"Road of the Dead: Highway to Hell #1" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by IDW Publishing
Written by Jonathan Maberry
Illustrated by Drew Moss
Colored by Jay Fotos
Lettered by Robbie Robbins
2018, 32 Pages, $3.99
Comic released on November 7th, 2018
Do we really need another zombie comic? If it's written by Jonathan Maberry and it serves as a prequel to George Romero's last film, the answer is “absolutely.” That's where Road of the Dead: Highway to Hell comes in. The book starts out like a typical zombie story as a soldier named Steve Hanson is the only member of his platoon to survive an attack by the undead. He's later joined by Dr. Harriet Jayne and a group of people looking to get up to Canada where they can continue to work on a cure. That's easier said than done.
As with most zombie stories, the humans become a bigger threat than the undead. In this case, it's fueled by fake news. That might sound weird in a book like this, but hear me out. See, there is a rival group of survivors that are convinced Jayne has the cure and she's holding it for the rich and powerful instead of sharing it with the masses. These folks are not willing to hear any opposing viewpoint and they're ready to tear anyone apart who stands in their way.
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This is where Road of the Dead gets interesting and very relevant. Is it that far off to imagine what would happen if zombies popped up in today's heated political landscape? This thing with the cure sounds like a headline from InfoWars. Artist Drew Moss paints this argument like a real debate with the panels showing half of a face from each side as they scream at each other across the way. This helps hammer the point home.
While there is anger on both sides, the cure truthers are painted as far more maniacal. This is emphasized with close-ups of sinister grins and way too many guns. The truthers are spouting all kinds of conspiracy nonsense too, which makes them appear even more dangerous and terrifying.
There's a lot of information to sift through in Road of the Dead and letterer Robbie Robbins guides us through it well. This is done not only with the aforementioned debate, but in areas where Jayne is explaining the details of the virus and the path to the cure. In the scheme of things, this doesn't really matter and it's presented in a big block of text that no sane person would read, so we get the point that this is all medical jargon. It literally ends with the words “blah blah blah” over and over again to drill that point home.
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Maberry pulls no punches with Road of the Dead. This is very much a brutal comic filled with violence. Colorist Jay Fotos presents a dreary landscape filled with browns and greys that is only broken up by the bright crimson of blood. When that hits the page, it comes as a shock. It always happens when you least expect it and leads to absolute carnage.
This makes Road of the Dead rather unpredictable. Just when you have an idea of where it's going to go next, the story takes a sharp turn. In a world with a glut of zombie stories, this one found something new and interesting. This is a stellar first issue and I can't wait to sink my teeth into more.