It's a haunting for good...
Phantom Road #1 (w: Jeff Lemire, a: Gabriel H. Walta)
Publisher: Image Comics
This book is one of those rare first issues wherein the establishing work draws me in more than the narrative work. It's honestly a fairly underwhelming first issue narratively. We spend barely any time in the world being built, only to get brief glimpses of development for one character and basically none for the other character. However, for anyone who has read Lemire's works before, character development is honestly what he does best and even the small glimpse we get of our lead is moderately compelling. Outside of the narrative, we have a fascinating setting of a dusty road that exists in some sort of liminal space. It may be dimension hopping, it may be time travel, it may be hell for all we know, but it is definitely a long, eerie stretch of road populated by faceless husks who attack when provoked. It's that melding of subtle but effective character development and a world that has yet to define it's genre that draws me into this book yearning to know more.
I love the opening of this book, too. Many books open in the middle of action and then flash back in time to establish what the heck is going on, but Lemire and Walta chose such an ambiguous scene to show. They show no violence, no creature. All they show at the very beginning of the book is our main protagonist being afraid. It's a super interesting choice, and I actually had to flash back when I realized the scared, screaming man in the beginning was the same stoic, polite trucker we end up following for the next few pages.
The last page is equally as fun, wherein the creators choose to forego showing a climactic moment of action and violence, instead delivering a splash page title card, and then return us to the main characters in the aftermath of whatever just happened out of sight. It's a cool choice. They are making some nifty creative choices here. I like.
Deadfellows #1 (w: Kody Hamilton, a: Ramiro Borrallo)
Publisher: Scout Comics
Trigger warning on this one, folks. This book talks about suicide, self-harm and domestic abuse.
A man named Pete is struggling with PTSD after being dumped by his abusive girlfriend and ultimately finds himself alone. He spent years in a relationship that forced him to burn all the bridges he had with friends, and his mother only wants to talk to him about the relationship. He moves into a cheap, run down apartment, clearly aware of the possibility that he might end his life there. One night, as the memories of his trauma flash through his mind, he inadvertently overdoses on acetaminophen. Suddenly, a woman appears and helps him purge the drug from his system before it gets processed. Turns out, his apartment is haunted by three ghosts, all who ended their own lives, who are determined to make sure he doesn't do the same and get stuck here himself.
And they plan to do so by making sure he leaves for good. Pete, however, is done letting someone else control his life.
I think this book has a really sweet premise and can do a lot of good if handled properly. It does a very good job showing how PTSD from relationships can manifest and handles the topic fairly delicately, while detailing the severity of it. Pete is a very well crafted sympathetic character. Anyone who has experienced similar trauma can relate to his mental state, and even those that haven't are given plenty of space for empathy. By the end of the book, you find yourself just yearning for him to make friends with these three kind specters. You just want him to find someone to talk to so that he can hopefully heal.
I did not expect this book to be as clever and well-written as it is. From the outside looking in, it was just another pump and dump horror book. Honestly, the cover almost undersold it so hard for me that I passed on it. Just goes to show that sometimes you have to dig a bit deeper to be completely surprised by an incredible story. If only there was some sort of idiom for that....
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