“Road Rage” #4 is a terrifically stylish thriller with suspenseful and excitingly fast-moving car chases. If you have seen Steven Spielberg’s film, “Duel,” readers should definitely not expect a repeat presentation of the material. Though the cult classic has the added benefit of sound and music, this is actually not a shot-for-shot recreation. Writer Chris Ryall and artist Rafa Garres imaginatively build up the creeping horror, focusing on the pulse-pounding suspense, rather than on the need-for-speed action. This creative team puts in their own fresh artistic ideas and run with them freely across every page.
Based on Richard Matheson’s short story, this is an absolutely excellent and faithful adaptation by Ryall. In the hands of a great storyteller, Ryall depicts each action-packed car chase differently and more dynamic than the last. For the sound effects, Robbie Robbins exaggerates the bold letters during the swift swerves and screeching U-turns. You can almost hear the tires spinning out of control as they make the next rough turn.
At their best, Ryall and Garres wonderfully put to the comic book medium to great use. Because this is a different take on Matheson’s basic plot, Garres places the camera where it physically cannot go in reality. In one of the gripping car chases, the camera is positioned directly underneath the speeding truck. The camera even takes a shot from a very high angle, way up in the sky, making the panels appear crooked and cinematic.
To create the isolated atmosphere and a sense of dread, Garres draws an excellent rendering of the story’s heat-sweltering location. The western landscape is always bright and sunny, leaving very little amount of black shadows. The sunlight presents everything visible and clear in the splash pages. Because the setting takes place in the daytime, readers are constantly reminded that you don’t need darkness and nighttime, the usual cliches, to tell a really scary horror story. Garres focuses on the intensity of the blazing sun with Mann’s physical exhaustion.
Ryall centers the narrative’s theme on the everyman thrown into an extraordinary situation, which is exactly why the main protagonist is named “Mann.” Ryall keeps the fast pace moving forward with his first-person narration, adding another level of panic through Mann’s frightened mind. In the opening pages, Ryall and Garres have such creative ideas with their panel layouts, broadening the mystery of who the truck driver is. Though the explosive ending is very different from the movie, the issue is still in spirit with Matheson’s tone.
“Road Rage” #4 is an exhilarating quick-read and a great conclusion to this four-issue miniseries. Readers should absolutely not miss out on this comic book. The miniseries satisfyingly ends with a highly memorable tale of deep isolation and genuine terror. Because this is a successful translation of Matheson’s classic work, hopefully Ryall and Garres will team-up again and adapt another.