Low Road West #1
Writer: Phillip Kennedy Johnson
Colorist: Miquel Muerto
Letterer: Jim Campbell
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Maturity Rating: Teen
Release Date: September 12, 2018
Low Road West has us follow a group of children trying to find sanctuary in San Fransisco in an America torn by war. The first issue sets up a journey that you are going to want to be a part of.
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Seeking Refuge in Low Road West #1
In Low Road West #1, we follow a group of refugee children on their way to San Francisco. America is at war. It’s a time where you are not supposed to trust anyone. After a series of events leave the children stranded, they are forced to work together to survive. Phillip Kennedy Johnson delivers an intriguing story that threads the needle between apocalyptic sci-fi and fantasy.
The story opens on a school bus traveling west on the highway. It is easy to see the state of the country from the road. Cities are crossed off of highway signs and black plumes of smoke can be seen across the horizon. Inside the bus, we see 5 children who are a part of the Washington D.C. Refugee program. The radio in the bus announces that America is at war. The kids are explicitly told not to trust anyone around them.
The setup for this story works brilliantly because not only are the tensions high because of the loss experienced by the group, the children have been ingrained with an immediate distrust of one another. A distrust that stems from no obvious reason up front. And when things start going wrong on the bus, the tensions play out in their interactions. Instead of pooling resources together, some would rather not share, citing the need to put themselves first above the strangers. They understand that they have to adjust their plans in order to survive, but each move is met with skepticism and questions from all of the characters.
The characters themselves are ones that you find on an everyday school bus. There is the boy who wants to fight (because of all his Call of Duty games), the quiet siblings that look out for each other, and the girl that wants to be everyone’s friend. As their path takes them through the wasteland they come face to face with deserters, dead animals coming back to life and a mysterious house that appears out of nowhere.
Flaviano’s work on this book strikes a perfect balance. From the innocence and pain you can see in the children’s eyes, to the horrifying image of a decaying deer getting up and moving. From the calm beats of the group walking down the road, to quick succession of a rifle butt cracking against a face and arrows piercing various body parts. The images all run together smoothly and match the pace of the writing. It just makes me wish that there was a splash page somewhere in the book, to really admire the detail.
Low Road West #1 is a refreshing entry into the world of comic books. Not really sure which genre to classify it as; a character made the best attempt when saying “Was the last owner a mad scientist or a Gandalf?” And that right there sums up the duality of the book. Spread over 5 issues as it combines the elements of the mad scientist and Gandalf, I’m excited about where Johnson’s road takes us.
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