Review - Mountainhead #1 (@IDWPublishing)

"And a mind cut off from reality can be capable of things beyond comprehension..."

There's a serenity in living on a mountain. All the space and quiet can do wonders to help one relax, but the solitary nature can also do things to one's mind as in Mountainhead #1 from IDW Publishing. The issue is written by John Lees, illustrated by Ryan Lee, colored by Doug Garbark and lettered by Shawn Lee.

Abraham Stubbs and his father Noah roam America in a nomadic existence. Convinced they are being pursued by sinister government forces, Noah has them living off the grid, burgling houses to survive. Elsewhere, on Mount Rector, the lone survivor of a climbing expedition staggers homeward, covered in blood. Both are on an inevitable collision course with the picturesque Canadian resort town of Braeriach.

From the jump, Lees sets a very conspiratorial tone that's very much in-line with individuals who find themselves in more remote environs. Noah is a man with a life philosophy that borders on unhinged to most, although that's not to say that there isn't some precedent for him to feel the way he does. Lees uses his personality extremely well to drive the narrative up to the pretty big reveal about 3/4 of the way through the issue. Noah's relationship with Abraham is very much a product of the former's fear-mongering, as it instills in Noah a flight mentality that doesn't afford him much in the way trust. There's also a looming sense of unease on the part of the characters as a result of the solitary nature of mountains, allowing Lee to keep a steady drumbeat of anxiety coursing throughout the issue.

Lee has a line style that actually is a very good match for the overall tone of the story. The goal of the book is to make you feel uneasy and Lee's art style embodies that mentality with somewhat shaky linework and interesting zoomed (in and out) perspectives of the characters and the action. All of the characters a mix of lines that seem to start with hard angles and end in curves, providing a consistent sense of the unexpected; Noah in particular always appears to be physically just as off-kilter as his mentality seems to be. Keeping the artwork confined to relatively organized panel layouts does a great job of reigning the book in a bit, as Lee doesn't allow the unsteady artwork to feel too out of control. Garbark's colors are on the darker side of things, with the red tones specifically infusing the book with an underlying sense of violence.

Mountainhead #1 is a very strong first issue that creates an atmosphere of suspicion and violence. Abraham is contending with a lot in his life that he's not necessarily ready for, saying nothing of what's happening on Mount Rector. Lees' script is paced well and keeps the reader on their toes, veering away from any sense of predictability. Lee's artwork is the right amount of frenetic, effortlessly capturing the mentalities of the characters. Mountainhead #1 borders on horror without being too graphic, although there's clearly something terrible about to besiege the characters that they might not be ready for.

Mountainhead #1 is available now.