Advance Review: 'Dead Body Road' is modern noir with high-interest style points

A comic review article by: Justin Giampaoli

Advance Review! Dead Body Road #1 will be avaiilable December 11, 2013

Justin Jordan is a writer who has been on my consumer radar ever since fellow CB'er Keith Silva brought the wonderful world of Luther Strode to my attention. In much of his work, Jordan has developed a gift for marrying sometimes unlikely genres together, resulting in an intoxicating blend of excesses. In the first installment of the trilogy, The Strange Talent of Luther Strode, it became apparent the work was a loving mash-up, in which the superhero and horror genres were fused together like Wolverine's adamantium-laced claws on Freddy Krueger's signature gloves. Over at Valiant, he’s successfully paired the superhero genre with the supernatural in Shadowman. Here in Dead Body Road, the fusion is a bit more subtle, but just as loving, as crime noir meets a grindhouse road trip. 

With artistic conspirator Matteo Scalera (Black Science) handling the art, Jordan clashes together some of the raw muscle of familiar tropes to fuel this double-barrel-carb'd entertainment package careening down the interstate. What sets events into motion is initially a false flag bank heist gone wrong, and we’re subsequently introduced to threads involving dead cops, hackers on the run, gangster thieves out to settle scores, and one man on the long road to revenge, all clanging together like some sort of intertwining music-video-cut 90's cinema. It's worth noting that Jordan pulls all of these elements off with zero exposition other than the standard in-dialogue introductions of the character names.

Dead Body Road

 One of the things I've noticed about the Image Comics of late, be it East of West, Sheltered, Pretty Deadly, (insert your favorite title!), or Dead Body Road, is a collective recognition of the sophistication of the reading audience. Take your typical Marvel reboot-of-a-reboot, or New 52 DC shlockfest, and they'll systemically remind you Every. Single. Issue. that Bruce Wayne's parents were murdered and it catalyzed his never-ending war on crime, or that Kal-El is the last son of a dead planet. Image Comics don't do that. They typically drop you into a cold open and trust the reader to suss out relationships, motives, and plotlines, sans the pandering low-brow exposition dumps, within a couple issues. I really like that. It creates interactivity rather than passivity. 
Jordan and Scalera know how to stage scenes for maximum reader engagement. Scalera is a great collaborator for Jordan, and it's hard not to compare him to Luther Strode wunderkind Tradd Moore, because the writer/artist parity feels just as strong. While Moore's lines are a little more exaggerated and caricature influenced in order to capture the extraordinary elements inherent to Luther Strode, Scalera's gritty and visceral style perfectly grounds Dead Body Road in a more realistic world. If Moore's style leans more toward fluidity on the page, Scalera and colorist Moreno Dinisio are more concerned with thematic rigidity as an overriding sensation. What both artists share is kineticism. Their characters never sit still, something is always drawing the eye around the page. Scalera's characters always feel like they're in mid-swing, mid-action, and always in motion, or at least mustering the energy to break inertia. There's always a pop of speed lines, speeding cars, or speeding bullets. There's a perpetual rush to the art that adds a sense of urgency to whatever Jordan is writing about.
Dead Body Road also earned some credibility with me because it lives in the gray space between absolute morality and polarized villainy. There's no sense of "bad guys" and "good guys" to be found alongDead Body Road, not really. There are men who do some bad things, but they can also be fair with the awful shit they're capable of, some sort of twisted "honor among thieves" ethos that pervades this world of memorable but human criminals and conflicted cops. In a nutshell, Dead Body Road feels like Ed Brubaker meets Quentin Tarantino. It's modern noir with high-interest style points. I'll never get tired of saying this, but Image Comics has another hit on their hands.  

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