The Enfield Gang Massacre #3
Following a brazen and brutal act of psychological warfare by Captain Ely of the Texas Rangers, the Enfield Gang attempts to strike back from Fort Lehane's rooftops
A gentle breeze is enough to infuse a sense of dramatic atmosphere into a scene. There’s a reason why the visual is such a vital part of constructing the image of turbulent times. The meteorological addition to a scene or beat ensures that there is a state of transition and movement even when the emotion or action is restrained. It’s an emotional and narrative shorthand that compels almost every time, and a book like The Enfield Gang Massacre proves that.
The Enfield Gang Massacre #3 – written by Chris Condon, drawn, colored, and lettered by Jacob Phillips, with color assists from Pip Martin – lingers in the liminal space between the shots of a gunfight. Enfield, his gang, and the ordinary folk living with them are being pinned down by the Ranger and his posse. The bulk of the issue takes place in this status quo, with the turns occurring on either side of the ridge. The town sheriff plays a crucial role in the issue, as she throws down his badge after refusing to slaughter Enfield and his compatriots.
A slaughter it is, as men are bleedin’ out, and loved ones are cut down trying to offer help or comfort. It’s a brutal reality that already begins to warp the notions of good and evil, crime and justice. The cavalry arrives and Enfield devises a plan, while the former sheriff heads back to the town and is given some information that keys him into the reality of the murders from issue one.
Enfield and Amy have a heated discussion before the outlaw enacts his diversion, his posse using a massive Gatling gun to wipe out a chunk of the rangers while the civilians make a run for it. As a result, the families of the criminals escape while the rangers receive reinforcements in the form of more soldiers, setting up the next movement for the continued massacre of the titular Enfield and his gang.
The issue reads like a shallow breath in between a fight, as the characters take a quick moment to prepare for their next step. Condon’s scripting establishes a feeling of uneasy calm, as Enfield is left to his nervous plotting. The emotional turn comes in the form of Ambrose’s sheriff, who adds a new layer to the complex morality at play in the issue. The book weaves a web of alliances, ethics, and fallout to the actions of those trying to survive at a contentious time.
Like any good outlaw tale, especially one filled with the promise of tragedy, the writing captures that sense of elastic morality when an antagonist is even more bankrupt than the outlaw’s strike. Here, the rangers, a group that plays as the white hat-equipped good guy instead comes off as a bloodthirsty group of villains ready to execute the criminal at the expense of normal people. That blurring of ethics makes for a compelling read and serves to humanize Enfield even further. The man is more than just a petty bank robber, and his story is far from over, even if the audience knows where things end.
The script also ensures there is an escalation of tension and action in the issue, as the gunfights sparsely litter the pages. The issue lives in the stillness in between the action, and that’s where the tension and drama thrive. When Condon does dip back into the violence, it’s less slick action and more visceral carnage, as people are killed or torn apart by weapons of destruction.
Phillips’s art ensures that while the violence is well illustrated, it is not necessarily glorified like the typical action story. The twisted fallout of the shootout is depicted with stark gore and striking reds that break up the anatomy of a person. There’s an abject horror at seeing a wife gunned down after an attempt to comfort her dying husband, the image burning into the mind. It’s graphic in just the right way to elevate the tragedy of the whole event and gives a human angle to the mythic idea of the West.
While this moment is striking, the book becomes even more compelling once Enfield formulates his plan and prepares to enact it. He gets into an argument with Amy about her leaving while he stays behind to ensure a clean escape. Phillips adds a breeze to the sequence that gives a sweeping sense of scale to the moment. The weather echoes Amy’s dream from the opening of the last issue, picking up on the tension in the atmosphere. Phillips’s linework in the moments has a fluid sense of movement created through soft juxtaposition on the page and renders the weather like a stunning action sequence. It’s a powerful reminder of beauty in every breeze, even bookmarked in moments of terror and action.
The coloring adds to that sense of tension and melancholy, the cool blues and soft yellows transitioning the time of day. The range of the palette wears down the reader, putting them into the perspective of Enfield surviving through the night. The blue backgrounds of the lead-up to dawn sell the breezy moment of clashing desires from Enfield and Amy. That palette sells the emotion from page one and works in perfect harmony with the linework to transpose a sense of gloom to the issue.
The Enfield Gang Massacre #3 is a stark reminder of the tragedy set to unfold by the end of six issues, living in between the volleys of a gunshot. Condon’s script prioritized refocused morality and sweeping melancholy over the bombastic action of the last issue. That is built up by Phillips’s breezy art and cool color palette, working to tap into those primal emotions and pure fluidity. Each line of dialogue, line on a face, and line of color feeds into that central idea of the impending tragedy, and the creative duo never lets the audience forget it.
The Enfield Gang Massacre #3: ‘Everything (the wind, the leaves) has breath inside’
- Writing - 11/1010/10
- Storyline - 11/1010/10
- Art - 11/1010/10
- Color - 11/1010/10
- Cover Art - 11/1010/10
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