Love Seems Surprising And Unlikely In Violent Love #8

by Hannah Means Shannon

Violent Love #8 came out last Wednesday, continuing the rather acclaimed saga of Daisy and Roc, criminals on the run out for big revenge, in a story that’s about love, but takes its time getting there. In this issue, it manages to surprise this reader with how tortuous that road to love can be.

For a book with this title, you’d think this destined pair of law-flouters would simply fall into each other’s arms, madly in love, right? Nope. We’ve spent 7 issues watching Daisy toy with a former, and jealous boyfriend, and several of those with her hating on Roc in various ways. Revenge is everything to Daisy, we’re reminded, and unless Roc can prove he’s committed to her goal, he might as well take a hike.

That’s not to say there hasn’t been tension between them, with love and hate sharing a kind of grey area in their lives, and we have always known (because some of the story is retrospective) that they’ll get together. It’s the fact that writer Frank Barbiere and artist Victor Santos surprise us in this issue, when Daisy and Roc finally do get together, that I want to talk about.

I am someone who is used to reading comics, and quite a number of comics a week. It’s hard to surprise me, as a reader, in my opinion. Yet comics manage to do that all the time, and when they do, I know it’s through skillful work and determination on the part of the creators.

In Violent Love #8, we have a remarkable grid-like double page spread that depicts Daisy and Roc finally getting together–in the biblical sense. Now, Santos is already known for his use of grid–like spreads that focus on close detail in his fight scenes–often used to enormously gory effect that leaves readers laughing, horrified, and aware what a great visual storyteller Santos is.

Here, he seems to employ the same technique to show the interactions between Daisy and Roc, and that concept alone is kind of profound. We’ve been following this story starring two violent people, with Daisy escalating in her tendency toward violence, and Roc showing his ability to control his own violence based on the situation (in contrast to Daisy). But when they get together, asethetically, Santos seems to be saying that love and violence are, in fact, close together in tone and emotion, at least for these two characters, by using layouts that he usually reserves for fight scenes.

But there’s more than that to the comparison, and something that may show a really deep development for Santos as an artist. In the progression of the grids during this spread, we see a transformation in the visual style and tone from the beginning to the end of the reading experience. The small panels, showing details of Daisy and Roc interacting, start off with a kind of rigid, almost edgy aesthetic, where there’s not much sense of fluidity or harmony. As if the two characters are feeling or acting awkward.

Almost imperceptibly, the tone shifts in the panels, until toward the middle of the spread, you’re aware that things have definitely changed, and by the end of the panel continuum (which ends in a black square), you are much more aware that these two characters are more in harmony with one another, as if some kind of reset has happened in their personalities, and perhaps in the narrative, too. All this is accomplished through shifts in the angles, linework, and composition of the panels.

This is all surprising. Barbiere and Santos could have handled this coming together in a perfunctory way, because of course these two have feelings for each other that have been building, and occasional, combative sniping at each other has been a clear tell. But this spread suggests to me just how difficult and unlikely it has been for these two to become an item. If you think about it, Daisy’s mission, and her past, as well as Roc’s more mellow attitude toward things, did make it just as likely they’d split at some point, rather than get together.

The narrative structure in this series also creates an interesting effect here for the reader–we’ve been hearing about the myth and legend of Daisy and Roc as a Bonny and Clyde couple since page 1, but the narrative consistently strips away the legend and replaces it with gritty, real-life experiences and tensions to the point that you feel you are encountering something totally new, immediate, and not at all set-in-stone, when they finally do become a couple.

Barbiere and Santos had to work against their own mythologizing, in a way, to do this, and the fact that they accomplished it in such a striking way is a big testament to the innovative comics storytelling we’re seeing in Violent Love.

Violent Love #8 is currently in shops. Issue #9 arrives on October 25th, 2017.