A series of ritualistic killings in an American-occupied section of Iraq creates even more tension in an already unstable area, but there’s just as much distrust between the private military contractor hired to police the area and the U.S. investigators sent to probe the murders. The horrific deaths continue and the human conflicts escalate in Michael Moreci, Tim Daniel and Colin Larimer’s “Burning Fields” #2, as writers Moreci and Daniel expand on the characters of both disgraced investigator Dana Atkinson and the confrontational, double-dealing security commander Decker. It’s the solid characterization that carries the story more so than the militaristic setting or disturbing backdrop, although the writing team establishes a pretty intense mood with both of those elements.
Atkinson’s character is one who lives dangerously, dodging both sides of the law while continuously putting up a brave and impenetrable front. This is in addition to the enemies she left behind in Iraq and the enemies on the same side of the war that she now has to confront again. The foe consuming most of her hatred is Decker, responsible in large part for ruining her career, but Moreci and Daniel establish a curious similarity between the two; while Atkinson gets on the wrong side of both the police and the mob, Decker also plays both sides of the war, namely the soldiers under his command as well as the enemy his forces are fighting.
The personality development goes beyond a mere two characters; Aban Fasad is the confident and insightful Iraqi detective with an underlying holier-than-thou demeanor, and the secretive Iraqi militia leader puts forth boisterous bravado before being put in his place, or at least cleverly acts as such. A lot of these traits are strongly evoked by Lorimer, who captures expressions with careful use of thicker, courser lines rather than using much detail. His textured facial likenesses bring out a surprising amount of emotion; Lorimer adds what could be construed as either resignation or deviousness on the Iraqi leader’s face in his final panel, an emotion that isn’t conveyed in the dialogue. It’s not an omission though; instead, it reads like a deliberate sense of mystery planted by the creative team for future exploration.
The rough, dirty, grimy look to Lorimer’s art is the perfect accompaniment to the rough, dirty, grimy nature of an oilfield in the middle of a desert, which fits pretty well when there are dismembered bodies and entrails strewn about. It’s not pretty, as it isn’t meant to be, but it sure is convincing, to the point where readers just might feel compelled by wipe oil residue — or blood — off their hands when they’ve finished the issue. There’s barely a primary color to be found in Joana LaFuente’s palette; the blood is more black than red, and everywhere else is sandy desert earth tones or the dark confines of a cave or cramped office.
“Burning Fields” #2 is an immersive second chapter of this eight-issue series, surrounding readers with well-developed characters and submerging them in a very hostile and threatening environment on many levels.