By Brian Wood, Mack Chater, Lee Loughridge, Nate Piekos, Tula Lotay
This Week’s Finest goes to the new series by Brian Wood and Mark Chater, courtesy of Dark Horse.
Brian Wood is a creator that many fans should know, either because of his excellent creator-owned series, his deft handling of female protagonists, or the controversies and unorthodox statements that he partakes in real life. It’s these three things that color my reading of Briggs Land #1, not to dislike it but to view it more thoroughly than I would other books for TWF.
The basic premise is a community of Government secessionists new leader is the (former) wife of the founder, who now has to keep the community going with her new leadership while the FBI circles looking to arrest her and/or her family.
It’s apparently being developed as a series for AMC, and for good reason. It has weighty subject matter, although in today’s political climate I question if the timing isn’t unfortunate. See, Government succession gets floated around a couple times a year ever since President Barack Obama took office, which is odd considering the last actual attempt to split the US up was during the Civil War. The people who suggest such an idea now as to have a state or states leave the U.S. of A. because of blank, usually don’t think of the implications or complications that course of action entails. A much more practical (but no less rational) approach is for a group of people to leave society and live out in the wilderness, free from government interference or social progress. Briggs Land includes people of both persuasions.
A couple of Wood’s previous hit series have dealt with the isolation or removal of modern society and the safeties it brings such as The Massive or DMZ. It works well as a premise because it allows the reader to contrast what we’re seeing with what we know, letting Wood quickly get about world-building and introducing us to new characters.
Wood’s latest issue here reads sort of like a plot outline for the TV pilot, but is done in a way that puts it above most other first issues. In 36 pages, we see our protagonist Grace Briggs, antagonist(s), supporting characters, wild cards, the “set” and get a taste of what the plot will be. That is a lot accomplished in a slightly higher page count than the average comic and Wood does it all from the start of his series. While its not exactly detailed, it lays an expansive foundation for him to build out from later.
His characters’ mindsets are of course, extreme and diametrically opposite what many Americans think today, but Wood also gives us their past and possible future as Grace Briggs tries to lead her people away from her ex-husbands White Supremacist background and towards a more altruistic goal of self-sufficiency from the Government. The fact that all three of her sons have troubled histories with the greater society will be an ongoing concern for her.
The art by Mack Chater is well suited to a series like this, coming across like a mix between Jeff Lemire and Sean Philips. It’s not a bold or flashy line he uses, its both delicate and gritty. Every panel feels lived in, even if Chater doesn’t fill it with detail. The camera’s always at the right position, negative space and scenery are used to their full effect to show the wider environment these characters move in. In some ways, the art feels like a storyboard for the show as none of the characters look beautiful or idealized. They have wrinkles, or potbellies, or greasy hair. Chater makes this world feel real in a very specific way, working the script with solid art and top form storytelling to make the comic engrossing even if its just people talking. The colors by Loughridge only aid in this, with a mundane palette of browns and greys mimicking the real world. Everything has the same hue, instantly implanting in viewer’s minds what a typical program on AMC looks like. Long Story Short: the TV show of the comic has its work cut out for it, since the art has strongly visualized the world that Wood’s created.
Wood’s new series debut is brimming with potential, and impresses by taking a more downbeat approach not often seen in comics. The subject matter is dicey and character motivations will need some fleshing out including Grace’s. However Wood, Chater, and Louthridge’s execution is assured and confident, grabbing the reader’s attention.
It’s tough to say if this is some kind of meta commentary by Wood about the current political and racial divide going on in America, or if there even is a larger message within the story.
What is certain is that this is one strong first issue, and is well worth the price of admission as Brian Wood’s latest work and what may be the next Preacher or The Walking Dead.
Disclosure: Publisher Dark Horse provided a review copy of this comic to Nothing But Comics without any payment between the site and publisher or agreement on the review’s content.