Review: The Violent #1

The Violent gets inside your head. It manipulates the very real anxieties and flaws that chip away at your confidence. Though the book will likely get labeled as a crime comic, it is absolutely horror of an especially troubling, effective variety. Our primary character in this issue is Mason--ex-con, recovering drug addict, and perpetual screw-up. He's not especially likable in spite of being very sympathetic. Mason's life has been beating up on him and he's just had to take it. Out of jail and trying to hold on to a crap job while avoiding his own darker nature, he latches on to passivity and xenophobia to justify why things don't seem to work out well for him. He does wrong and lashes out when he gets caught, perhaps the product of a society that hasn't been great at teaching its boys how to grow up. You probably know someone like Mason.

TheViolent_n01_cvrHis significant other is Becky, another former user who is at least responsible enough to call Mason out on his failings. But she's either love-blind or desperate to the point of delusion. They have a blissfully ignorant daughter with whom they both seem enamored. Their's is a struggling relationship and they clearly want a good life that seems out of reach. Something has to change, but the only changes taking place around them are decay and recidivism.

And that's the horror of The Violent. Any given scene might trigger a bit of empathy for the shared nightmare of adulthood in general and the terrors of parenthood in particular. The monsters here are addiction and the constant pull of various responsibilities. The danger is poverty and loneliness. The threat is gentrification and the uncontrollable passage of time. And, ultimately, the actions of one's past are inescapable demons. How or if one faces those demons determines how well one copes.

Adam Gorham's line art does a superlative job illustrating the twisted ugliness roiling below the surface of everyday life. And special mention goes to the Michael Garland's colors. Together, these artists take Ed Brisson's agitated scripting and turn it into something even more uncomfortable. Close-up panels typically lack detailed backgrounds, which would be a weakness in a lesser comic. Here, the colorist adds textures and energetic splashes of color to scenes that pull you into a tense or intimate mood. Rather than depreciating the detail of the line work the colorful backgrounds enhance the feel of a panel's action and make the lines shine. The thick inks and bright candy colors truly add dread and motion to every moment. From the sickening green of a corner store at night to the bitter cold blues of a stifling job, The Violent shakes off the shackles of Noir, becoming something modern.

Syrupy purple is the most menacing color in The Violent. When did that become a thing? I feel like that's a thing these days.

This is the first issue in a five-issue arc titled "Blood like Tar" and I look forward to seeing where the next four issues take Mason. I'm also more than a little terrified.

Score: 4/5

The Violent #1 Writer: Ed Brisson Artist: Adam Gorham Colorist: Michael Garland Publisher: Image Comics Price: $2.99 Release Date: 12/9/2015 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital