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'The Displaced' #4 cuts deep and sets up a properly devastating finale

Comic Books

‘The Displaced’ #4 cuts deep and sets up a properly devastating finale

You are not ready for this gut shot of comics storytelling.

Don’t get me wrong: The Displaced has been plenty poignant thus far. At the same time, though, there’s been a bit of intellectualization — the creative team (writer Ed Brisson, artist Luca Casalanguida, and colorist Dee Cunnife) really tried to build this ours-but-not world and show us some of the larger philosophical ideas about a disappearing town and the people left to wade through it all. It’s a process that has to happen for a meaningful story, and the end result has been something that proved thought-provoking on a few levels.

But with the book’s fourth and penultimate issue, the gloves are fully off and all of the feelings are coming straight for your throat.

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Thus far in The Displaced, I think the focus has been mostly on characters like Emmett and Gabby, which makes sense as they proved to be the most thoughtful and interesting. The others, like Emma, Stephen, and Doug and Dale, have been used to explore some of the book’s big ideas about family, community, and what you’d really do if the world just forgot you existed. In this issue, though, we get to see some more of these characters develop and shine in a wholly organic manner.

Doug and Dale, for instance, are part of a really compelling sub-plot that tests the limits of whether the group have to stay together to continue existing or if it’s somehow all a big ruse. Their relationship and larger agreement makes for an especially potent but hugely textured interaction, and it’s where we see some really important alignment between the book’s emotionality and its intellectual pursuits. It’s where the ideas of family and connection exist not just as slightly hypothetical but this really real construct that will unquestionably break your heart in the very best ways.

The Displaced #4

BOOM! Studios

And there’s other instances, too: Emma gets a solid moment to stand alone, and her emergence in this issue gets at this interesting idea about either choosing to subvert community and its corresponding challenges or putting in the hard work to make family and community work. And, of course, Gabby and Emmett continue their work with another really potent conversation that hits to the emotional core of loss and finding something new in a different kind of family. (Gabby, especially, has such a massive role in this issue, and her “performance” will gut you even more elegantly than even the Doug and Dale stuff.)

Regardless of which character you really resonate the most with (it may be everyone), there’s no denying this issue is a massive leap forward for an already deeply emotional book. After the death of Harold at the end of issue #3 (what a mind F that was, right?), it feels like the very walls of reality are tumbling around our team of survivors, and they’re doing their best to scramble to preserve themselves and the vestiges of the “old world.”

The Displaced #4

BOOM! Studios

Still, you can practically feel the overt desperation, and this issue captures that struggle for balance and for solid ground in a way in which the title’s core interests really resonant — it’s about soldiering on through near unimaginable loss, and having to both lean on others and find some inner strength to make it through. That’s my idea of real family and community, and this book explores this massive and awful painful idea with a grace and honesty that will strip down your preconceived notions and leave you reeling in the wake of this deeply powerful character study.

To a massive extent, a lot of the book’s power has always come from the art (which also includes letterer Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou). It’s been about balancing this very grounded, slightly gritty world with the tinges of the fantastical and the metaphysical to tell a story that destroys our sensibilities in every conceivable way. But with issue #4, I think the art team managed to enhance and streamline their work in some really subtle but effective ways.

The Displaced

BOOM! Studios

For one, we got more interesting shots of the larger world. Be it a makeshift warehouse encampment during a storm, a dimly lit street corner, or even the hussle and bussle of a certain burger chain, we got these snapshots of the world and how the survivors “live” within these places. It was about showing their isolation and disconnect while also hinting at their need for connection and to engage with the big, bright world. It’s less that we saw more of the world (we’ve gotten plenty in the first three issues), but rather we got to see it in a new way as the group’s dynamic (and their stations as individuals) begins to dramatically change and spin out of control.

Meanwhile, the lettering in this issue was once more truly powerful. Otsmane-Elhaou is no doubt a master at his craft, but his range in this book (and maybe this issue especially) continues to be so impressive. He can capture so much doubt and hesitation with just a simple phrase like, “…I dunno,” or use bolded words really strategically to drive home some grander emotional emphasis. And then when he really “cuts loose,” we get huge moments in this issue where screaming font practically rings in our ears, and we can hear the echo of sound effects like “Bang bang!” The lettering was, in some ways, a way to bring the focus back onto the people after seeing more of the world, and that felt hugely effective as much as it was almost a really exciting shock to the system.

The Displaced #4

BOOM! Studios

Even the way the team further depicts the metaphysical stuff remains really interesting and important. Without spoiling too much, we get to see what happens when more of these survivors are forgotten or shuffled off this mortal coil. In the past, it’s been treated with a sense of targeted minimalism to make it feel effective without ruining the grounded nature of this book. Here, thanks to just the sheer emotionality surrounding those “pops” of the fantastical, the moments feel even more impactful, as if we’re really losing our way and can feel the veil starting to tumble. It’s a translation of loss and grief in a really powerful way, and it makes everything feel really cohesive while still having that added oomph. It’s just another way I think this issue’s spike in emotion pushed this book to the Nth degree.

So much so, I actually had to get up and walk around for a few minutes upon wrapping up #4, which is a true sign of just how much it affected me internally. Oftentimes, I think a miniseries can fumble their penultimate chapter, as they need to pivot to prepare for a grand finale. But in the case of The Displaced, it was less of a pivot and more of a recommitment and expression of what this book has done so well in its still-young run — which is to say, great character work and just enough magic to get me second guessing the world. If this is only the prelude to the end, I can only imagine how The Displaced is going to render flesh from bone with its fifth and final issue.

'The Displaced' #4 cuts deep and sets up a properly devastating finale
‘The Displaced’ #4 cuts deep and sets up a properly devastating finale
The Displaced #4
If you want to see how a comic can snap your heart and muck with your sense of gravity, issue #4 will do that and then some.
Reader Rating1 Votes
The book's emotional quotient reaches a fever pitch in an issue that swings for the fences.
The art extends that emotional core while also doing some interesting things thematically and visually.
We are wholly unprepared for the fifth issue after the near masterful groundwork laid in #4.
IDK, maybe points off for the issue not being longer somehow?!
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