One of the very best writers in comics today is Phillip Kennedy Johnson. I love his Scout Comics’ title Smoke Town and have read several graphic novels he’s written. They are all great, with excellent storytelling and surprises!

Now he’s got a new miniseries out from BOOM! Studios, and I’m completely fascinated by what he has in mind for these characters!

LOW ROAD WEST #1

Writer: Phillip Kennedy Johnson
Artist: Flaviano
Colorist: Miquel Muerto
Letterer: Jim Campbell
Editor: Eric Harburn
Published by: BOOM! Studios

Cover price: $3.99

A DARK SITUATION FACED BY TEENS

There’s something about teens facing danger that works so very well in comics. I guess it’s that we just aren’t certain how they will react, or even who they are!

That’s what’s happening in this title. A group of diverse teens of various ages are stranded in a desolate, dangerous location when they are deserted by the adult driving a school bus to take them to San Francisco. Some are more adaptable than others, so they’re beginning the process of knowing and depending on each other.

Ben is the one that is most interesting since he seems to have the ability to animate dead objects, including animals. He’s also addicted to a video game that’s helping him cope with the awful and recent changes in his life.

Amir is the oldest, and he appears to be of Middle Eastern descent. He’s the obvious choice for leading this rag-tag pack of kids. But is he ready or even able to do that?

The other characters are also intriguing, and I expect we’ll learn a lot more about them in the four issues ahead of us.

Like Mr. Johnson’s other comics, there’s a lot of variation in the pacing of the storytelling. There’s action at times, drama at other times, then there’s a chance to slow down and get to know these people. If we don’t do that latter sequence, it’s just a video game, like the one Ben is playing when things start happening.

We meet others in this part of the country, and many of them really aren’t very considerate at all. They see Ben’s video game console, and they decide he shouldn’t have it any longer.

What’s also fascinating is that things around the teens seem to change rapidly. A town appears out of nowhere. What’s up with all that? I love myself a good surprise or three along the way, and this comic delivers!

But the main focus is the teens, and I’m concerned about their survival. They know about as much as we do as readers regarding their circumstances and the people around them. We feel like part of them as we unfold the mystery of what’s exactly happening!

Clearly, though, something has happened that has changed just about everyone. There’s this quote at the beginning of the issue: “There is no death… only change. And nowhere in the universe is that more true than here.” It’s from a doctor in 1873, but that it applies to this comic is another mystery I’m anxious to learn more about.

PERFECT ART FOR THE STORY

For a dark and daunting story, you need art that matches that feel. Well, Flaviano does a superb job of making us feel like we’re actually there, struggling to get by with the teens.

I always like facial expressions that display the person’s emotions as well as action sequences that make me feel what they’re feeling on the page. When it hurts, I go, “Ow!” When they’re victorious, I want to pump my fist in the air! Well done in regards to both in this comic!

BOTTOM LINE: Where do we go from here?

Mr. Johnson’s stories often have me guessing from the very first page, and this one accomplished that while making me like the teens. And I haven’t liked a teen in a long, long time!

The ultimate goal of this group is to get to San Francisco, but why do I think the creators have something else coming? And I gotta know what that is, I just gotta! Highly recommended!

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About Author

Wayne Hall creates the Wayne's Comics Podcast. He’s interviewed Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, John Layman, Kyle Higgins, Phil Hester, Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray, David Petersen, Christos Gage, Mike Grell, and Matt Kindt. On this site each week, he writes his "Comics Portal" column (general comics comments and previews) and reviews comics.

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