I find it quite interesting that both Tradd Moore and Justin Jordan produced comics that featured enticing car chase scenes within the same week. Both men worked in unison to produce The Legend of Luther Strode which was a successful creator owned work. Jordan’s new venture, Dead Body Road, is a book of singular design: Vengeance. From its inception we have seen intense action from a raid gone awry and an innocent woman murdered as a criminal organisation fails to complete their task. There is more at hand than a simple cash heist but the acquisition of intel allowing access to so much more. We follow Gage, an ex-cop, on a hunt to find out who killed his wife during the botched bank job. The scenes are set as we see his intensity and single-mindedness as he pursues members of the guilty party. We move from café, to motel room to shopping mall as the hunt for retribution turns nasty.
The story is simple and succinct with characters befitting the classic movie tropes of the car chase hostage capers. There is an ex-partner not to be trusted, a sexy vixen who is a helluva driver, the meathead muscle and a scrupulous bad guy who is firmly in control. The plot plays out solidly through these characters, mostly during feats of violence. Their roles are easy to map out during these sequences and the dialogue is coherent and precise. The books move at a lightening pace but this is more because of how Scalera draws violence as opposed the actual plot development. There have only been a handful of scenes so far in the entire comic and even this issue features just one single hot pursuit. This is not a sleight on the writing because that scene is very compelling, as they all are for the most. In fact it features quite a unique take on the hostage negotiation scenario. Justin discusses it at the end of the comic and his words ring true. When do you ever see a parlay on a mobile phone in the midst of a frenetic car chase? The conversation is so fervent as we witness both characters move to and fro in taking the upper hand as they broker. There are some wonderful mind games thrown into the conversation from the manipulative crime boss. It really reads like a movie because as immense as the chase is, the dialogue is also deadly serious.
Matteo Scalera is exemplary in his performance on this run because the book looks like it is in motion. The realism he manages to portray is fantastic and his panels move fluidly giving the impression of seamless motion. You may notice that the whole comic is a series of double splash pages with movements between rows of panels. There are altogether only two single pages in the book. Each turn of the page gives us a specific aspect of the scene with an interesting twist at the bottom. This is either the delivery of a seminal line or the build up to an action piece. The panels read well together and act like the storyboard of a movie scene, aided by the automobiles moving during the scene at insane speeds. Scalera’s use of horizontal lines to give perspective, speed and direction is a wonderful tool. They almost serve to blur the shapes of characters and cars, just as they do in reality. The actual art is fantastic as each character is completely unique as they metaphorically wear their personality. Rachel is very abrasive and reckless as depicted by her devious glare and nasal bridge piercing, whilst Gage is a good looking well built deeply serious and motivated individual. Their features are exaggerated giving almost a caricaturist but specific appearance. Dinisio’s colouring is suitable to the task of delivering a bright and colourful desert environment where it is set. Moreno has a lot of work to do with each outfit in order to make them look unique and apply bright contrast to each individual. He is adept at fading these colours when characters move at speed, but still allow recognition of the people and actions occurring.
As I alluded to earlier, there is only one direction in which this book is taking us, and that is a death-defying joyride to the depths of purgatory. There are no innocent passengers because all are guilty of one crime or another, and they all want their retribution and reward. Even Gage represents a vigilante rattling along the wrong side of the law, in order to wreak vengeance upon the man who killed his wife. It is such a supercharged and exciting book that you will be gripped in the tension and naturally root for Gage to succeed, especially seeing as how Lake is such a despicable villain. Dead Body Road occupies a very small niche in the world of comics, and if you consider how perfectly it conveys its message then it pretty much stands alone. The plot and characters are far from original but in the hands of this creative team, they feel fresh and invigorated. On the surface this issue is ambitious in its minimal story content and focus on fervent pursuit, but when the book is finished a sense of satisfaction and relief remains. It is not often I say this but when a book is this impressive artistically, I am willing to forgo plot and thematic realisation. There may be some twists and turns on the way but I can guarantee you this, it will be an intense and exciting adventure with destruction and bloodshed. Thrill seeking Matteo Scalera will make you wish you never jumped into that car.
“This would be easier if you tried imagining we’re not in a pinball machine”