If anything, Burning Fields serves as a good reminder as to the enchanting power of a super nicely done first page. Typically, I try to do a first reading of the comics I review for Comic Bastards over a slice and a pint at the local pizza joint. Sometimes I don’t make it through them after a page or two just out of boredom, or if I’ve had a particularly strong IPA that puts in the mood for a walk. However, both this issue of Burning Fields and the previous one had first pages that worked wonderfully at building a level of intrigue that propelled me through the book’s entirety. And after that first page, well, it gets better. This week, I reviewed another book that considers itself a straight up horror comic. While this comic doesn’t seem as interested in neatly fitting into a genre, the opening page does give me the impression that the creators hope to horrify the reader with realistic depictions of gore. What makes the opening page so effective as a hook is how matter of fact it treats the unsettling images we see. Rather than underscoring the horror of the violence we’re seeing through dialogue on the part of the person depicted in the scene, Michael Moreci and Tim Daniel instead pair images of separated organs and body parts lined neatly on what appears to be the hood of a car with a speech delivered by Decker, overseer of a private military company operating in the Iraqi city of X. The speech, which we later find out is given to a group of young Israeli students, focuses on the occupancy by private military forces and the benefits that occupation has provided to the citizenry.
By pairing this speech with the opening images, Moreci, Daniel and illustrator Colin Lorimer utilize one of comic’s greatest tools, the interplay between text and image, to reveal something that neither does separately. This interplay shows that the actions committed by the mysterious killer who’s grin we see this issue may just be a response to this occupation, an extreme display of some citizens’ desire to rid their country of private forces that seek to profit from the land more than anything else. The organs and body parts displayed also seem deliberately chosen as they’re all sensory organs that allow someone to experience the world. Later on, Iraqi Detective Fasad states that he thinks the murders have a connection with a specific murder ritual, adding further dimension to those opening images. Or maybe that’s a totally inaccurate reading that speaks to my training as a tweed-loving academic. Perhaps it is.
What makes Burning Fields so good is its creators ability to recognize this interplay, a gift to readers who might otherwise be overwhelmed by the heavy amount of dialogue that comes in certain scenes of this book, which isn’t a complaint given its detective angle requires a heavy amount of explanation as Detectives Atkinson and Fasad continuously come to new realizations in regards to their case. The creators have a sense of pacing as well, moving away from the detective’s case whenever things are dialogue heavy for a while, in one case moving from their questioning of several of the oil field’s staff to a page that sees the abduction of a child by who we might assume is the comic’s killer. Even during those dialogue heavy scenes though, Lorimer does exceptional work to keep these talking heads scenes from becoming static, most notably in a sequence of images that shows Detective Fasad and Atkinson’s changing facial expressions in response to an audio recording made by a tech who briefly disappeared while looking for another person.
I’ve hardly touched on the plot of this book, but that’s because it’s interesting to follow the case along with the detectives, and to say what happens throughout feels like it’d be ruining the fun of it. Just to tease you though here’s a tip. Biting.
Writers: Michael Moreci and Tim Daniel Artist: Colin Lorimer Colorist: Joana Lafuente Publisher: BOOM! Studios Price: $3.99 Release Date: 2/18/15 Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital