Zeb Larson reviews The Violent #2…
Desperation leads to murder.
Issue 2 of The Violent picks up a couple of days after the first issue, and if possible things are worse for Mason and his family than they were before. Desperately, Mason is going to try and make everything right, but how can he? And moreover, is he just going to make things worse by trying to fix everything in his own messy way? What’s interesting is that whereas the first issue emphasized Mason and Becky as victims of circumstance, now Brisson is playing with some questions of personal responsibility. That tension between the two makes for interesting character development, especially as Mason continues to make decisions with a lot of ramifications.
Two days after being arrested, Mason is still being held by the police for child endangerment. More seriously though, Becky has disappeared, and nobody can find her. When a cop shows Mason a security photo of Becky with the dealer, he recognizes the man but keeps it to himself. When he gets released, he goes and finds Dylan to help him track the dealer down. Meanwhile, investigators are digging into Becky and Mason’s past. With a little effort, Dylan and Mason manage to track him down and bushwhack him, and he says that he sold Becky some drugs. He also goads Mason into hitting him, which ends badly when Mason accidentally beats him to death.
What’s interesting about this issue is that Mason’s decisions, however understandable, are probably not good ones. Make no mistake, Mason is a flawed individual. The first issue was sympathetic in showing the enormous pressure he was under and difficulties he faced, but what’s interesting here is that Brisson doesn’t seem to be absolving him for the choices he makes. Mason’s loyalty to his wife and child is noble, but going off on his own has already gotten one person killed and gotten him no closer to tracking down Becky. Would he have been better off giving that info to the cops, even if that cost both of them their kid? Maybe, but then I doubt few parents would willingly make that choice.
All in all, The Violent is shaping up into some kind of Greek tragedy. Mason’s decisions may not be good ones, but they’re not beyond the pale of comprehension. Most parents would fight to keep their kids or save their spouse, even when it might make the situation worse. If anything, people usually make the most grievous mistakes when they’re trying to do the right thing, because they’re convinced that they’re right. Mason’s the perfect kind of tragic hero: convinced of his own purpose, and headed for his own destruction as he fights against a world that threatens to crush him.
What comes next? Mason doesn’t have much in the way of leads, as his wife has apparently fallen back on old bad habits. Will he be able to find her? And will his actions here catch up to him before he can find Becky? Ed Brisson is right about second issues being the real litmus test of a book’s quality. If the first sets up the basic premise of the book, the second is where theme is teased out. Based on that, we’re in for a good book.