Briggs Land by Brian Wood & Mack Chater – A Book Review

I’ve never been disappointed in a Brian Wood book, so when I ran across Briggs Land: State of Grace (Volume 1), I knew I had to check it out.  I’m so glad I did.

The premise is perhaps as relevant as ever in that Briggs Land is a self-proclaimed sovereign nation within the United States.  It has existed since the Civil War, and it’s been a place anyone can go who wants to live an unfettered life.  However, that simple life grew more complex as the years passed, and Briggs Land is now a magnet for extremism, white supremacy, corruption, and domestic abusers.

The current patriarch, Jim Briggs, has been incarcerated for years, but that hasn’t stopped him from ruling Briggs Land with an iron fist.  Yet, his wife, Grace, suspects he means to betray their people, and she can’t allow that.  Grace, who married Jim as a teenager, takes control of Briggs Land, and virtually no one is happy about it.  She must contend with her murderous husband, her conniving grown sons, her treacherous daughters-in-law, her unpredictable citizens, and even the federal government.  But trust me, if anyone can bend Briggs Land to her will, it’s this woman.

Of course, as a graphic novel, I would be remiss to ignore Mack Chater’s artwork.  Chater’s talent is uniquely suited to Briggs Land.  It’s a little rough, yet incredibly detailed and well rendered.  It fits the tone of this book perfectly, as well as the characters themselves.  I’m not sure I’d like this style in a Superman book, but this is nothing like a Superman comic.  Now that I’ve experienced the first volume, I can’t imagine anyone else drawing this title.  It’s a perfect match.

This is a deeply political book featuring violent, manipulative characters.  In fact, I can’t say anyone is particularly innocent, especially the protagonist, Grace Briggs.  However, Grace does have a sense of justice deep within her, but it’s still not apparent how universal that justice is.  She is incredibly helpful to some in need, but I’m not convinced her charity is available to all.

Though the book may not sound like a must-read, believe me when I say it is a captivating story delivered with excellent pacing.  Brian Wood is a master at using story to subtly explore contemporary political and societal issues.  I quickly found myself engaged with the characters and utterly drawn into the unfolding plot.  I completely recommend Briggs Land.

(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

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DMZ: On The Ground (Volume I) – A Graphic Novel Review

I picked this up on a whim while visiting my local library and DMZ: On The Ground grabbed me by the jugular and wouldn’t let go within two pages.

Even though the premise of DMZ has been done before, author Brian Wood delivered his take on a second American civil war with such adrenaline and ferocity that it is unlike any of its thematic predecessors.

The idea is that because our armies our stretched so thinly overseas, radical militias within the heartland separate from the USA and spread all the way to New Jersey.  Manhattan becomes the DMZ while the rest of New York is still the United State’s.  A young intern named Matt (Matty) Roth flies in with a journalism crew and then becomes stranded after the entire crew is wiped out.  Instead of fleeing during the next available extraction, he decides to become embedded within the war-torn DMZ and report what’s truly happening.

I read a lot of graphic novels, and it’s been a long time since one completely captivated me within instants of starting it.  Brian Wood executes a tight, fast-paced, brutal storyline with realistic dialogue.  Wood also impressed me with the sheer logic of what things would really be like if this actually ever occurred.

Artist Riccardo Burchielli draws some of the most detailed, tense renderings I’ve ever seen.  While not meant to be photo-realistic, he amazed me by faithfully depicting a city in shambles.  His half-destroyed buildings, burnt cars, litter, and bomb craters sucked me right into the story and made me feel like I was living it, not reading it.  This is one of the highest compliments I can pay an artist.

Along with Fables and Ex Machina, DMZ has moved to my “must-read” list and I urge you to read it as well.