Thursday, 14 July 2016

The Violent, Volume 1: Blood Like Tar Review (Ed Brisson, Adam Gorham)

Ex-junkies Mason and Becky are both now clean and, with Mason recently released from prison, the two are trying to be good parents to their young daughter Kaitlyn while holding down jobs. But the cost of living in Vancouver is high, their income is low, and the temptations of the old life are always one bad day away – and bad days are coming. When Becky falls off the wagon and goes missing, Mason inadvertently loses custody of their daughter and begins the search for his wife – a search that will take him to places you can’t come back from… 

The Violent is Ed Brisson’s finest book yet and easily one of the best comics of the year! It’s dramatic, it’s exciting, it’s fast-paced, it’s a darkly realistic story about an ordinary man caught in an extraordinary situation – it’s like reading a comics version of Breaking Bad, and I loved it! 

The story grimly starts with Mason contemplating recidivism and things spiral ever downwards for him from there. Brisson writes the characters so damn well. Mason in particular does some heinous and incredibly stupid shit throughout but you can see him trying to be a better person too - I was genuinely rooting for him the entire time. It’s heart-breaking to see him try and do the right thing and keep his family together and consistently fail, leading to more and more desperate actions that can only end one way. I also loved how Becky and her mother’s tempestuous relationship was written which felt very real and added to Becky’s character in her struggle to be a better mum than she had. 

Brisson masterfully layers the driving storyline so the stakes get raised with each passing chapter, making it more and more gripping to read as the net closes in on this small doomed family. It’s also a bitter commentary on his home of Vancouver which has seen an influx of hipsters and Chinese real estate investors in recent years, raising rent for him and his family. However Brisson reveals in the final issue’s afterword that he and his wife have solved the problem by moving the family away to a smaller town, so good for him! 

I really enjoyed Adam Gorham’s artwork, especially those moody, wordless first page establishing shots and the action was drawn well with some very visceral scenes – the comic definitely lives up to its title! 

It’s disappointing to hear that the series has been cancelled after five strong issues - it’s a real shame the comic didn’t find more of an audience as it’s really high quality work. But Brisson and co. are continuing anyway and the series will be made available through Kickstarter directly for the audience who have been enjoying it so that’s good news – I’ll definitely be following these guys as they develop the world of The Violent as I’m sure others will after reading this book. 

The Violent, Volume 1: Blood Like Tar is partly a snapshot of our times and partly a tragic portrait of modern life for those on the bottom rungs of society, but it’s mostly a powerful and compelling narrative that you won’t be able to put down once you start. Fans of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ Criminal series will gobble this one up - brutal and intense, The Violent is a must-read.

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