Review – Phantom Road #1 (Image Comics)
Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Art: Gabriel H Walta
Colours: Jordie Bellaire
Letters & Design: Steve Wands
Release Date: 1st March 2023
The life of a lonely trucker. Out on the road as the world passes by. Taking the occasional break at some greasy truck stop. Avoiding the lure of the uppers from the local dealer, sticking instead with cheap hot coffee. Making small talk where you can and dodging strangers in public toilets. Yup, life on the road must mean that for all you miss, you must see and experience some pretty weird sights. And none perhaps as weird as those that befall Dom, the trucker in this tale.
Having finished the top up in a late night diner, our protagonist heads out into the dark of night to continue ever onwards. Troubles at home play heavy on their mind as they narrowly avoid piling into an existing smash in the road. Getting out to help might be something they grow to regret though as they’re transported to an almost ethereal desert highway. As if the sudden shift to daylight wasn’t odd enough, the misshapen humanoid figures that swarm and attack with voiceless guttural sounds will really spoil one’s day. Just who is the woman from the crash? Where did we end up? What is the weird artifact in the road that silently calls its importance?
Lemire, Walta and the team have crafted a tight, gripping first issue. For all the wide open spaces, there’s something almost claustrophobic about sitting in the cab of a truck, shut away from the world as it passes by. It would be easy to take Phantom Road at simple face value, thinking of it like a pilot for some inevitable adaptation. For me, it’s solid enough as a single issue. Like a short horror novella, you might not get the resolution you crave, but its got the guts of a good campfire story.
The art is good throughout with a brilliant transition from the dark and the gloom, to the vibrant lights of the late night diner, and then the bleached out haze of the Phantom Road itself. The character of Dom is wonderfully portrayed with hidden depths. Walta manages to switch our trucker from this affable warm smiled gent, to hard anger-fueled monster whilst maintaining a consistency of delivery. The writing and visuals bound together to give a sense there’s clearly more to the mundane elements here, let alone the all the weird.
At first, admittedly quick, pass I thought Phantom Road was going to be some Trucker vs Zombie action; something I wouldn’t have been adverse to despite the genre being somewhat tired of late. Instead, I was treated to a supernatural horror thriller which is punchy, pacy, and piques the interest. Whilst this debut issue maybe hasn’t hooked me completely, I definitely wouldn’t say no to seeing more.
[PREVIEW ARTWORK – CLICK TO ENLARGE]
The writer of this piece was: Adam Brown
Adam Tweets from @brother_rooster
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