THE PALE by Jay Fabares and Sanders Fabares
THE PALE is a mysterious and quirky read, perfect for anyone who misses '90s thriller cult classics.
93 %
light horror and great art
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So an ornithology-loving FBI agent with face blindness walks into a bar. If this concept caught your attention, you’ll want to read THE PALE. The webcomic, created by husband and wife duo Sanders (writer) and Jay Fabares (illustrator/letterer), is a great mix of horror, humor, and mystery.

The story follows FBI agent Franklin Ink, also known as Fink, as he investigates a murder in the small Arizona town of Rocket Ridge. Fink is interested in the Rocket Ridge murder case because he believes the incident may link back to a more personal death from his past.

Excerpt from THE PALE #1

An Unexpected Obstacle

In THE PALE, Fink struggles to discern different faces from one another due to face blindness. And being an FBI agent, this is a huge problem. To compensate, Fink uses his ears rather than his eyes.

READ: Need more small town mystery? Check out MISFIT CITY #1!

As a skilled linguist, Fink can tell a lot from somebody’s accent and intonation. Those who deal with face blindness can’t remember distinct facial features due to brain injuries or preexisting conditions that affect vision. I’d never actually heard of face blindness before reading THE PALE, so it was interesting to see the world through Fink’s eyes while also seeing how well he makes up for his inability to recognize faces. In an almost Sherlock Holmes fashion, he can tell where somebody was born to the personality traits even they don’t wish to face.

the pale
Excerpt from THE PALE #1: Fink explaining face blindness

But even though Fink is great at his job, he still has a hard time connecting with people. However, as readers will see, this hesitance has much more to do with the death of a close friend than a fear of awkward social situations.

THE PALE’S Art is Anything But Bland

Through Jay’s illustrations, it’s easy for the reader to see through the characters’ eyes. Simplified facial features portray Fink’s face blindness perfectly. The intended perspective is clear, which makes his inability to discern faces all the more relatable for somebody who has no idea what it feels like (like most of the population).

THE PALE also has horror elements. Sometimes gore can miss the mark, to the point where you just feel downright queasy. However, the illustrations in this comic don’t overdo shocking scenes for the sake of spectacle. The art style isn’t overly intricate either, but there’s just enough detail to get the skin crawling. Dead bodies aren’t gratuitous and genuinely contribute to the overall plot. When Fink dreams about his lost friend, it’s terrifying because his face blindness can’t cover up death.

Excerpt from THE PALE #2

The comic balances these frightening moments with humor and gorgeous natural scenes. Even though it’s in black and white, the Arizona landscape and various wildlife come to life. And knowing how much Fink loves to birdwatch, the focus on birds is especially delightful.Without having to worry about coloring, the creators can focus on the stark contrast between light and dark, giving the images even more depth.

It’s the Little Things

Small towns and murder mysteries go together like peas and carrots. Like TWIN PEAKS and AMERICAN GOTHIC, THE PALE plays on the small town mindset that thinks, “nothing could possibly go wrong in a place like this.” Throwing the quiet, safe feeling of a tight-knit community out of kilter is a great way to grab readers from the start.

CLICK: You might need something to read in between THE PALE updates. Start with NAILBITER!

The first few pages set up the mundanity of Rocket Ridge, but the story isn’t boring. A broken coffee machine and two guys fighting over rent payment are the most exciting daily occurrences. But, such simple scenes like Sheriff Logan trying to get the most life out of a cheap coffee maker characterizes him so well.

Even as the plot picks up, I hope to see more this subtle character-building. The Fabares have just finished the second chapter of THE PALE, so the story is still full of potential. So far, it has a solid foundation and many questions to be answered. I look forward to these answers, as well as more chilling images and witty humor.

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