Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Ed Brisson
Artist: Adam Gorham
Release Date: 13th January, 2016
As an art form the comic book is synonymous with magical, fantastical and far-off worlds. It’s not often that, as avid readers, we come across the mundane in our comic book selections and it’s even rarer that we are presented with social realism and the horrors of true life. This alone makes The Violent a stand-out series but there is so much more to the book than initially meets the eye.
Though one may expect a cartoonish and graphic display of gore and physical violence from the title, the definition of the word ‘violent’ can refer to something that is very strong or powerful, particularly in relation to an emotion or destructive force. It is this reading of the title that plays into the desperate actions of the characters. Set in the creators’ home city of Vancouver, the series is a gritty and revealing invitation to the darkest corners of the city, exposing the very real, and often undiscussed, problems faced by the lower classes – a hopeless spiral of gentrification, narcotic addition, crime and homelessness. The social and political issues it raises are much more overt than other more fantastical comics, which are perhaps more subversive in their approach, and it is this brutally honest storytelling that really packs a punch for the reader.
This is very much reflected in the detailed characterisation. In the second issue, former addict Mason’s life spirals further out of his control – his wife Becky, also a recovering addict, is missing after being spotted with a known drug seller, and his daughter has been taken into protective care after he was arrested for neglecting her while trying to help a friend; in the age-old dilemma, though his intentions were noble, Mason’s poor decisions have led to his downfall. Ed Brisson’s writing is direct and steers away from archetypes; at one point a character is introduced that unexpectedly, though sadly realistically, admits that she does not want to care for Mason’s daughter any longer than necessary. This is most definitely the real world, where relationships are broken and fairy tales do not come true.
Taking matters literally into his own hands, the tension generated throughout the first two issues culminates in a dramatic burst of physical violence, setting in motion Mason’s role as anti-hero, as he resolves to save his family whatever the cost. This is captured in Adam Gorham’s heavy artwork and Michael Garland’s sallow colours, which deepen with the growing tension, and are eventually punctuated with vivid crimson in the climatic pages. It seems the only way is down from here, and the reader, though hopeful for Mason and his family, expects a dark, nightmarish world as Mason journeys further down The Violent’s rabbit-hole.
The events of the book really do stay with the reader and the more one dwells on the issues the series raises, it becomes apparent that this is an important and cleverly constructed book that deserves considerable attention and discussion.
The writer of this piece was: Rebecca Booth
Rebecca Tweets from @rebeccalbooth