Review – Ian Livingstone’s Freeway Fighter #1 (Titan Comics)

Publisher: Titan Comics
Writer: Andi Ewington
Artist: Simon Coleby
Colorist: Len O’Grady
Release Date: 17th May 2017

Like a lot of people my age, Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone’s Fighting Fantasy gamebooks were a staple of my childhood. Brilliantly written ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ stories mixed with RPG elements like dice-rolling and character sheets?  What’s not to love?

Full disclosure, though – Freeway Fighter was never really one of my favourite Fighting Fantasy books. Not because of any shortcoming in Ian Livingstone’s writing, of course, but rather as a result of the departure from the established fantasy world that helped the likes of ‘Deathtrap Dungeon’ and ‘Forest of Doom’ set my pre-teen imagination on fire. This was cars and guns instead of swords and sorcery, and as such, it didn’t grab me quite as emphatically as the rest.

Fast-forward thirty-two years (!) and Freeway Fighter gets the comic book treatment courtesy of Titan Comics, and with a mixture of nostalgia, excitement, and – yes – trepidation, I decided to take a look at the first issue.

Writer Andi Ewington goes full ‘Max Max’ here, paying homage to Freeway Fighter’s obvious inspiration in an emphatic – if painfully slight – opening chapter. We are introduced to Bella De La Rosa, getting a glimpse of her career as a professional driver before fast-forwarding to her violent, post-apocalyptic existence where every drop of water and fuel is a commodity worth dying for.

In a nod to the story’s gamebook roots, Ewington’s narrative sees De La Rosa having to make some fairly significant choices here, and you can almost see through the story to the excited youngster reading the book, cautiously making his decision about which page to turn to next and, very likely, keeping his finger firmly on the original page in case it all goes badly. Come on, we all did it, right?

While the story itself is slight, the action sequences are placed front and centre, giving Simon Coleby ample opportunity to flex his impressive artistic muscle. His gloriously un-subtle artwork crams every square inch of page with action, and he adds a decidedly cinematic flair to the in-your-face vehicular combat.  It’s a great looking book, no doubt about it, and Len O’Grady’s colours really help to establish the post-apocalyptic tone of the series, with a reliance on muted browns, yellows and the occasional splash of red or blue in the paint job De La Rosa’s car.

Ultimately, as a Max Max analogue, Freeway Fighter does its job admirably. There’s something impressively unapologetic about the way it pays homage to its inspirations, and while this is definitely a first issue that places style over substance, the groundwork has been laid for what should hopefully be an enjoyable series.  I’m also quietly keeping my fingers crossed that this new title does well, opening the door for even more Fighting Fantasy adaptations down the line.

Rating: 3.5/5.

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ceejThe writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson-Adams (aka Ceej)
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