Publisher/s: Dark Horse
Genre: Horror, adventure
Author/s: Steve Niles
Artist/s: Greg Ruth
Format: Limited Series
No. of Issues: 6
Vintage: January 2004
Freaks of the Heartland is a six issue mini-series written by Steve Niles, creator of 30 Days of Night, focused around a small American town called Gristlewood Valley, with equally small-minded people. A young boy named Trevor seems somewhat apprehensive about going home, and for good reason, his father is a strict, overbearing alcoholic (judging from the amount of booze he consumes), but Trevor’s family has a secret, one which lives in the barn.
After Trevor’s father utters the words, “go and feed yer brother”, we discover that the family secret is in fact a deformed Quasimodo-like child named Will shackled in the barn. Henry (the father) is filled with resentment and disgust in regards to Will, the wife tries to reason with her spouse but is almost immediately shutdown down when her husband retorts with anger and the only person who seems to care for Will is Trevor. One night Trevor manages to free his brother and the two spend sometime playing together. For a six-year-old, Will displays amazing size and strength, a fact which seems to scare his father. When news arrives of another person’s ‘freak’ child killing a pig, Henry decides that it is time to ‘end this’ by shooting Will. After a struggle Will kills his father and together with Trevor, they make their escape and discover that other people have ’secrets’ too.
The story doesn’t really offer the reader anything new, it’s basically about a small town who keep to themselves and who are covering up a ‘terrible’ secret. What we get is a story composed of hate-filled townspeople unable to accept anyone who is different, this kind of small town mentality really doesn’t appeal to me and the events that unfold are rather quite predictable much like the mindsets of these backwards townsfolk. Unfortunately Freaks of the Heartland doesn’t expand upon the origin of the ‘freak’ children, an aspect that might have added some complexity to this somewhat simplistic story. On another note, I thought the artwork was very nice so kudos to Greg Ruth.
As far as I know, Freaks of the Heartland is available in separate issues as well as a TPB, so if this story appeals to you, purchase yourself a copy, I believe a film is also in the works scheduled for a 2010 release, it will be interesting to see how faithful the film adaptation will be to its source material, as in my opinion a six issue series should be simple enough to convert verbatim. Guess we’ll just have to wait and see.