Review: The Violent #3

We humans have a habit of assuming people in positions of power have earned their positions through competence and skill. But nobody actually knows how best to raise children. The most powerful position in the world -- that of a parent -- belongs to some of the least qualified. All sorts of people become mothers and fathers each and every day, being tasked with sculpting decent human beings out of flawed DNA and bad habits. Or at least that's how it seems, according to everyone I know who has kids. I say all of that to say this: The Violent is still a horror comic. It keeps heaping terror on you by digging into your personal anxieties. This time around, we face the horror of parenthood.

Previously, former junkies Mason and Becky struggled to survive in the rubble of their shared squandered youth. Their daughter -- the galvanizing core of their lives -- has gone missing. And while it is difficult to blame anyone other than the tragically flaky Mason for the girl's disappearance, the events of issue two made it clear that he was horribly driven to fix his mistake.

The-Violent-#3-1Adam Gorham's illustrations have shifted into more distorted, exaggerated expressions. Mason himself grows more disheveled as the story descends deeper into his nightmare. Meanwhile, Becky struggles to maintain dignity and restraint even as her entire life crumbles. Becky conveys this with tragic, sad eyes that barely disguise her personal collapse. Your heart breaks when her eyes light up with the hope that, after enduring so much hardship, at least she's still got her family. Then Mason demolishes her good mood in a series of panels where we don't even get to see Becky. It's just increasing isolated shots of her ne’er-do-well husband.  Dylan, Mason’s friend and accomplice, also projects just the saddest silent thoughts with subtly pathetic expressions.

Ed Brisson's dialog makes it clear that Mason is breaking under the weight of his responsibility. Further, Brisson's script does an excellent job of building an atmosphere of dread that never feels completely hopeless. But even when the narrative gives you a glimmer of hope, it's the dimmest, most distant glimmer.

The Violent draws upon several fears -- mainly the fear of losing the tiny amount of control society affords its least powerful and the fear of not deserving what you have and of being unable to defend it. Mason -- our primary point of view character -- is aware of his terrible faults and he can't imagine overcoming them. His daughter is an innocent. His wife has redeemed herself. But him -- he's doomed. He's propelled entirely by momentum; not by free will, nor by desire or even by his fears. His actions happen and he witnesses them with grim impotence. A man with no future is expected to ensure someone else's.

That’s scary.

In issue two of The Violent, Mason crossed a moral event horizon. In the third issue, Brisson has Mason give in to an inexorable gravitational pull of self-destruction. It seems highly unlikely this story will end happily for most characters. And the quiet simmer is becoming a violent boil.

Score: 4/5

The Violent #3 Writer: Ed Brisson Artist: Adam Gorham Colorist: Michael Garland Publisher: Image Comics Price: $2.99 Release Date: 3/2/16 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital