Violence is rooted deep into the world’s history and is woven into all facets of society including art and entertainment, comics not excluded. The Field, a mini-series written by Ed Brisson, drawn by Simon Roy and colored by Simon Gough, raises questions about morality and violence in society.
While The Field does anything but shy away from violence, it doesn’t condone the violence it portrays. Instead it uses these actions and characters to question the morals of society, illustrate the futility of repeated violent acts, and explore the cyclical nature of violence.
Readers are left to a world that goes from mysterious to utterly ugly. The story starts in a field in the middle of nowhere with our protagonist, Grant, being hunted by a group of people. Soon the field is empty and we see Grant visibly startled and confused. Roy’s art is not heavily detailed in terms of line work, but his knack for showing gestures to create suspense display some of his talents. The mysterious tone can be attributed to Gough’s color palette that combines soft blended purples and blacks to create a twilight night sky.
Then it turns ugly.
Roy and Gough establish this world as nasty and filled with debauchery. The bars are filled with yellow and green hues that accentuate the vomit, grime, and illicit drug use. The diner is bright, but filled with overindulgent and fat/obese customers that look greasy and leave trash lying around. The highways have biker gangs and chase scenes that pay homage to the grindhouse film genre and southern-gothic horror illustrated with over-the-top violent gore. They’ve created a world that nobody wants to live in – except for those inhabiting The Field.
Throughout the story hints are given that, “none of this matters” because it will all return to normal at the end of the day. This is because a science experiment with a time machine went wrong and Grant is the source of a time loop. The only way to get out of the loop and kick start time is if Grant dies. So naturally, we have two sides of the coin: those that want Grant alive to keep living their lives without consequence and those that will commit the most gruesome of atrocities to get time rolling again.
The best example of this is the ironically named character Christian who toes the line between being Grant’s savior and his captor. Brisson does a good job of using Christian to point out flaws in how morality is perceived by many in our culture. We’re given a character who claims to be religious, coming from a long line of Bible salesmen. He doesn’t swear because that’d be blasphemy and he listens to Christian rock bands, but he has no problem snorting lines of cocaine and massacring a diner. His actions are hypocritical and exaggerated, like everything in The Field, but it takes looking beyond the obvious to see what Brisson is saying.
The time loop has finally given Christian the chance to “truly live.” Brisson uses Christian to ask readers, “Do you really believe what you say you do?” He doesn’t explicitly ask this, but Christian’s actions beg us to ask these questions. As long as Grant is alive, Christian has a free pass to do as he pleases consequence free, judgment free, God free. The idea of grace and forgiveness is presented here. Christian is stuck in the loop and likes it because he can get away with anything because, “None of it – matters.” A similar loophole is presented to repentant Christians in what is called “cheap grace.” It’s the idea that if they’re repentant, their sins are forgiven and they’re given a second chance. The creative team is pointing fingers at the people who abide by this concept, who are not truly repentant, but use God’s grace as an excuse to live how they please.
While Brisson might touch on the all too often “hypocritical Christian” trope, I don’t think this is meant to specifically point out those who follow the Christian faith. It forces us to, regardless of personal belief systems, to wonder: What if?
What if we didn’t have a rule book? What if we didn’t have a parent, pastor, priest, brother, sister, wife, husband, God – you name it – looking down on us? Would we act the same way? If we could get away with a life void of repercussion, would we? If so, what would we do?
Brisson, Roy and Gough answer this with the way they paint society as self-indulgent people with absolutely zero self-control. This is apparent in the aforementioned bar scenes where people are spewing vomit, walking around with little clothing and doing drugs. It implies that without some sort of consequence for their actions, people at their core are detestable at best.
There are two types of violent scenarios portrayed in The Field and three primary parties. The first type is the out of control, anger filled rampages of Christian. These are unwarranted and are psychopathic actions that happen solely because he can. The next type, just here me out for a minute, are the “justified” actions displayed by The Tomorrow Men and The Snake Eaters. While I don’t condone utter violence, I believe Brisson wants us to ask if it is ever justified. The two parties (not led by Christian) are out to kill Grant so they can set time straight again. The Tomorrow Men mention that they want to “preserve the future” while the most important line in the series is said by a Snake Eater, “You’ve made us stagnate. Nothing means anything if at the end of the day if we just repeat.”
This is the heart of the story right here.
Stagnation kills society and if we only repeat our actions without progress we are only going to continue that cycle.
The point is driven home in the wonderfully rendered conclusion of The Field #4. Grant’s timer goes out through a series of panels that showcase Roy and Gough’s best work. Roy’s gestures inspire shock, awe and confusion while Gough contrasts the twilight sky shown in The Field #1 with warm, bright colors that fade into a single white page as Grant disappears. The story ends with the same panels of The Field #1 where Grant wakes up in the field in his underwear. This highlights the futility and the nature of the cycle of violence. All of the chasing and murdering resulted in the same conclusion as it did before – more violence and returning to the starting line. Lines like “Aww, Christian. Not again” and “I’m not letting that little fucker get away again” indicate that they knew it would end up this way, yet they continued on as before and will continue to do so until the loop is broken.
The story ends where it began, in a field, a place of growth, harvest and production where Grant starts out (almost) naked and alone, where his life can go one of two ways, he can be a savior or he can allow them to remain stagnate. The whole time Grant is presented with the option of dying, whether it be by giving himself up or killing himself, or fleeing the scenarios he is presented with. This is resonant of the story of Jesus, except Grant took the other route. Instead of sacrificing himself to save mankind from ourselves, he remained inactive so people remain in the loop to live with their actions. The creative team did a fantastic job at illustrating the futility of violence and the constant loop of human nature – call it failure, call it sin – but it is inevitable.