Page 45 Review by Stephen
Please treat this as if I'm reviewing volume one.
I am. I'm reviewing both.
"Did you just say you're a Briggs?
"As in Briggs Land?
"As in those Nazis?"
One of the most terrifying series currently on our shelves, BRIGGS LAND is a riveting read containing no horror other than that which is real to our world: control through intimidation in the form of threats of violence which are always followed through with occasional deliberation but no hesitation whatsoever.
On the flipside it is, at its heart, the struggle of one woman to right decades of male wrong on the vast tracts of land that she so precariously owns. Does she even own it? That, along with her authority, is up for vicious, vitriolic contention.
Most of the women on Briggs Land rarely leave its hundred square miles of privately owned property.
In BRIGGS LAND VOL 1 we learned of one husband who forbade his wife to wear shoes. He took them away so that she wouldn't stray, even from their household. To call it a patriarchal environment would be the most massive understatement, and if you imagine that its women resent this, then you would be wrong. It is so ingrained, so inculcated, that they believe in it too.
The sole exception is our main protagonist, Jim Briggs's wife Grace. Not only has she seen the atrocious effects of his lack of empathy for women over these many years, she knows what is coming for her people, fast and furious, if she doesn't wrench control from her husband right now.
For although Jim Briggs lies in jail, his influence remains at large, potent, infectious and commanding loyalty as fiercely as it always has done, from those who don't know what he's up to. What he's doing is a deal with the Albany D.A. to secure early release by selling off Briggs Land from under everyone's feet... to the very country from which they originally seceded. Their prison-bound patriarch is their ultimate traitor and - other than Grace - none of them know it.
So here she so resolutely stands, carving out as much command as she can, while under assault from all sides: the media, the FBI, the local police authorities who want the most money and can control access to their very amenities, and her own family. Her husband in particular has Grace aggressively in his sites, and she can't even trust her eldest son not to misuse their neo-Nazi affiliations to extort what he wants from their former collaborators.
The threats to her life could come from anyone, at any time, and they do.
Where Woods will surprise you this volume is in presenting a completely different angle.
I don't know how you view American secessionists, but I imagine the opening quotation comes quite close: open, modern, reasonable and liberal are not going to play high on your hit lists. Nor should they: BRIGGS LAND VOL 1 made that very clear.
Oh, Grace will continue to come under increasing not decreasing threat (and from more quarters still), but Woods presents people as individuals and bigotry from both sides, not only at ground level, but on a socio-political scale too. I wouldn't expect the writer of LOCAL, NEW YORK FOUR, DEMO. DMZ, STARVE, NORTHLANDERS, BLACK ROAD and more not to be nuanced.
This, from Grace, for a start:
"We didn't start Briggs Land and invite you in just to see you all turn into addicts and white trash stereotypes.
"We're supposed to be better."
Some things can and should be cauterised, but the rot which remains has a way of making its way back home to haunt you. Expect complications.
These include an innocent backpacking couple straying on their land and getting the wrong end of a hidden-boy stick, so necessitating (according to one of Grace's sons) their confinement. Even if it's only temporary, their release would prove problematic, especially since they are military helicopters circling overhead, along with the sensation-hungry mass media.
Now, how do you think the male-dominated Briggs Land residents would respond to abortion, eh? Remember, there is an overwhelming sheep and indeed pack mentality in a closed community like this, but there still exists individuals and that's how Brian Woods renders them.
Rendering them also is the series' established artist Mack Chater, along with Vanesa R. Del Rey and Werther Dell'Edera plus colourist Lee Loughridge, all at the top of their games, each in their various ways bringing an extra element of palpable, infectious fear to that which unfolds. In both books I've found myself constantly watching over shoulders - Grace's most of all, but here another female family member brave enough to help out a teenager out in her hour of need. Del Rey brings extra textures to the nocturnal excursion, along with worried looks, hunched shoulders and desperate, out-of-breath terror.
Mack Chater is a woefully underrated artist in the vein of Marc Laming, grounding Briggs Land's inhabitants in the here and now, stinting not once on their environment, be it the private compound with its defiantly displayed, fluttering stars-and-stripes flag or the chain link fences which surround its otherwise most accessible entrances and exits, preventing unwanted intrusion or unauthorised egress. Then there are the old smuggling routes through remote, dense woodland to (and over) the Canadian border, so rich in lush colour thanks to Loughridge and such brittle detail that you can almost hear a twig snap.
That you can fear a twig snap.