"The Vampire of the Lost Highway #1" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by CE Publishing Group
Written by Don Everett Smith Jr
Illustrated by Don Alan Smith
2016, 36 Pages
Remember the town of Radiator Springs in Disney / Pixar's Cars? It was a once bustling area that lost all tourism once a new interstate was put in. The Vampire of the Lost Highway is a bit like that, only except for a town, it's an old highway. Also there's a vampire. And the cars don't talk. OK, my analogy fell apart at the end there.
Anyway, The Vampire of the Lost Highway works like an urban myth, not unlike the hitchhiker ghost. In this opening issue, a father and son are driving down the stretch of road when their tires are slashed. A mysterious winged man basically car jacks them, causing them to flee into the woods. All is not as it seems though, as this creature has different intentions. In hindsight, there are much better ways to handle this that don't require the destruction of an innocent man's automobile.
The creature looks a bit like a demented goth kid, clad in coveralls with a few straps aimless placed around his body. His long hair shields his face from view, but just in case that's not enough, he also has a bandana-like mask pulled up to his nose. He also has fingerless gloves to complete a hobo chic look.
The “vampire” is the best designed element of the comic. The other characters appear stiff and lifeless. Their poses are often awkward. There's one shot in particular where a man gets slapped. Although we're seeing him from the side, we see his entire mouth, which makes it look like half his face has been whipped around to one side.
The Vampire of the Lost Highway is framed as a writer gathering the tales of this urban legend. It's almost like a dramatic reenactment from a TV show like Rescue 911, complete with occasional editorial notes to clarify key points or where the story comes from. This is a nice touch, but I would have liked to have had more information about the writer, maybe as an opening and closing page. It would give the reader something more to invest in aside from what look like one-and-done stories that feature the same stretch of road.
Although standard comics from the big two publishers are filled with ads, that's generally not the case with indie books. This one seems to be the exception, as it feels like every other page is an ad for other independent titles. This might be due to the DriveThru Comics service, but it really breaks up the momentum of the story. I have no problem including them, however they would have been better off at the end of the book, like how Image does it.
The Vampire of the Lost Highway works a tried-and-true horror trope of the highway urban myth. Little is known about the title character or why he's been haunting this roadway, however there's not all that much given to us to make us care at this point. It's little more than a ghost story told around the campfire, like the serial killer with a hook. In this case, it's a bit more forgettable, as it doesn't pack the same punch as something like that.