It’s tragic how much of a kind soul she is when you consider how unfortunate her living situation is. Her personality feels reminiscent of Gus, the leading character of Lemire’s classic work “Sweet Tooth.” You see it in the moments leading up to the issue’s big twist. Where most people would be terrified of what’s happening, Franny welcomes the story’s events with open arms and a smile. Having such an optimistic character at the heart of a bizarre story will make for a compelling narrative to unfold. Something Lemire is exceptional at is creating strange stories that get grounded by the meaningful development of its characters.

Franny checks on the man

Final Thoughts 

For fans of Jeff Lemire’s work, “Fishflies” has got everything that makes his works great. It’s another captivating story set in a small, rural town with elements of The Twilight Zone mixed right into it. With each issue being 64 pages long, what more could you ask for? This new series has all the makings of another modern classic that will keep you buzzing with every page.

Why You Should Read Fishflies

  • It’s another small-town story blended with strange supernatural elements
  • Lemire delivers top-notch visual storytelling throughout this massive 64-page issue
  • Subtle details in the art’s paneling connect with the narrative
  • Franny Fox is an endearing character you want to see grow
TAGGED: Image Comics
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