ROAD OF BONES, ISSUE #4
Writer: Rich Douek
Illustrator: Alex Cormack
WHAT IS IT?
The final chapter of a 4-issue miniseries. 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 snowy wasteland.
Or, looked at in another way, it's like a bizarre retelling of the Jews' exodus from Egypt. The men must leave a place where they were treated incredibly poorly and used as slave labor. Then, they must cross a great distance in order to be free. And now, in issue #3, we reach the point where our free men are hungry. But there will be no mana from Heaven in this comic...
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
(Spoilers for previous issues)
Two men are left, still traversing Russia's icy wastes in this final chapter.
They've made a promise to make it out together, or not at all. Now, weeks into their journey, that promise will be put to the test.
And there's still that super-creepy domovik of Roman's lurking about...
Often, the first word sets the tone for the rest of the issue. Such is the case here. The visual raises the stakes of their situation even higher, forcing a very real "Point of No Return."
Rich Douek seems to have a style, where the first page establishes the scene, then the page turn is an impressive 2-page spread that doubles as the credits page. I'm not complaining, since it works for Road of Bones (and Wailing Blade) and Alex Cormack always makes it stunning as hell.
The dialogue is spartan throughout. I mention it below, but nothing is wasted in Road of Bones. There are many quiet moments and few captions, and that quiet is one of the aspects of Road of Bones that make it so unsettling. It's the quiet of a snowy vastness, with fleeting moments of action and violence to punctuate it.
Alex Cormack makes the men's faces look more and more weathered every issue. By this point, so deep in their journey, their faces are lined to the point that you can barely see their facial expressions when combined with their clothing and facial hair.
The fire and conversation contrasts so strongly with the rest of the comic, spent so much on their silent snow expedition. You can only imagine what it must feel like to be these two men, finally able to get warm after traveling in those icy temperatures.
There's a scene with a 9-panel grid, and it works really well for the pacing of that moment. But it also feels like the entire series has been leading up to that scene. It's a moment of levity amongst a sea of heaviness, and makes the rest of the comic pay off all the more.
Like Douek's sparse dialogue, Justin Birch doesn't use many sound effects, but when he does, he makes them count. You take notice.
The ending is satisfying perfection. That's all I'll say.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
I got nothing. This final issue is the perfect end to the story.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Road of Bones is tight. Not like, another-word-for-cool "tight." Like, nothing is wasted or left over. Every panel or bit of dialogue drives the story or it's discarded.
The Comic Book Yeti format may not be able to do it justice, because it relies heavily on multiple talking points or elements to pick out of each issue. Road of Bones is more of a well-oiled machine, running on tension and terror, stripped-down to its core.
Don't let the lack of bulleted text fool you: Road of Bones is one of the best horror comics of the year, with storytelling so finely honed, it's deadly, and an ending that feels earned and satisfying.
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 #4 hits shops Wednesday.
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