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By Brandy Dykhuizen. Ed Brisson admits he’s in an abusive relationship. A relationship he dove into headfirst twenty years ago, and from which he has no intention of ever escaping.

There has been love, marriage, birth and outdoor adventure. He has experienced great happiness and fulfillment. But he has also witnessed her darker side, full of the fear and destruction bred of poverty and drugs. And yet, Brisson carries on despite his anxiety – no, because of his anxiety, tapping into it to fuel a narrative of his relationship with The City of a Million Names. He can no longer sit idly by and watch Vancouver throw herself into cycles of ruination, slowly chiseling away at those charms he fell head over heels for decades ago. And thus The Violent was born: a seedy love-letter, a cry for help, a suicide note, penned by a friend.

The Violent jumps frantically from conflict to conflict, existing very much in the moments between flashbacks and hesitations, beautifully mimicking the cadence of a recovering addict’s cogitations. Mason and Becky grasp at straws to reconstruct some semblance of family life now that he’s back from from the slammer. Taking turns pulling shifts at dead-end jobs and watching their only daughter, the transition has been a work-in-progress, one Becky feels requires her constant supervision.

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Indeed, the first few pages find Mason already casing a middle-class suburban house after dark and robbing a corner store for essentials (which includes a knuckle sandwich he shared with the proprietor). Becky, meanwhile, is strung impossibly tight and desperately trying to keep her man out of jail and her marbles from unleashing all over their tiny, overpriced apartment. She pulls on her brave hat and reels in the crazy long enough to be supportive before heading out to work, showing up to find out that her paycheck has been mysteriously sliced by corrupt supervisors the week before the rent is due.

Their world is one in which the indigent are bullied, taken advantage of and tossed about within the safety of a government-approved caste system. We hardly blame her in her final frame, gazing distantly through tears and hiding in a bathroom, debating the consequences of an inviting bag of detachment tacked to the digits of her former dealer. However, as Mason wraps up this issue with some relapse-fueled, predictably poor decisions resulting in a missing toddler and a police escort, it’s going to be up to Becky to be strong enough for all three of them and forgo drug money for daycare funds.

“Blood Like Tar” concludes with a short story by Vancouver-based writer Sam Wiebe. The similarities in subject and style seamlessly transition from comic to prose, and, much like in Brisson’s narrative, we are left unsure who to root for. The Violent is a true gem, both in concept and execution; the writing, the art, the Missives from the Edge and Sam Wiebe’s prose story come together in a cautious love-letter to a city who may occasionally drag its residents through the muck, but seems to know the the pay-offs of persistent challenge. Good things don’t come to those who wait, but to those who overcome.

Image Comics/$2.99

Written by Ed Brisson.

Art by Adam Gorham.

Colors by Michael Garland.

9 out of 10

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