Six issues in and this comic no longer remains the book it started out as. Gone is the military procedural comic set in the Middle East exploring issues of war profiteering, culture clashes, and paranoia. In its place is an even better military procedural comic set in the Middle East exploring issues of war profiteering, culture clashes, paranoia, strength, and supernatural beings only a few steps apart from zombies. With remarkable grace, the team behind Burning Fields have somehow managed to keep this comic’s story unpredictable while never losing sight of its stellar protagonists’ great characterization and interactions. Given last issue’s great cliffhanger, it’s a bit of a surprise that this issue delays our reentry to Dana and Aban’s standoff with a Carapace soldier right after he has told them about a Carapace squad’s intended attack on a local militant group. Instead, we’re privy to an unsettling scene as an eyeless Decker emerges from the ground and commands a squad of troops. A quick flashback then shows us how Decker manipulates Decker into attacking the local group. It’s not until after this scene that Aban and Dana retake center stage, using some tried and true teamwork to get the upperhand on the Carapace soldier and head towards the coordinates the Carapace squad. Prior to either Carapace or Dana & Aban’s arrival though, Decker’s zonked out Verge group shows up, and all sorts of body horror ensue. Dana & Aban get there in time to catch the second wave of disembowelments, things ending off squarely in horror territory for the two of them.
Writers Michael Moreci and Tim Daniel provide a motivation for each of their characters, even those that readers typically don’t consider all that often. I love that we got to see Carapace overseer Carey uncertain about whether to proceed with the plan to attack the local militant group only to confidently tell her soldiers that they were needed to ‘stop a war before it starts.’ Once the soldier arrive on-site though and discover that the circumstances are different than what they initially thought, one of their rank suggests abandoning Carey’s order to which the others agree. In both cases, Moreci and Daniel trusts artist Colin Lorimer to convey these characters’ uncertainty or fear in the illustration of their facial expressions. Through a combination of pursed lips and a concerned look in just a single panel, Lorimer shows us Carey’s reluctance to carry through a decision without substantial evidence, imbuing her with some sympathy that was previously absent. Meanwhile, the soldiers display a level of unexpected agency since uniformed characters so often seem to act as little more than cannon fodder, or more accurately ‘crazed undead food’ in this case.
I’m also impressed by the team’s ability to make violence sustainably shocking and emotionally resonant. After five issues of biting, punching and pulling you’d think it would have lost its initial edge, but there’s at least three panels that had me wincing at the sight of them. Joana Lafuete’s colors play a huge role in this viscera, using reds for blood that leave me queasy and a palette for darkened exteriors that give the impression that things are lurking just outside the panel borders.
Every issue I get nervous that Burning will either make a move I’m not happy about that I’ll have to write about, or surpass my expectations and provide me the herculean task of finding something new way to say how much I dig this comic. Fortunately, the team behind Burning Fields seem just as interested in pushing things each issue as I’m into seeing what direction things go next. Now another month to hibernate before the penultimate issue.
Burning Fields #6 Writers: Michael Moreci & Tim Daniel Artist: Colin Lorimer Colorist: Joana Lafuente Letterer: Jim Campbell Publisher: BOOM! Studios Price: $3.99 Release Date: 7/22/15 Format: Mini-Series