Review: Phantom Road #1

By | March 1, 2023

What is it about trucks we love so much.  Thanks to films like Smokey and the Bandit and Convoy the idea of the king of the road has taken root, so much so that when you need a leader of a changing into cars and vehicles alien race, you know just What Optimus Prime is going to transform into!  Thankfully there is nothing so cornball as Convoy or science fiction as Autobots in this new mini series, Phantom Road, from Image Comics.

Dom is a long haul truck driver, following in his Dad’s footsteps in some ways, whilst also trying to not do some of the more unsavoury elements of his childhood, brought up on arguing parents the odd times that they were actually together.  On one long trip, along a deserted highway, an overturned car with one survivor leads Dom and his rescued not yet travelling companion straight into a meeting, then a confrontation all in a new and surreal world

Jeff Lemire is a writer /creator who has worked for the Big Two along with a host of indie companies.  Probably most recognised for his excellent Hawkeye runs along his Black Hammer work which harks back to a simpler time.  He also has a penchant for horror tinged books.  This then falls squarely in to the latter category.  Lemire’s “hero” is a flawed characters, pretty much as we all are.  Dom is just trying to get through his life, one long haul after the other, whilst no succumbing to the failures of his Dad.  Lemire sets up the horror element well, utilising an immediate shock event to unbalance Dom before ramping up the tension.  The dialogue, which is sparse and indirect in that kind of small talk” manner that we use every day, demonstrating some smart observations.  I have no idea how Shane MacGowan and the Popes fit into proceedings, yet.

Gabriel H. Walta provides the art for the book.  Having worked on Hellboy and the B.P.R.D, Walta brings a darkness more than existence to the art.  The lines are heavy in a way that help distinguish the characters from the various, very well detailed backgrounds.  It is these backgrounds that help establish the unnerving surrealism of the locale that Dom and his rescue find themselves in.  How can you go from memories and dinner stops to dark desert highways and desolate, barren road of somewhere else-ville, without being unsettled to say the least.  Walta is helped out immensely by the colors and almost devoid of colors from the always excellent Jordie Bellaire.  Bellaire’s work here is detailed and expressive, making the expansive elements later in the book contrasting to say the least.  Steve Wands rounds off the team with a lettering scheme that conveys the emotion of the characters regardless of the, at times, infrequent use of dialogue and interaction.

With shades of Hotel California ringing in my ears after reading this book, I am intrigued to see where Lemire “keeps on trucking” will drive the character forward.  Is it just survival or is there something  else in play down the line?  I wonder what Dom would give for Optimus prime right about now?

Writing – 5 Stars

Art – 4 Stars

Colors – 5 Stars

Overall – 4.5 Stars

Written by; Jeff Lemire
Art by; Gabriel H. Walta
Colors by; Jordie Bellaire
Letters by; Steve Wands
Published by; Image Comics