Indeed, the plotting of this book is airtight. What seem to be atmospheric or even entirely extraneous details and characters set up the near-apocalyptic final image, one that's so huge that it's ridiculous and even hilarious. Building up to that ending is some of Van Sciver's finest character work. It's clear that he worked hard on Joe, creating a slumped body posture for him but also putting him out there less as a loser than as an alpha male who's been beaten down by life. That sense of hubris is what dooms this character. The character of his mother-in-law is another triumph for Van Sciver, as she's a real sleazeball. When she offers Joe some crystal meth to smoke and he reluctantly agrees, the reader knows that absolutely no good was going to come of this. The actual results were even worse than one could have imagined, so disastrous that it takes the sort of deus ex machina ending to extricate Joe from the situation.
Regarding the end, it's amazing how much sense it makes, even if it is kind of crazy. The classic Van Sciver visual flourishes, like dense hatching and cross-hatching and drawing falling rain, all serve a greater purpose here. The standard Van Sciver weirdo characters wind up providing subtle clues, including the real meaning of the enigmatic title. Van Sciver almost gleefully provides these clues, like the fact that the cover and endpapers depict rain falling, or that the characters talk repeatedly about the weather. Again, what appears to be mundane takes on a greater meaning later in the book, so the reader should examine the book carefully as they proceed. While not quite as dense or thoughtful as The Hypo, Saint Cole is a great follow-up in the sense that Van Sciver stayed true to his style without repeating himself.