Road of Bones #1
(W) Rick Douek – (A) Alex Cormack – (L) Justin Birch
It’s referenced in movies and stories all the time. The Gulag is the worst of the worst when it comes to “prisons” that you can be sentenced too. I mean, what doesn’t scream terror, horror, desperation, and [insert your own horrible adjective here] about a prison in the middle of Siberia during a time when on their best day those in charge of the prison have no moral compass or guiding light? Sounds peachy honestly. I mean, for a setting it’s peachy. When you’ve got a story to tell, setting is paramount. In this case the physical setting immediately sets the bleak and unforgiving tone that this story is dropped into. It’s perfect. In all of its dread filled glory I’m already primed before opening the book to see it’s assuredly gruesome insides.
On top of the given (the Gulag) we’re presented with visuals that not only capture the dire straits of the physical connotations of being in the Gulag, but enhances the mental and emotional distress that such a place undoubtedly imparts on its guests. The washed out colors draw upon the natural eeriness of the setting and lend to opening a gateway of thought and imagination for both the reader and characters within the pages. Perhaps the only thing worse than the Gulag itself is man’s own mind free to wander on its own. The lines and coloring choice almost beg the characters and readers to peak out that door and test the waters (snow) beyond the literal barbed wire fences keeping the story contained to the known. Desperation,and human understanding of it, are what resides within the Gulag and freedom is just beyond that flimsy barrier. Yet, that can’t be right. The visual environment hints that there’s a reason that the very essence of life has seemingly been sucked out of everything. That delivery is helped along by the lettering. You can ‘see’ the words being spoken and thoughts of those within the barbed wire as well as ‘feel’ the foreboding sense of dread to it all. The terror and dread are also given (figuratively and literally) their dark faces within the pages as well. Dread, terror, horror, and truth aren’t usually realities that have spotlights shining on them. No, these are usually tucked away in the dark recesses of our minds where they are allowed to fester and grow into so much more …and we get some scenes that show this off as well.
But what is all of this wonderfully done visual story telling giving us? One hell of a terror ride, that’s what. The book HITS HARD but it isn’t gratuitous. Some times violence, gore, and the like are necessary as the story involves the reality of such things. Road of Bones is exactly this. The setting and story being told aren’t nice. What makes this first issue so good is the combination of writing, lettering, and art bringing us the truth of these things rather than displaying them simply for the sake of it. No, the story being set up and told here is a blunt force trauma of everything bad you can imagine. Characters that are already bad enough (or have the type of luck) they are sentenced to the Gulag in the middle of Siberia, guards that are either equally as terrible or unlucky to have been stationed there, an absolutely unforgiving environment, and who knows what laying in wait outside the barbed wire line. Wait what? Yep, on top of all of the human elements we’ve got a dash of Russian folklore/fairytale that caps off the perfect package. For much of this opening installment the supernatural element is just there, lurking in the background. Somehow in the bleak, washed out world of the Gulag there are shadows in which a friend? foe? something else entirely? is able to lurk. It is quite clear that escaping the Gulag will be nothing but the beginning of the true horrors this book will reveal.
Road of Bones delivers a truly unsettling and terror driven first chapter. We’re treated to a truly desperate and unforgiving environment physically and mentally. I’m very much looking forward to the horrors that unfold whether they be from what lurks outside of the barbed wire, or in the mind.
PICK UP ROAD OF BONES #1 NCBD MAY 22!