1970s cinema is alive and well in comics. Dead Body Road, originally released as a six-issue miniseries from Image Comics, has been issued as a trade paperback and it calls to mind many tropes of movies of that era. Quick, dirty and full of violence, this story will likely satisfy fans of Death Wish or Straw Dogs.
Dead Body Road reads like one long story. Justin Jordan and Matteo Scalera craft a story packed with action and twists such that the covers of the individual issues are shunted to the back of the volume so as to not interrupt your eyes racing across the pages. Blink and you might miss where each issue ends; there are enough surprises that potential cliffhangers come more often than every twenty or so pages.
Apart from revenge, Dead Body Road concerns itself with action and lead character Orson Gage employs the latter toward the former. His police officer wife killed in a robbery turned violent, Gage pursues vengeance with a recklessness born from his grief. He’s the type to leap without looking, so it’s appropriate that the story also rarely slows down to take stock. Fortunately, Scalera has a style that can convey all of this activity.
Trust me that this is a complement: Matteo Scalera’s art is not neat. His work is literally rough around the edges as lines that might be erased by other artists are left to lend each panel a sense that it was roughly hewn. Nothing could be more appropriate for Orson Gage’s quest. In the same way that the cinema of the 1970s was less insistent upon unnaturally attractive leads and happy endings, Scalera’s art seems at home in a world where the protagonist lives only to leave bodies in his wake.
Needless to say at this point, I think, that Dead Body Road has its share of violence. That’s part and parcel of the story being told. Indeed, the strengths of this miniseries are also its weaknesses because, well, not everyone is a fan of bloodletting. The story Jordan and Scalera tell definitely falls within the action and crime genres and it won’t likely have much crossover appeal for folks who are not a fan of those types of stories. Nor is Dead Body Road subverting or challenging conventions of the revenge story. Jordan et al seem quite content to tell a story that fits within those confines, but do so with finesse.
Dead Body Road delivers to expectations. That’s not to say it is without surprises — Jordan’s script contains plenty of plot turns — but when the cover blurb reads as follows you want to see some violence: “The men involved in his wife’s death must now die.” If you like that sentence, you will like Dead Body Road. It might not change your life, but it sure as hell with entertain you for a little while.
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