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Advance Review: ‘Burning Fields’ is rich, complex and nuanced

Advance Review: ‘Burning Fields’ is rich, complex and nuanced

Burning Fields #1

Written by Michael Moreci and Tim Daniel

Art by Colin Lorimer; Colors by Joana Lafuente

BOOM! Studios

When ISIS (or ISIL, or DAESH if you prefer) declared a caliphate last year, there was an inescapable sense of doom: here was more of that blowback the critics had spoken of, and on a massive scale. The West was not done with Iraq, nor it with the west. Burning Fields is a new miniseries from Boom! Studios set amongst the oil fields of post-invasion Kirkuk and the very promising and powerful first issue is awash in a similar foreboding.

Iraq certainly isn’t done with Dana Atkinson. Much of her backstory is yet to be revealed but she’s a former military investigator drawn back to Kirkuk by a series of gruesome murders to which an old nemesis may be connected.BOOM_Burning_Fields_001_A-666x1024

First issues present the considerable challenge of setting up characters compellingly without falling into excessive exposition. Co-writers Michael Moreci and Tim Daniel have succeeded in this admirably. We don’t know everything about Dana yet; while she’s a better candidate for hero than the Blackwater-esque corporate security thugs she’s seemingly up against, the unknowns of her past suggest shades of gray in her character.

It’s also nice to see an Iraqi point of view on the story via Detective Aban Fasad, who is conducting a parallel investigation of the killings. The socio-political ambiguities of post-invasion Iraq are beautifully personified in Aban, who we see struggling to remain professional and pragmatic in the face of bullying American security contractors and the latent rage of his adolescent son who, at one point, seems ready to hurl rocks at a passing security detail. Aban speaks volumes about the situation when he tells a colleague he won’t share information with the Americans because, should the killer prove to be one of their own, it’s likely no justice will be done.

Illustrator Colin Lorimer and colourist Joana Lafuente get much of the credit for the heavy mood. Their seemingly noir-inspired use of shadow, often obscuring faces entirely, creates a sense of oncoming darkness; even in scenes set under the hot Iraqi sun.

BOOM!’s own publicity material hints at “a mythic evil” to be discovered later in the story. Issue one doesn’t foreshadow anything like that very strongly, but the set-up is so assured this is likely to keep getting better whatever’s in store.