Writer: Rich Douek
Illustrator: Alex Cormack
WHAT IS IT?
A brutal, '50s-era Russian Gulag tale that looks like it will probably have some serious horror elements in future issues.
Road of Bones is Eastern Promises meets Nightwatch in a prison camp.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Roman Morozov is serving hard time in a USSR Gulag labor camp. This isn't a luxury sentence. It's the kind where the men in charge can beat you to death just for looking at them funny. When Roman’s caught hoarding food to give to the local guardian spirit (that no one else in the camp believes in), another decade gets added onto his sentence in traditional fascist fashion.
But when he’s introduced to a man who thinks he can rise against those in charge, he may be signing a deal with the devil. Even if they were to escape, the Gulag is hundreds of miles of inhospitable, arctic tundra. Then again, there may be darker devils lurking amidst the snowy wastes...
Road of Bones takes place at the intersection of horror and terror
While it looks like it'll shape up to be a "horror" comic in the genre sense, the world Douek & Cormack have created is violent and dangerous, a powder keg that could explode at any minute
Think about it: angry, bored, violent Russian soldiers; tattooed prisoners, probably from gangs at the time, wanting to revolt; miles of snow and ice that could reach temperatures of -90.4°F / -68°C in the winter
That alone would be enough for a terrifying, suspenseful story, but throw in supernatural horror? This is gonna be one hell of a comic!
After an initial splash page of misery that hits like a brick to the jaw, the next two are 9-panel grids of equally paced misery to show the tedium and casual brutality within the Gulag's labor camps
It's incredibly effective and unsettling
It also feels like a cinematic opening, especially with the credits bar at the bottom, like understated credits shown during the opening sequence of a film
I really liked Justin Birch's use of sound effects as a transition, and the terror it creates as they grow “louder”
The idea of this fairytale guardian horror is fascinating, as it could be a figment of Roman's possibly fractured mind, or it could be his guardian angel (or, it could want to kill him as badly as it probably wants to kill everyone else)
While the subject matter is dark, there are also many dark scenes that almost look like they started on a black page and illustrated it with color holds
It's a fantastic way of illustrating (literally and figuratively) how thick the darkness there is
This might be a "Weird flex but OK" statement, but I'm proud of Douek for using proper naming conventions for Russian men
In a lot of media, writers seem to just name the characters something that sounds Russian, but isn't, so it's always nice when you have a writer who does their research
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
Some sound effects can be a little creatively underwhelming, a lot of "CLANGs" and "BANGs
I mean, it looks like it's going to be pretty violent and scary as hell, and there's cursing, so maybe don't give this to your kids?
It's a solid first issue! There really isn't much to complain about!
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Road of Bones looks like it's going to be a frigid, violent, terrifying story, and I am 100% on board for it!
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
Wailing Blade by Rich Douek & Joe Mulvey
The Empty Man, Vol. 1 by Cullen Bunn & Vanesa R. Del Rey
Uber, Vol. 1 by Kieron Gillen & Caanan White
If you like the art:
Road of Bones #2 by Rich Douek & Alex Cormack
Redlands, Vol. 1 by Jordie Bellaire & Vanesa R. Del Rey
Wytches by Scott Snyder & Jock
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Rich Douek – Writer
Multitalented: Is also an award-winning copywriter in the advertising industry (like Yours Truly, who is also an advertising copywriter and once won an award, but in his high school Theatre class)
On the Rise: Between Road of Bones and his other new title, Wailing Blade, I have a feeling Rich Douek has a very bright future writing comics
Alex Cormack – Artist
Often posts art on his Instagram
Multitalented: Also makes short films (according to his Wikipedia page)
Justin Birch – Letterer
New Face: Though he's only been lettering comics a short time, he's already been nominated for a Ringo Award and has worked for Action Lab, AndWorld Design, Broken Icon, IDW, Lion Forge & Source Point Press
His favorite part of the lettering process is figuring out the best placement for the balloons
HOW DO I BUY IT?
Road of Bones hits shops May 22, 2019. Pre-order it NOW!
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