Graphic Novelty²


Lee Loughridge

Briggs Land: Lone Wolves

“Secure the perimeter. Protect the land. Preserve the family.”

When I first read Briggs Land (V1) I said it was an absolutely riveting new series about “an American family under siege” by both the government and their own hand. Set in rural upstate New York, Briggs Land is a hundred square mile oasis for people who want to live off the grid. Established in the Civil War era, the Briggs family would give sanctuary to those who wanted to live a simple life, but this anti-government colony has taken a dark turn in recent times. The village that grew within it’s fences has morphed into a breeding ground for white supremacy, domestic terrorism and money laundering. So, would the second volume deliver following such a strong start? I’m glad to report- yes!

In this second volume an unsuspecting couple wander too far while hiking and inadvertently wander onto Briggs land from the southern border of Canada. They run into Grace’s youngest  son, Issac, a former soldier who panics that the couple will tell authorities that he is hiding out. While he doesn’t harm them, he locks them in a cabin and then consults with his mother and brothers Caleb and Noah on what to do.

Image result for briggs land lone wolves
My husband and I hike a lot, so I couldn’t help but imagine us accidentally trespassing on someone’s land!

When the local media start to  piece together the missing hikers with the Briggs family, law enforcement jump at the chance to surround the compound and lay siege to the armed community. As we learned in the first volume, don’t underestimate Grace. She has an effective plan for dealing with the law and the locked up hikers.

In the midst of all this jailed patriarch Jim Briggs, furious that he has been supplanted by his wife as leader, plots revenge. He still has strong ties and allegiances within the village, and plans a way to hurt Grace and regain power. But we are given a poignant flashback as to how Jim had callously used his son Noah as a cover when he attempted to assassinate the president twenty years ago, and we see why Grace’s sons and many in the community have sided with her. We also get some additional plot threads about Grace’s daughters-in-law. We learn some of the reasons they joined the family and discover their mettle in dealing with authorities and outsiders.

Several illustrators are credited with the art, and as such, sometimes the style can change significantly from one chapter to another. This is somewhat distracting,  but the earth toned color palette throughout gives it enough consistency. I loved the guest artists that did the variant art and enjoyed their interpretations of the characters. I’ve read enough graphic novels by now, that often at first glance I can recognize an artist’s style and know who drew it before I even see their credit.

This series is a perfect read in our current polarized world, with all the outcry about guns and the NRA. While I am a strong proponent of gun control, I can still enjoy this nuanced view of a militaristic family and the morally grey area in which they lead their lives.



Deadly Class: Reagan Youth

This book came highly recommended to me by the two of the best comic book gurus out there- Kevin and Charles from Graham Crackers in DeKalb. They don’t steer me wrong when I ask for purchasing selections for my library, so I was anxious to read it. I did not love it at first. Confused I went  to the store yesterday to talk to them about it before I finished my review. I had the best conversation with them and wish I could have taped it, for they shared such passion and deep insight about the book, that I was then able to see it through another lens and it upped my opinion of the story.

Set in San Francisco in 1987, Marcus is a Nicaraguan immigrant whose parents died soon after coming to America in a freak accident with a mentally ill woman who was committing suicide. Sent to a group home for several years, Marcus, who is now a teen, escaped and was living on the streets.  One night he is recruited by a daring young woman named Saya to join Kings Dominion Atelier of the Deadly Arts, a high school for assassins. Attended by children of the world’s top crime families, the cliques in the school are literally killer. Marcus gets involved with a motley group and must follow the professor’s assignments of killing a vagrant who has committed a sin and “deserves” to die. He and his partner Willie bond, and a true friendship is formed under dire circumstances. Later these two, plus Saya and a few others, set out on a road trip and are a followed by deranged man from Marcus’s past. The group’s confrontation with this villain sets up story lines for the future.

More than the actual story, it is the themes of this series that set it apart. Marcus is a symbol of the disenfranchised and is morally ambiguous. He is no hero, but brings to light the discontent that some youth feel when faced with a threatening future. Damaged by society, these youth on the margins feel they have no recourse except through violence. As Charles and Kevin opined, some big changes in our world have only come to fruition through violence. Martin Luther King Jr was able to further the Civil Rights Movement through love and non-violent means, but he was counterbalanced (and helped) by Malcolm X’s methods, as Gandhi was also helped by radicals. Their musings were thought provoking and made me look at this comic in a new way. This story takes those thoughts to an extreme, but as a tagline on the back cover says “Change the world with a bullet”. See my review for Genius: Siege that also worked with the idea of using violence for change.

The artwork is stellar with a coloring palette that sets the tone for the narrative. The era of the 1980’s is accurately represented through the art, with an authentic and gritty vibe. The panels are varied, with some bold choices, and visuals that stand out. Another strength is the introduction by David Lapham and afterward written by the author, both which delve further into the fascinating background of how this comic got started.

Initially, I struggled connecting to the story. I had a rather straight-laced upbringing and didn’t easily connect to the youth of this school. However, by the ending everything came into focus. No matter what, teens (and adults) are looking for connections with others, and that is a universal need.


Aside: If you live in the northern Illinois region, you must go to Graham Crackers in DeKalb for your comic and graphic novel selections. Located on the NIU campus, this store has superb customer service and the best employees. It would save me time at work if I ordered our graphic novels online, but I refuse, I must go in and browse.  Kevin and Charles guide me on my purchasing selections, and they happily expound on books that they feel would be worthy of purchase and warn me against books that are weak (I wish I had listened about Civil War II!) or aren’t being continued.

Reminder, Rick, Wes Craig & Lee Loughridge. Deadly Class: Reagan Youth. 2014.

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