Stories about those on the other side of the law, and specifically those within counterculture, are increasingly popular as of late. Given our obsession with these elements, both real and imaginary, it’s no surprise to me that Dark Horse’s newest series, Briggs Land, is also being optioned by AMC as a TV show. Having read the first issue, I can’t tell if this is going to tell its own, unique tale, or if it’s merely a staging ground for the show. Either way, there are some promising elements that hover dangerously close to being commonplace.
Briggs Land is set in rural America, on 100 miles of wilderness roped off and fiercely guarded by Private Property signs. The land is home to the Briggs family, a group of antigovernment secessionists who are your standard gun-loving, Aryan Nation-supporting, misogynistic rednecks. The patriarch of the family, Jim Briggs, has been in jail for some time for the attempted assassination of the president. In his absence, his eldest son and a few men of the town have run the town/family, by way of his orders relayed from prison.
The series focuses on Grace Briggs, his long-suffering wife of 30+ years, who has decided she is no longer content to be the quiet housewife and wants to run the family. This, naturally, causes tension both within the family and the town in general. Not even because she wants to eliminate the racism element of their creed and instead focus on just saying “no” to government, but merely because she’s a woman.
If this all sounds familiar, it should. It’s a variation on any number of stories we’ve seen before. Grace, herself, seems an interesting character, though we’re not shown any catalyst for her decision to wrestle control from her husband at this moment. In fact, it is heavily implied that until this very moment she has been obedient and subservient to her husband without question. I deeply hope this is something that is explained and explored, as it could very well help the narrative.
The issue introduces her three sons, in short order. There’s the eldest, Caleb, an account by trade who sports a swastika tattoo, and is clearly a chip off the old man’s block. He is hostile to his mother and even refers to her by her given name. The middle son, Noah, is described as a wild child and a mercenary, and it’s unclear whether or not he supports his mother’s claims, or if he has his own designs for Briggs Land. Finally, the youngest, Isaac, has just returned from the army, is unquestionably loyal to his mother.
There are also a pair of ATF agents on their heels, because of course there is, as they attempt to nail the Briggs family for a large, overarching “domestic terrorism” crime. The agents appear to have a tense relationship and while both of them seem interesting on their own, they feel like ye standard lawmen antagonists to our bad guy protagonists. And, of course, they appear just as a power change is happening, because naturally.
This first issue kicks off an internal civil war, and it’s unclear who has fired first, but I’m sure we’ll explore that more in future issues. I’m a fan of strong female characters, attempting to stand on their own in an unquestionably patriarchal society, and Grace Briggs definitely has the makings of a dynamic lead character. But there are too many tired elements to the overarching narrative that we’ve seen before in any number of places. The series is going to have to work very hard to stand out and not feel like a recycled series of tropes and explosions. Brian Wood is a master of character creation, I just hope he has a story that is worthy of his characters.