Artist: Simon Roy
Writer: Ed Brisson
Colorist: Simon Cough
Published by Image Comics
If you saw Inside Llewyn Davis and like me you enjoyed it but weren’t blown away, there’s probably one scene that nonetheless sticks out to you even now. The scene in question occurs exactly in the middle of the film, as Davis hitches a ride with a Charlie Parker analogue played by John Goodman, who rides around in a boat of a vehicle driven by a coolly unhinged Neal Cassaday surrogate. This scene is arguably inessential to the film and mostly functions as a detour showing Davis getting from point A to point B, but there’s something sinister to it, like it’s a glimpse at what happened after Barton Fink’s apocalyptic climax and I honestly would have loved for the rest of the film to consist solely of this inessential road trip. Less than a year later, Simon Roy and Ed Brisson might just have granted my wish with The Field, a new series they’ve launched at Image.
The Field shares with Inside Llewyn Davis’ roadtrip a deranged travel companion prone to condescending monologuing and a meltdown at a diner, but writer Ed Brisson also infuses the story with the kind of hip, sardonic neo-noir tone that the best Coen Brothers films are full of. That’s not to say Roy and Brisson’s work is of the Coen clone variety; The Field stands out and merely works that flavor into what appears to be a trippy sci-fi story masquerading as a crime spree roadtrip bit. Anyone familiar with Brisson’s excellent Comeback mini, a time travel neo-noir that debuted at Image shortly after Looper hit theatres and explored somewhat similar territory, should already know the writer’s style favors subtle twists and complex, alternating narratives. In the case of The Field, Brisson makes it immediately clear that things aren’t exactly as they seem, but he and Roy utilize conflicting perspectives and inexplicable flashbacks/dream sequences to keep the reader as confused as the unnamed protagonist.
It’s admittedly too early to predict much about where The Field is going, but Brisson’s script hints at a 12 Monkeys-like displacement hook, so it’s fitting that Brisson would work with an artist like Roy on this story. Roy’s aesthetic has the sardonic edge and rubberized detail of John McCrea, but with a better handle on character acting. That’s particularly important to The Field, since so much of the narrative relies less on dialogue than it does on reaction and emotion. It’s a testament to Roy’s strengths as an artist that every painful moment of terror and bewilderment the story’s protagonist endures is readable on his face. Brisson stands back and let’s Roy work wonders without resorting to narration or superfluous dialogue, which also serves to create a tense, bracing pace.
Where Comeback was more subdued and full of bright eyed wonder at its concepts, The Field is a collision of noir darkness and horror efficiency, where a visceral connection to the characters does as much to drive the story as the narrative. The Michael Walsh/Jordie Bellaire collaboration at the heart of Comeback was stark and flatly colorful, so it only makes sense that Roy’s colorist Simon Cough would utilize a duller, earthier palette for The Field. Think of it as less Natural Born Killers than Blood Simple, a fever dream of crime and chaos where you’re kept from figuring out what’s really happening by the prominence of shadows and obscured features. Cough’s restraint allows the brighter moments, like sudden unexpected violence at the hands of the narrator’s deranged, curiously named driver Christian or the issue’s climax in the diner, to jar the reader’s senses, creating a situation where light just confuses rather than illuminates.
Comeback was a series that started out with a great hook and only got better as it went along and The Field already seems poised to do the same. There’s no telling what’s really happening in the pages of The Field but if anything can be trusted in this story, it’s Roy and Brisson’s abilities and The Field sets up plenty of potential roads for the series to go down. Deranged road trip, freaky futuristic mind experiment, whatever The Field is it’s worth sticking around for, no matter how dangerous it gets.
The Field comes out Wednesday, April 2nd and can be purchased at your local comic shop or online.
Nick Hanover got his degree from Disneyland, but he’s the last of the secret agents and he’s your man. Which is to say you can find his particular style of espionage here at Loser City as well as Ovrld, where he contributes music reviews and writes a column on undiscovered Austin bands. You can also flip through his archives at Comics Bulletin, which he is formerly the Co-Managing Editor of, and Spectrum Culture, where he contributed literally hundreds of pieces for a few years. Or if you feel particularly adventurous, you can always witness his odd .gif battles with Dylan Garsee on twitter: @Nick_Hanover