IDW’s Road Rage miniseries comes roaring into comic shops like some sort of high-end fusion cocktail of genre fiction– one part Richard Matheson, equal parts Stephen King and Joe Hill, one part Vietnam era disillusionment, one part post-Iraq War grit—all stirred up and served over ample portions of blacktop and blood.
Issue two of Road Rage wraps up “Throttle”, the first arc of the four-issue miniseries. Based on a short story by suspense masters (and father and son) Stephen King and Joe Hill, “Throttle” is a pulpy homage to the great Richard Matheson, writer of cult classics such as “I Am Legend” and “Stir of Echoes”, along with many chilling episodes of the original “Twilight Zone” series. With “Throttle”, King and Hill riff off of Matheson’s brilliant short story “Duel”, which was made into an equally brilliant made-for-TV film by some kid named Steven Spielberg way back when. You may have caught “Duel” on a high-numbered UHF station one lazy Sunday afternoon, and if you did chances are you never looked at a truck on the highway quite the same way again.
The Richard Matheson-Stephen King-Joe Hill concoction is finely distilled into comic form by IDW Editor-in-Chief Chris Ryall and Nelson Daniel. Ryall’s script condenses King and Hill’s short story into a fast-paced graphic adaptation that does not slow down for a minute. Squeezing the tale of a nine member, multigenerational biker gang with a backstory involving two U.S. wars, meth deals gone wrong, Charles Manson-style murder, and a deadly showdown with a demonic looking big rig is no small task, but Ryall pulls it off. Readers are given just enough of the source material to round out each character while still moving the plot along at a white-knuckled pace.
As good as the adapted script is at bringing all the prose elements together, the story of “Throttle” really comes alive through the art of Nelson Daniel. Each member of the biker gang is given a distinct look and personality, each barren desert intersection its own desolate detail and color. With a title like “Throttle”, speed is sure to play a central part in the story, and Daniel does a fantastic job of taking readers through all the high velocity action. Each crash, wipeout, and near-miss feels as though it’s happening at 80 miles per hour. Behind the kinetic action, splotchy watercolor backgrounds and newsprint style dots lend pitch perfect shading to the almost alien looking world. An oversized reprint of these pages would look fantastic on a coffee table (or maybe better suited for the garage).
Road Rage is the type of comic that shows some of what can be done with the graphic storytelling medium when it celebrates the shared bridges across genre fiction. King and Hill’s story makes for a hell of a fun, if not dark, comic book, hitting the same gritty, vulgar pleasure zones as old EC horror anthologies and ‘70s black and white comic mags. A second printing of issue #1 hit the stands this week alongside issue #2. Whether you enjoy doing 80 down the highway or it scares the crap out of you, pick them up and read as intended—fast.