By Scott Southard. When we read about superheroes, we augment the obstacles of our everyday life and transpose them into a world of folks with unfathomable abilities and unimaginable odds stacked against them. Sometimes this technique does a good job of simplifying the things in life that are hard to deal with, but sometimes we miss the point in doing so. Soon quick escapism is set in place of any meaningful identifiability with the self.
The Violent neglects amplification in favor of a more Frost-ian Road Not Taken approach. We see the trials of a normal life that could have been our own if we’d made a few decisions differently. The realism of Mason and Becky’s story (if slightly skewed in favor of heightened drama) is engaging at its best and a sharp cautionary tale at its most harrowing. While the first issue introduced us to a family with lives not unlike our own, we’ve come to a bit of a turning point in the life of Mason, and subsequently, Becky and their daughter, Kaitlyn. But the violence depicted here never goes over the top, rather, the type of thing that could naturally happen in a given situation. A freak accident that could parallel a bar fight gone sour or a texting and driving car crash. The Violent maintains a sense of viability that makes each situation that more believable, not to mention painful.
Another great factor in the success of this comic is the isolationist angles that set up every panel. I wish I had a better working knowledge of compositional terms, and could describe the beautifully framed shots scattered throughout The Violent. Gorham takes these concepts and uses them throughout the issue to develop characters, elicit emotions from the readers, or simply move the plot along. (Sometimes I wonder if Gorham knows that he’s doing it or if it’s something that just comes naturally.) Some of the panels and full page spreads could be academically broken down in any worthy art course, where one could learn the basics of balance, placement, and depth of field. Add in the gloriously synchronized, three-tone covers, and Gorham’s efforts in The Violent are decidedly natural, living-and-breathing works that lends a sense of dynamism and artful consciousness to the entire series.
As a whole, this story about one family is overwhelmingly tragic. The sense of helplessness is almost tear inducing, because you know how it feels to be so completely without control. As the situations take a tailspin, the sympathy for the much-needed smoke breaks and beers the characters indulge in is real, and you don’t fault them for any of their minor flaws. It’s easy marginalize low-income families, especially when addiction problems and professional instability are added to the mix, but The Violent helps humanize the difficulties of a life where people are still trying their best. Whether or not the story ends in a triumphant return to whatever “normalcy” they once knew, there will always be a sadness that tints the story. Forget superheroes. Real life is hard, and we don’t need anything extraordinary to bring us to that conclusion.
Written by Ed Brisson.
Art by Adam Gorham.
Colors by Michael Garland.
9 out of 10