"Road Rage" #1 has an interesting premise sure to intrigue the horror audience it courts. The issue begins with Richard Matheson's short prose tale "Duel" originally published in 1971. In 2009, writers Stephen King and Joe Hill decided to honor Matheson's classic with an homage prose story titled "Throttle." With the four issue "Road Rage" miniseries, IDW Publishing has given both "Duel" and "Throttle" two issues each to find a new audience with a comic book adaptation.
The start of King and Hill's piece opens relatively cold, introducing a large cast of characters. It's a difficult start requiring the reader's complete attention. Some may even need to double back to get Doc straight from Ray and Race -- but after getting the biker crew in order, it's easy to see the tenuous and tense connections between them. For just one issue, these characters and their motivations are introduced quickly and effectively. From there, the real action begins.
This tale won't hold anything new for fans of the source material. Hill and King's reverence of "Duel" is pretty heavy -- there are enough tweaks to see "Throttle" isn't a rehash, but it does contain the same basic structure as Matheson's original story. However, the little moments really sell the efficiency of Hill and King's homage, making readers really care about the characters and their final moments. Like any great horror tale, half the issue works on investing the reader in characters and set up, while the other half slowly dismantles this investment. Hill and King's bikers may not be likeable fellows, but that doesn't mean you want to watch what happens to them in the detail delivered by artist Nelson Daniel. This book is out to unnerve and disturb, something it accomplishes extremely well.
The adaptation work from Chris Ryall on this book is smooth and enjoyable. He takes great prose moments from Hill and King, fitting them neatly into the new structure. However, the real reason to purchase this comic is the art. Daniel's art ensures a sound investment with astoundingly pretty line work with gritty colors. The artist is not afraid to push readers out of their comfort zone, delivering action and horror on an incredible scale. He is the lynchpin for this entire project and IDW has made a sound bet on his ability.
"Road Rage" is a great short story with incredible art and thick atmosphere and the chance to see Daniel work on Ryall's adaptation of King and Hill's Matheson homage is a dream creative line-up. "Road Rage" #1 is a nasty book reveling in the fun to be had with such gore and amazing source material.