Often art can get us to gain perspective on life that would otherwise be unavailable to us. Sometimes that perspective allows us to see the world from the point of view of a super being with the power to hurtle through space at the speed of BOOMS!, or a person facing a zombie apocalypse. Gaining quick access to these alternate perspectives is one of comic’s greatest strengths, allowing us to see a scene from a character’s own eyes. In this issue of Burning Fields, the creative team shows us how unsettling it is to be extremely close to a character, but never gain such access to their point of view. By doing this, the series finally presents Decker as an intimidating force and antagonist for Detectives Aban and Dana, and raises the stakes of the comic to new places. After last issue’s reveal that Detective Aban was previously a member of the ‘cult’ Brotherhood of Ninurta, this issue starts with a brief flashback to the cleansing ritual that Aban witnesses, which causes him to abandon the brotherhood and join the police force. Things then go back to the present where Aban and Dana have been surrounded by members of the Brotherhood, with Brother Ghada, one of its leaders, emerging from the group to share information about the recent murders unknown to them. Reuniting with Ghada the following day in the hopes of finding some clue at the scrapyard, the three run into an incident between Decker and his private military force and the enraged public. Dana then reveals her motives for wanting revenge on Decker before we get a gripping scene at the oil fields, culminating in another attack.
One of the great things about Burning Fields is how it contains multiple conflicts, both personal and inter group, yet manages to weave all those issue after issue with the panache of an entire quilt guild. While it was already evident why Detective Aban had personal stakes in whether Decker’s company remained in his town, learning of Dana’s gave me further reason to crave his comeuppance. Simultaneously this issue also shows the growing tension between the private military forces and the public, last issue’s threats of violence bubbling into reality this time around. On top of all that, there’s the issue of someone going around committing ritual murders that both the detectives and Decker want gone. Writers Michael Moreci and Tim Daniel are able to balance all these ongoing conflicts by emphasizing the ways in which they overlap, revisiting questions about religious faith and deductive certainty, good and evil, and order and chaos. No scene ever feels superfluous to the ongoing story, a feat I feel many comics often come up short on.
What I liked most this issue is how it establishes Decker as an emotionally impervious character. Even though we see him in this issue almost as frequently as Aban and Dana, we gain little insight into his thoughts on the current situation other than by the orders he gives to his soldiers and oil field workers. Instead, Colin Lorimer casts Decker as a devil-like figure that sees the reader, but whom the reader never gains any further emotional access to. He does this through his appearance in two different scenes. Early on, we see Decker viewing a scene through binoculars; only those binoculars face the reader. Here, Decker is looking onto us, but makes his own face unreadable to the reader. Later, we get another iteration of this with Decker looking on to the reader through sunglasses with an otherwise emotionless face. Lorimer makes his pondering, indifferent look especially affecting to the reader, as we become the object of Decker’s scrutiny. Combined with his fascinating panel breaks on both pages, the effect is undeniably chilling. Colorist Joana Lafuente aids in upping the villainy of Decker through his great use of colors in Decker’s final scene, making the oil field at sunset look like classic depictions of hell sans the screaming demons.
Lastly, the lettering in this comic impressed me with the elegant technique Jim Campbell employs to let readers know when people are not talking in English. Perhaps it’s been done before, but the way Campbell does the scripting of the Arabic makes me wish I was able to see the full dialogue in that language, further serving as a reminder of the dissonance between the private military officers and the people who’s town they’re occupying. There’s so much more to go off on about this issue (OMG! the cover) so I hope my score sufficiently captures just how much I dig it. Read this comic, and then sit by your calendar and wait for issue four with me.
Burning Fields #3 Writers: Michael Moreci and Tim Daniel Artist: Colin Lorimer Colorist: Joana Lafuente Letterer: Jim Campbell Publisher: BOOM! Studios Price: $3.99 Release Date: 3/18/15 Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital