(Michael Moreci/ Tim Daniel/ Colin Lorimer/ Joana LaFuente/ Jim Campbell/ Riley Rossmo; BOOM Studios)
Michael Moreci and Tim Daniel, co-writers of “Curse”, join together with another story that focuses on an all too common, but incomprehensible horror – war. Burning Fields follows a dishonorably discharged military investigator, Dana Atkinson, to Kirkuk, Iraq where she investigates a string of gruesome murders.
To raise already high tensions, the murders have been occurring in oilfields that are being controlled by a private military group called Verge and are tied to the field commander, Decker, an agent of Verge that ruined Dana’s military career. At this point in the series, we don’t know much about her military past, but we know that Dana and Decker have had problems in the past and Dana had a pristine record, but let her mouth often get the best of her. It’s enough information to allow for character development and keep readers moving at a steady pace.
The opening scene sets the tone of Burning Fields. A tormentor is brutally torturing his victim while speaking in cryptic phrases. Colin Lorimer primarily uses shapes and thick lines to create texture and detail, like the head of the bloody wrench and the torture victim’s mouth and teeth. The shape sizes and lack of detail in the background of the panels allow the forms to be clear so our focus is drawn exactly where it’s supposed to be. Joanna LaFuente’s colors are the perfect mood setters. The bright red blood appears in thick lines and single tones that drastically contrast the large, dark panels.
About halfway through the issue, we’re introduced to Muhib, the Iraqi detective who is investigating the murder of the victim from the opening scene. It’s speculated that the grisly nature of the murder was intended to send the marketplace into a frenzy. The vendor’s tongue was torn out and strange markings were left on the body. Muhib doesn’t trust Americans and wants to examine the body before the American military becomes involved. Muhib has a chip on his shoulder, like Dana, and a promising dynamic between these two characters seems likely if their paths are to cross.
Throughout the first issue of Burning Fields, LaFuente’s coloring displays her ability to capture and display light effectively. Shadows are often used in contrast with the light to accentuate the features of the characters that readers are meant to pay attention to. The majority of the issue is very dark, taking place at night, inside buildings, or in the mysterious confines of a military compound, but there is one scene that takes place in the bright, hot daylight of Kirkuk, Iraq. Her color choices are telling in this scene because while the backgrounds and colors are bright, usually meant to invite safe environments, the characters are still shrouded in dark shadows and focused highlights to continue a sense of unease and horror.
Lorimer’s paneling and sense of action is superb. There’s an action sequence when Dana is attacked at her apartment in Chicago before she leaves for Iraq that resembles a film reel. It moves smoothly, but quickly. The panels are slanted and erupts the feeling of being taken off guard. It establishes the chaos of the attack and directs the reader right into the struggle. Lorimer’s unique framing and variety of panel size, shape and outlining drives focus in the narrative. The layout is one of the best designed issues in comics.
It’d be a disservice not to mention Jim Campbell’s lettering in this issue. Arabic and English appear in the dialogue bubbles fluidly and remind readers that this story takes place in a country where English is not the native tongue. It joins them together in understanding and highlights the theme that we’re in their country. In some scenes, translation captions appear, but do not take distract from the Moreci and Daniel’s words or Lorimer’s art. It’s a part of the comic, not an afterthought. Subtle, but careful lettering choices are often overlooked in comics, but Burning Fields is an example of how important good lettering can be.
Moreci and Daniel have a gift for pacing stories, especially ones dense with ideas. There are multiple threads opened up in Burning Fields that help carry the story forward and set suspense without giving away too much information. It’s a way of keeping us on our toes and interested without coming off as digressions that make the story drag along. The issue concludes with a thrilling reveal that serves as a solid hook for the series. This series has limitless potential between the number of personalities represented and the mesh of two cultures with a long political history. With a book rooted with so much horror and ugliness, it’s hard to believe it could be this beautiful.