I was a little concerned that the title of this post may demean the sheer brilliance of the main character, but the descriptor is quite often used throughout the season for an unrevealed plot point. I await with anticipation her origins, not just to see how she became so hardened and stoic, but to whom she was married and how that led to the person she is now. Jay Faeber was carved out a niche for himself and even though there are a number of toughened female heroes out there but they aren’t quite used as they are in Copperhead.
Sheriff Bronson comes to a mining town as a single mother as the new head of the police force, on the back of a difficult separation. The fact we rarely use her first name Clara is indicative of her seriousness to her profession and her lack of social airs. When she isn’t grimacing or being aggressive in the field, she struggles to connect with people except for her son Zeke, who she clearly loves very dearly. This issue focuses on that introspective nature because Bronson actually decides to go dating and try to enjoy herself. Godlewski immediately expresses her distress at this task on the front page of this comic, with her furrowed brow and anxious hand gestures. The dinner sequences with the teacher Thaddeus follow point and are excruciatingly painful for Clara. Her quiet and downward gaze produces the most palatable tension and brings sadness to the reader. The art is simple and succinct with the delicate gaze and glances of both dinner guests speaking volumes. Placing her out of kilter plays a fantastic contrast to the latter half of the comic where she immediately resets and becomes at ease in the face of danger.
I don’t say those words lightly because when Bronson is faced with a threat, her reactions are impressive and she is almost invulnerable, even though Faeber and Godlewski have her scantily dressed. Couple this with the fact that her reactions are super sharp even during moments of intimacy, it shows us how she is never really switched off from the job. The following pages provide some intense action and real moments of tension with Bronson completely unphased. Godlewski focuses on the impacts of the strikes as opposed to the movement of the fight, which is suited to its one-sided nature. The knee to the chin and shot to the head are graphic and brutal. I am quite impressed at how Faeber keeps the dialogue to a miminum and serves a specific function, such as to show Thaddeus’ ineptitude and Clara’s leadership. The notion of the threat is so well rendered that as opposing parties take refuge, we feel that fear and that split second where anything could happen. The panel below is a beautiful example of this standoff and one that plays wonderfully with symmetry.
It is worth discussing Riley’s colouring because the book has a distinctive tone emerging from its colour palette. There is a purple tinge to the night scenes that bears the light of the moon combined with the subtle colours of the house. The sexual scenes are intimately lit as silhouettes play out the moments of pleasure. This transitions into the brighter gunplay sequences but still quite a dark setup. Riley combines with Godlewski and Faeber to form a creative team that has an impressive ability to create an atmosphere and then completely switch it when the moment arises. The nuances of colour, tone and personality form the narrative of this comic and places in it’s own space in the comic world. The real mystery lies with Clara and who her husband was, even this issue alludes to that question. But that should not overshadow the sheer audacity of Bronson because her intensity and reactions are so inspiring as any brave hero you have read in modern times. The comic does not need to rely on secrets or the underlying plot because the atmosphere is gripping and with a protagonist like Clara, it is always a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
“Just focus on me, don’t worry about him…”