Mr. Vertigo Reviews 67: Briggs Land Volume 1- State of Grace; Grass Kings Vol. 1; Manifest Destiny Vol. 1- Flora & Fauna

Briggs Land Volume 1: State of Grace
Brian Wood, script; Mack Chater, art; Lee Loughridge, colors; Tula Lotay, chapter break art
Dark Horse Books, 2017

The largest secessionist community in the United States is Briggs Land, a community created by Jim Briggs: an uncompromising white supremacist serving a life sentence in a Federal penitentiary for attempting to assassinate the President of the United States. Jim has been running the community from prison, like a mafia boss. When his wife Grace decides to take over the community, she sets off a family and community crisis. These are people who believe that women should be subservient to men, and most of them are also racist to the core. Grace believes in the core values of independence from government and freedom from debt–a self-sufficient lifestyle–but not in violence, racism and hate.

She has her work cut out for her, to put it mildly. Her three sons are the first challenge (well, after dodging an assassination attempt ordered by her husband). Only one of the three is behind her from the start, and the eldest had expected to succeed his father as head of the community. There are also two rogue FBI agents in the mix. So Grace works to show the face of leadership to the community, while also working behind the scenes. The secret work may be the most important in the end. She begins to establish a new relationship with the women of Briggs Land, and races to outmaneuver her husband to divorce him and keep control of the Land.

So this is a rich narrative, with lots of moving parts. In some ways it recalls Wood’s Vertigo series DMZ, but here the political aspects take place on a more intimate scale. Chater is a great partner in the story telling: his realistic style makes all of the characters distinctive, and his facial expressions aid the narrative. His style reminds me of frequent Wood collaborator Ryan Kelly. It took me awhile to catch up with the series, but I am looking forward to more.

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Grass Kings Vol. 1
Matt Kindt, writer; Tyler Jenkins, illustrator
BOOM! Studios, 2018

The Grass Kingdom is a small secessionist community, intent on living their lives free of government influence. They occupy a plot of land with a long history of residents willing and able to fight for ownership: the story opens with scenes from 1450 A.D. to 1950, before moving to the present. These scenes recur at the opening of each issue, establishing a pattern. Now the main conflict appears to be with the nearby town of Cargill, and a Sheriff Humbert who is anxious to bring the Grass Kingdom into his jurisdiction.

This is very much a character study, centering around the three brothers who run the Kingdom. Eldest brother Robert is in charge–at least technically–but has been out of it for a few years, after losing his daughter and having his wife leave him. Bruce is the sheriff, and youngest brother Ashur is assigned responsibility for keeping tabs on Robert, which mainly consists of seeing that he is OK and is not too drunk to function.

When a strange woman washes up on the beach, Robert takes her in. And when she says her name is Maria, and admits to be Sherrif Humbert’s wife (on the run, attempting to escape him and Cargill), Robert must decide if he should grant her sanctuary, despite the risk to the Grass Kingdom. His decision sets the two communities into direct conflict, leading to what can only be described as a war, as armed intruders from Cargill are ejected by an armed response from the Kingdom (they even have an air force of sorts).

The situation is far from resolved at the end of Part One. But Robert makes peace with his estranged wife. And Bruce speaks with Humbert. Which does not put the conflict to rest, but Humbert reveals something about his investigation of a serial killer years ago. Signs point to the killer living in the Grass Kingdom, so Robert may be right about his daughter’s disappearance.

The story is small and rural, but the characters are rich, and the first part of it leaves many open questions. Kindt’s writing is rich and true, and Jenkins’ illustrations give it an impressionistic painted voice. I look forward to reading more.

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Manifest Destiny Vol. 1: Flora & Fauna
Chris Dingess, writer; Matthew Roberts, penciller & inker; Owen Gieni, colorist
Image Comics, 2014

Just now catching up with this alternate history of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The public aspect of the mission–as Lewis describes it in the journal that acts as periodic narrator–is the one history ascribes to it. President Thomas Jefferson commissioned the mission of exploration after the Louisiana Purchase, to survey the new lands, establish an American presence before other nations could claim it, and study the plant and animal life (as well as establish trade with the Indian tribes). But this version establishes the real, secret mission as destroying monsters and clearing the way for expansion of the United States.

As the story begins, the expedition has discovered no monsters, and Lewis is questioning the President’s gullibility or sanity. But then they encounter a huge arch, one which seems impossible to have a human source, savage or not. Then they are attacked by a buffalo-man, which Lewis decides to describe as a Minotaur for simplicity. On the run from a group of the creatures, the corps takes refuge in their location, the fort La Charette. They find it deserted, but are confronted by a group of plant-people. After hearing the story of how the fort was decimated by the plant plague, they meet the Indian scout Sacajawea, who they had planned to rendezvous with at the fort. They meet and destroy the plant god behind the infestation.

So things are plenty monstrous. I can only imagine what might greet the expedition as they go deeper into the unknown American West, and am looking forward to finding out.

About marksullivan5

Freelance Journalist & Musician; Senior Contributor, All About Jazz.com; writing on comics at mrvertigocomics.com & No Flying, No Tights.com
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