People make mistakes and respond poorly to situations. For instance, while I was waiting for the bus just before writing this review, a fire started in the road verge across the street from Safeway. Only one person screamed, and just two people tried stomping it out.
Not only are individuals riddled with the potential for awful decisions, but groups are worse. This fact, when boiled down, is the whole premise of Bryan Hill and Matt Hawkins’ comic Postal.
Postal takes place in a fictional town called Eden, where I can’t help but assume it’s as sweltering as it is in Portland. The population number is scratched out and almost every single person is a convicted criminal.
Sheriff Shiffron tells a new citizen, “You don’t move here for a second chance. You move here for your last chance.” It’s a town entirely insular and interdependent, clinging to a thin and trembling thread of trust.
When I first read the premise I thought it would be some hypermasculine, needlessly gory comic with a shallow, fake-flashy premise, but it really wasn’t.
The protagonist, Mark, is the mayor’s adult son, the town’s mail deliverer and handler, and a person with Asperger’s syndrome. The plot revolves around the murder of a young woman who is not from Eden, the history of the town and the Shiffron family who founded it.
However, that isn’t all that makes Postal great; it’s how the characters are written. I’m going to preface this by saying I am a neurotypical person. So as someone privileged in that way, I’ll try to defend my opinions.
Mark’s Asperger’s is displayed appropriately in this comic. His illness doesn’t encompass the whole story, but it does color every aspect. Postal dives into how he’s treated by other people, how they view him, and how he approaches all of his problems and the obstacles to his desires.
He loves a waitress, Maggie, and reads her body language very purposefully, considering her past advice on how to socialize to decide whether or not she’d welcome his attention. He’s multifaceted, self-aware, independent and very much the protagonist, not just some token.
Unfortunately, his mother fits the typical mold of an impatient parent of a child with Asperger’s. She says all sorts of horrible things right to his face. She seems remorseless and the town tends to side with her, pitying her for having to take care of him, instead of having sympathy for Mark, who has to put up with her.
Postal even writes women respectably, as actual human characters (which is always the first thing I look for). However, the comic is riddled with racial prejudices. So far there are two obviously non-white characters: a rapey FBI agent and an American-Indian man named Big Injun, who is little more than a noble-savage trope.
Conversely, the one real antagonist, a white guy, is revered and worshipped for his evil and power. Gag. The treatment of race in this volume is really unfortunate and is pulling me out of my high over how gender, neurodivergence and mental illness are treated.
It’s worth reading, even though its racism must be criticized. The series is still running, and I don’t doubt Hill and Hawkins can do better.