The base concept around which Justin Jordan and Matteo Scalera build “Dead Body Road” #1 is one seen in comics (and movies and books and television) before: man’s family is killed, vengeance is sworn and the rest spins out from there. The pitch in the solicits for this issue seems like a revisiting of the Punisher concept, but Jordan steers clear of arming the story’s protagonist, Gage, with an arsenal or clothing him in all black.
Emotionally tortured and mentally broken, Gage doesn’t plot or plan, he follows the leads he has, thin as they are, and sets about trying to claim his revenge against the crew that ran the heist and killed his wife. The leads come from a friend who serves on the police force and provides Gage with a tip to get “Dead Body Road” #1 in motion. From there, Gage finds Jimmy Stowe at a gas station with extraordinarily long hoses on the fuel pumps. Jordan puts a spin on the heist and revenge plot by crossing other “interested parties” into the chase. The final scene complexly layers what seemed very straightforward at the start of the issue. Not only is Gage trying to get his revenge, but the heist’s boss is trying to cut off loose ends, other characters are trying to tap into the alleged fortune and everyone seems to be headed towards a collision not unlike a skewed version of “Pulp Fiction.” Gage is clearly the “hero” of the piece readers are supposed to be relating to, but some of the vile deeds enacted on other characters elicit sympathy at the very least and twisted, dark interest on a deeper level.
On the visual side of “Dead Body Road” #1, Matteo Scalera has found his sweet spot. This is exactly the type of story perfect for Scalera’s scratchy, grungy artwork. There’s enough realism under the scratches and flecks to ground the story, but Scalera is loose enough in drawing the characters and scenery to infuse the comic with energy not normally inherent in a crime comic. Additionally, Scalera draws fun car chases, which is not easy to do, especially with moderately generic automobiles doing the chasing. The coloring serves the story well, giving the artwork some heat and locking readers in, but the jagged word balloons are jarringly distracting. The shape plays nicely to frantic uncertainty of the story, but seems unnecessary and disjointed in the quieter moments of “Dead Body Road” #1.
More than just a simple revenge story as things get out of hand all around with scheming “bad guys” lurking around every page turn, “Dead Body Road” #1 is a solid offering from Justin Jordan and Matteo Scalera. Yet another feather in Image’s continually growing feathered headdress, this is a story unsettling enough to be compelling and memorable without any unnecessary flash or sizzle.