Zeb Larson reviews The Violent #5…
“BLOOD LIKE TAR” Conclusion Mason’s quest to save his family has left a trail of death. Will his plan work or will it leave his family forever destroyed?
We’ve come to the end of The Violent’s first arc, and we’ve entered into uncertainty about where the story’s going to go from here. More on that later, though. The tragic story comes full circle here, and the ending is probably what you expected. That doesn’t make it any less interesting, though, because this series has been more about the journey than the specific outcome. I will be staying away from any spoilers in this series, instead just focusing on the themes of the story.
The ending isn’t as bleak as it might have been, but it was still painful to watch unfold. This was the only way it could have ended, right? That’s the hallmark of tragedy: it’s inevitable from the moment the story begins, and the struggle against that foreordained fate is what makes the fate so destructive. But, there’s a major kicker: the terrible things that happened in this book all stemmed from choices that Mason made. The alternatives might have been unpleasant or even awful, but were they any worse than killing Dylan? So, where does the inevitability come from? Mason’s personality seems to be at the root of all of this, anchored in a persistent belief that no matter what happened, he could do something to control the outcome.
At that level, Mason was a consummate addict. What’s the first step in a twelve-step program? Admitting that you’re powerless. Mason never really seems to have done that, and while it might be the hardest step, if you don’t start there you’re always going to be an addict. Even a sober addict can be hopelessly self-destructive, which definitely encapsulates the last five issues of this book. Becky by contrast actually relapsed in this story; indeed, that was the catalyst for the whole story. But she knew when to stop and walk away from all of it, recognizing that the jig was up.
But that’s easier said than done to people facing poverty and marginalization, which comes back to the economics behind this series. People who are facing homelessness and can’t pull enough together from paychecks just to survive are experiencing a different kind of violence, and against the backdrop of a city like Vancouver, which prides itself on being sleek, modern, and progressive, they’re disappearing. Counseling somebody like Mason to just accept the fact that he should accept penury is not going to be useful. If anything, the kind of powerlessness that’s forced upon him and others will only make some of them push back even harder.
I wish there had been more time to dive into Vancouver as a specific character in this story, for a few different reasons. Intellectually, I’m addicted to urban history at the moment. Personally, I wanted to see how the city has played a role in Ed Brisson’s writing (which he alluded to periodically throughout this series), and how it shapes and creates characters like Mason. Finally, as an American who has lived in Canada (and one who periodically wants to go back), I like seeing depictions of Canada in the U.S. Americans (and many Canadians) focus on how nice and stable Canada is, which it is, but that also allows them to ignore the fact that there are some serious problems in Canadian society as well, ranging from gentrification to astonishing levels of political corruption in Quebec.
I want to see where this goes next, in no small part because I want to see whether these themes are explored in more detail, or we switch to something else entirely. Brisson has said that the second arc would take place in 1986 (the same year as the ’86 Vancouver Expo, but I’m probably reaching in trying to pin a connection on that). I’m along for the ride.
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