More and more it seems comic books are the place to find creators taking chances. It makes monetary sense since it’s far cheaper to create a science fiction world on paper than it is via special effects, but it’s also because creators can get their ideas out without intervention at a faster pace. Briggs Land for instance, was created from script to release in far less than time than the upcoming TV show. That allows comics to take chances and in a lot of ways offer entertainment that isn’t safe and exciting.
Writer: Brian Wood
Artist: Mack Chater
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Isaac Briggs, fresh off a tour in Afghanistan and struggling to reintegrate, finds solace hiking the old forest trails. When two random backpackers wander onto the Land, an innocent situation quickly turns dangerous and Isaac’s military training takes a turn down a dark path. Welcome to Briggs Land, nearly a hundred square miles of rural wilderness, representing the largest antigovernment secessionist movement in the United States.
Why does this book matter?
There’s a reason this series is being turned into a TV show–it captures a part of America a lot of us don’t want to admit exists. There are people who fear the government and think it’s out to get us and, if given a swath of land and some jurisdiction, are willing to fight and kill anyone who tries to take it. There’s a fight in all of us for a certain amount of freedom, only the folks in this series are a family–not unlike something out of The Sopranos–who will do whatever it takes to stay, by their definition, free.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
This can’t end well…
Full disclosure, I only knew about this series, but never read the volumes before it. Going in completely blind, Brian Wood and Mack Chater do well to fill us in on the jist of what is going on complete with a guide to all the family members. It never feels overwhelming, especially because this issue’s main character, Isaac, is new to his family’s community after serving in the US military. Wood does a good job establishing a slight unease in Isaac about the entire thing, which makes him a good character for readers to relate to.
The issue opens with a TV news interview with the Briggs lawyer who makes some major points about freedom and what the Briggs family wants. This is intercut with some news people at the border attempting to get the story. Quickly it seems things escalate and it’s clear the U.S. government is none too happy with the Briggs’ situation.
Wood then cleverly cuts away from all that noise to take Isaac on a quiet hike. The issue serves as a way to show even when you have good intentions the complications of politics for the Briggs family can make even the most innocent situation deadly. Wood has essentially set up a moral dilemma for the audience to shout and argue about as characters do things they think they must. It’s at once tragic and relatable, especially for a country today that feels so divided.
Chater’s art meanwhile, gives everything a realistic look and feel–with a great attention to detail when it comes to clothing and environments–that allow the already relatable story feel closer to reality. A lot of attention to detail went into making the forest scenes look accurate and these nearly angelic outdoor pages imbue a sense of calm. That calm, of course, is going to be disrupted and visually Chater hammers that home.
It can’t be perfect can it?
I’m honestly unsure why the characters had to do what they do here because it seems simple enough to have just let them go. Maybe I’m not understanding the gravity of the situation, or maybe it’s unclear on purpose, but it seems a bit dramatic of a move.
Is It Good?
Political drama doesn’t just affect governments, but the people who abide by their rules. This issue does a good job establishing the high stakes of a very heated moment in time and raises the stakes when good people have to make hard choices.