Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Low Road West (Phillip Kennedy Johnson)

Low Road West
Issues 1 - 5
Phillip Kennedy Johnson, illustrations by Miquel Muerto Flaviano
BOOM! Studios
Fiction, YA Graphic Novel/Sci-Fi
***+ (Okay/Good)

DESCRIPTION: With war devastating the American East Coast, a busload of five teenagers is sent across the blasted midlands to the sanctuary of San Francisco... only to be stranded in the middle of nowhere. They make their way to a ghost town, but there's something unusual about this place. Houses are bigger inside than they are outside. Time shifts in weird ways. The dead come to life. And powers they don't understand seem to have taken a keen interest in them - powers that could remake the world or destroy it.

REVIEW: Low Road West melds an apocalyptic near-future with metaphysics and time travel. A collection of diverse characters find themselves in a surreal situation, first abandoned, then harassed by a gang of thugs, then plunging into strangeness beyond their comprehension, but the people can't help but feel familiar and tropey. There's the foreign-born scholarly boy who comes across as cold and academic, the kid whose bragging about his father is clearly overcompensating for a darker secret, the slightly insane local girl who takes on a trickster persona, the cardboard-thin generic gang of toughs, the Native American stand-in "guardians" of the local secrets... there's even a boy with selective mutism who holds the key to everything, but is overprotected by a sibling who doesn't understand his potential. Still, the story moves fairly quickly, with imaginative visuals and a nicely strange arc, though the climax leaves a few too many loose threads with a little too much unreached potential to be truly satisfying. This is supposed to be a complete story, but feels more like the first season of a show that didn't get renewed, with characters who clearly still have more to tell but are not given the chance to finish their tales.

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