reflection

A raw first issue of rural vigilante justice with an absolute boss of a protagonist.
Writing/Plot
Pencils/Inks
Colors
Lettering
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Review: DEAD BODY ROAD: BAD BLOOD #1 – Don’t Irk the Bartender

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A potent mix of Justified and Winter’s Bone, writer Justin Jordan (Reaver, Luther Strode) and artist Benjamin Tiesma’s “Dead Body Road: Bad Blood” #1 is an atmospheric right-hook of small-town crime and punishment. With colorist Mat Lopes and letters by Pat Brosseau, this opening issue is the opening shots of what could turn into one of the best crime comics of the year.

“Bree Hale has left a lot behind in her life. Crime. The military. But she can’t leave behind her own family, and when the local crime boss puts a hit out on her brother, there’s nothing she won’t do to save him. Absolutely nothing.”

Writing & Plot

Justin Jordan clearly knows how to set up a powder keg of a vigilante justice story in this first issue of “Dead Body Road.” The intense face-to-face meetings of badass bar owner Bree Hale and the crooked members of local organized crime are loaded with tension. The backstory of Bree, her history with the town, and her relationships with other characters are delivered with sharp dialogue and potent use of detailed scripting. As a protagonist, Bree Hale is almost instantly likable. She’s a rugged, take-no-crap woman with a troubled past that she has quietly decided to distance herself from. When the heat turns up against one of her own, she becomes an absolute badass, and it’s clear that she is going to be a thrill to watch for the rest of this series. This kind of small-town local justice has obviously been done before in any and all mediums (see above comparisons), but it’s such a satisfying sub-genre to see done right, and Jordan knows what he’s doing in writing this comic.

Art Direction

The real stunner in Benjamin Tiesma‘s artwork on “Bad Blood” is his character detail. The attention paid to the characters’ facial expressions is immense, and it sells the comic’s character-driven narrative style. This is a story ruled by deviousness, panic, and anger, and the character both savior and villain are all duly drawn to easily feature such a range. The environment is a detailed representation of your average rural backwater as well, dominated by the local bar and roadside motel. The aesthetic is tied together by Mat Lopes’s faint, grainy colors, which sells the dark middle of nowhere setting as well as the crime-movie inspired film reel look. The whole issue takes place at night (as these stories often do), so the visuals being so dominated by faint colors and shadows is a practical necessity and not just a stylistic choice. The lettering is fine in the fact that it does its job, but disappointingly the font never alters in form whatsoever to match a character’s tone. This fact is almost unnoticeable due to Tiesma’s feature art, but the fact remains. Overall, “Dead Body Road” #1 is an artistically sold comic that nails the aesthetic for this kind of story.

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“Dead Body Road: Bad Blood” #1 is an enticing and gritty start to this small-town vigilante justice comic mini-series. Jordan’s script is full of naturalistic and slick dialogue while leaving plenty of room for the art to talk. Benjamin Tiesma and Mat Lopes’s work is detailed and character-focused, pulling the reader into the panels with fantastic character art and grainy aesthetics. If you want to get in on this sawed-off shotgun blast of a comic, be sure to pick it up from your local comic shop on 6/24!

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Justin Munday
Reader and hoarder of comics. Quietly sipping coffee, reading, and watching sci-fi in Knoxville, TN.