Comic Book Review: 'Road Rage': "Throttle" Issue No. 2


Boom: we're right in the action. We left off at the end of "Throttle" issue 1 with most of the motorcycle gang, The Tribe, slaughtered in a number of gruesome ways.  Heads rolled.  Bodies bounced over asphalt.  After a somewhat slow burn getting into the nuance of the characters and their situation – especially troubled father and son, Vince and Race – the violent ending was a stunner, crackling with adrenaline.

There's no slow burn here at the start of issue 2, the conclusion to the "Throttle" two-parter.  The massive truck with the word Laughlin painted across the side barrels toward Race, who's dwarfed by the blood-spattered grille and the tires that seem bigger than him.  The image conjures up Stephen King cinema: not only the obvious Christine and Maximum Overdrive references (there's an animal skull perched on the grille that brings to mind the Green Goblin head on the front of the truck in King's directorial debut) but also the train-bridge sequence in Stand By Me.  It's a great page-one image.

Artist Nelson Daniel has let loose here and he doesn't let up for most of the issue.  While it's not the bloodbath that the end of issue 1 was, the chase sequences are packed with enough menace and dread to make up for the lack of gore.  If Daniel and scripter Chris Ryall evoked Tarantino's Pulp Fiction in the first issue, here there's definitely a strong Death Proof vibe.  The fact that Tarantino borrowed much of his film's imagery from movies like the Roger Corman-produced Death Race 2000 wasn't lost on King and Hill, and it's not lost here: we repeatedly see an image of the young girl who was murdered in issue 1, and she's wearing a "Corman High Varsity" shirt.  (Roger Corman also directed a film called The Wild Angels, considered to be the first biker movie – a more overt connection to The Tribe).

Ryall hasn't lost his nuanced touch with the characters, even amidst the violence.  At one point, Vince produces a grenade he calls "Little Boy," at once an obvious and subtle reference to his relationship with his son.  Though Vince doesn't get to utter the most damning line in King and Hill's prose story – "Just because I'm your father doesn't mean I have to like you" – the intent and the repercussions of the sentiment is woven skillfully through these pages.  Near the end of the issue, Vince is forced to confront the nature of fathers, and how far they'll go to protect (and avenge) their children.  Who they are, what they'll do, and what they won't drives us to the complicated, unsettling conclusion.

"Throttle" – like The Stand, N., and The Dark Tower before it – proves that adapting Stephen King (and Joe Hill) needn't necessarily be a game for the movies.   Comics have long been a mature, viable medium for this type of work, and both King and Hill have been associated with some of the most acclaimed recent comic-book work (Hill's Locke & Key, King's work in Scott Snyder's and Rafael Albuquerque's American Vampire).  "Throttle" continues that tradition, hopefully anticipating more faithful, exciting comic book adaptations of our favorite fiction.

Though "Throttle" is over, IDW's four-issue Road Rage series picks up again next month with a new two-part adaptation of the story that inspired King & Hill's story, the Richard Matheson classic, "Duel."  Chris Ryall is back with an all-new script, assisted by artist Rafa Garres, whose terrific work with Dungeons & Dragons, Conan, and Jonah Hex promises an altogether different – yet just as arresting – pair of issues.

Scripter: Chris Ryall.  Art: Nelson Daniel.  Lettering: Robbie Robbins.
Read the review of Issue #1