Writer: Rich Douek
Illustrator: Alex Cormack
WHAT IS IT?
A brutal, '50s-era Russian Gulag tale that mixes terror and horror elements with natural and supernatural origins.
Road of Bones is Eastern Promises meets Nightwatch set in a labor camp/snowy wasteland.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Roman Morozov is serving hard time in a USSR Gulag labor camp. At least, he was. He escaped with two other men, Grigori and Sergei. All they have to do is cross hundreds of miles of frozen, Russian archipelago to earn their freedom.
But the most dangerous thing about their journey might not be the arctic tundra. They have more immediate things to worry about, like the murderous intent that comes with an empty belly. Or the rictus grin of the demonic thing that only Roman can see...
These bullets build on the other "What Works" bullets from the issue #1 review.
The cover highlights the tension of a particular scene in this issue while also subtly alluding to the fact that these characters still have a long way to fall. After all, we're only halfway through this 4-issue miniseries.
The cover also illustrates the ongoing tension of "Road of Bones." Whether it's keeping your head down so labor camp officers don't bust you up, dodging rioting prisoners, navigating a frozen wasteland or simply surviving each other, the pressure of danger is a constant and will probably raise your blood pressure throughout the issue.
This may feel like a small thing, but you can tell Alex Cormack puts a lot of thought into his panels, keeping lettering in mind for ease of communication and a good page flow.
Speaking of little things in Cormack's artwork, the way he shows our characters' faces as they try to survive in the snow (shown below) really brings that sense they've been out there for awhile and it's starting to wear on them physically and mentally.
You also don't need to re-read the first issue to remember what's going on. You get the Sergei is dangerous and unstable from his body language (also shown below). You get that they escaped from the dialogue. You get that the terrifying spiritual presence is something only Roman can see, and that it delights in the mistakes the men make and has some desire to keep Roman alive. Douek and Cormack build in plenty of context clues to keep the momentum moving forward.
You get a very real sense of the limited options available to the men after the events of the previous issue. Roman tries to be realistic about their chances surviving in the white wastes of Russia (they're not great). But if they turn back, they’re as good as dead, anyway. All the men can do is push forward and hope the stories of a lodge nearby is true. A place where they can stock up on food. Maybe guns. Maybe vodka.
Splash pages set up the moment and the scene while also reiterating the men are surrounded by tundra for miles. But the comic itself is perfectly paced, each panel sized ideally for the length of the beat.
Justin Birch keeps the lettering clean and flowing well while keeping the focus on the important parts of the art and narrative.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
Violence and horror themes make this not the best book for kids.
While this issue is tense, it's not yet the horrorfest that readers might be waiting for. Be patient. Let the story build. There are still two more issues.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Road of Bones #2 is a quiet issue, the calm before the storm. But even with all this dialogue and focus on bringing the three men together, the narrative is tauter than piano wire.
Don't miss Road of Bones #2. It's one of the most terrifying titles on the shelf.
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 #1 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 #2 hits shops TOMORROW.
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