on August 8, 2012
Road Rage is a collected representation of the comic book adaptations of the similarly themed Throttle- originally a prose piece by King and son Hill, and Matheson's Duel story- which Steven Spielberg later turned into a movie. The pair of introductions provide touching explanations to the King and son fascination over Matheson's original story and later film version, offering colorful mental imagery of just how cool the father-son relationship expectedly is. And both features certainly present a real world terror, as long and desolate strips of road mixed with the improbable actions of complete strangers can spin out of control into fast-paced dilemma after dilemma. Even cold-blooded murder.
Throttle is a hard-nosed roadside drama of a father and his adult son and their tribe of bikers, caught up in circumstances of the son manipulating the group into following up on a meth deal gone screwy. Their biker culture is well-played here as we see a side of Americana outside the law that many would think only exists as fiction on cable television. Unfortunately, even familial ties may be worn thin in this race to survival. Daniel does a smooth job on full art chores, competently doing the impossible of presenting captivating car chases in sequential form.
Duel is my favorite of the two, as a man on his way to a business meeting is caught up in the reckless games of a trucker seemingly gone mad. But up until the final scenes, and even beyond, is the driver just imagining his predicament? Garres does a GORGEOUS bit of artwork on this one, using a style that would strongly appeal to fans of Richard Corben or Robert Crumb, cartoonishly bending the roadways and physics alike in a drop dead serious tale of desperation and horror. His dark inks add to the overwhelming threat, giving a stark atmosphere on top of his masterful storytelling. Every page is just as beautiful as it is purposeful, really.
These are fun stories, but full of high speed action and violent gore. Lessons learned: Be kind to strangers, lest they catch you alone on the highway miles and miles from salvation. Also included is a gallery section displaying works from Phil Noto, Nelson Daniel, and Rafa Garres, Road Rage is a fine package, of a very different kind of scary.
on September 26, 2012
Richard Matheson and his fiction are one of the cornerstones upon which all speculative fiction since has been built. Along with Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, Poe and Lovecraft, without Matheson many of today's horror writers wouldn't be where they are. Matheson's work touched more lives than many people even know; many episodes of the original "Twilight Zone" were his stories. In the 1970s, a young director named Spielberg was given a chance to turn a Matheson story called "Duel" into a movie, and we all know how that turned out. Matheson's influence across the genre is undeniable. So in 2009, a gaggle of authors submitted stories for an anthology paying tribute to this literary icon. One of those stories, "Throttle", was written by living legend in his own right Stephen King, and co-authored with King's son and up-and-coming demigod Joe Hill.
In 2012, IDW Comics and Chris Ryall combined the Matheson story with the King/Hill story into a 4-issue mini-series called ROAD RAGE and published it as a comic book.
As a product, the pairing and reconfiguring makes a good deal of sense. Both stories are very visual and lend themselves well to this medium--given the right artist; and with Nelson Daniel and Rafa Garres in charge, we have no worries.
Having read the collection, though, my only concern is was it necessary?
The father/son collaboration "Throttle" is an excellent story. The pair have taken the idea of the murderous truck driver from Matheson's "Duel", increased the body count, and made a much more complex story. In "Throttle", we've got a biker gang seeking revenge and stolen money, riding through the desert when they run afoul of a madman in an 18-wheeler. The trucker takes out a handful of bikers in their first meeting, providing the book with some outstanding visuals and immediately setting the tone for this unstoppable machine's rampage.
What King and Hill have done here that Matheson didn't--and it was a stroke of genius on Matheson's part--is give the trucker a motive and a backstory. We never delve into his history or see things through flashback, nothing so goofy; King and Hill manage that information as true masters, creating a very complex and compelling story.
But back to Matheson's genius. In the original story, "Duel", we never know anything at all about the trucker stalking the main character, Mann, and this works to make the character all the more terrible. In "Throttle" we come to understand why things are happening and we, as readers, come to feel something for the characters, both the bikers and the trucker. In Matheson's story, we come to feel only fear, and it works.
Both stories tackle the subject in different ways, but both do it perfectly and to different effect.
But was this collection necessary?
I'm still not convinced.
I love "Throttle". When I first read what King and Hill were doing--a biker gang is stalked by a killer truck driver--I thought, Oh, so they're just retelling the original story, only swapping out the guy in the car for guys on motorcycles...that oughta be fun...(insert sarcastic eye roll here). Little did I know they were doing so much more than that.
And I love "Duel". As a writer, pretty much everything I've ever read from Matheson has been an entire writing lesson in itself, and "Duel" is no different. This is a must-read story for anyone hoping to put words to paper and make something interesting. The problem is, I'm not sure it translates as well to the comic page.
Sure Ryall does a great job of getting us inside the mind of Mann as he's hounded by this mysterious trucker, and Rafa Garres's art is gritty and leaves you feeling like you need a shower. The adaptation of "Duel" is well-done. But in the aftermath of "Throttle", it feels like something is missing. If this were a serialized adaptation of several Matheson stories, I'd say "Duel" hits all the right notes. But with only two stories, and with the first story being so multi-layered, by comparison the "Duel" adaptation feels incomplete. The climax of the story feels rushed and the ending just falls off the edge of a cliff leaving us with a few ads at the back of the book and that's about it.
I was reading along, enjoying myself and all of the sudden, "THWAM! KRASH! BOOM! K-BOOM!"
Hell, I'm not even entirely sure what was happening in those panels. I read "Duel" over a decade ago and I don't remember the finer details, but I'm pretty sure Matheson's story was more interesting than that. I'm sitting here looking at the pages again and I'm still having a hard time piecing together just what happened. The climax in "Throttle" was easy to see, set up well, and executed perfectly. We even got a nice comedown from the action with a well-written denouement. But in the "Duel" adaptation, it's a few sound effects across 7 clumped together panels and "It was a primeval tumult in his mind...the cry of some ancestral beast above the body of its vanquished foe..." The end.
Yes, but HOW did he vanquish it? The staging of the climax was mismanaged and totally unclear on the page. And as much as I hate to say it, it greatly lessens the impact of the collection as a whole.
Ryall's adaptation and script are well-done. There was a father/son relationship in "Throttle" I didn't catch onto until much later in the story, but having not yet read the original prose version of the story--it's on my Kindle, I'll get to it--I don't know if that's a connection that's explained early on or not. Ryall makes good use of his narrative, though, and is able to add real tension to the pages.
The art--other than those last few pages in "Duel"--from Daniel ("Throttle") and Garres ("Duel") work well. The characters all look unique and the truck, especially in "Throttle" is a looming death machine defying the laws of physics, but doing it with style and a sense of impending doom that adds both movement and a feeling of breathlessness to the page. For sheer storytelling ability, Daniel is a master of his craft. Garres in his work on "Duel" instills a sense of anxiety and claustrophobia through a series of tightly-packed panels, plus his use of shadow and light really brings the heat of the setting home to the reader.
His work was definitely the more gritty of the two and brought back memories of that scene Matheson set so well in his original story.
Overall I loved ROAD RAGE. I just feel that, with a climax and resolution that is lacking so much, and to have that be the end of this story that spanned FOUR books--granted, the entire thing takes about half an hour to read from start to finish--it still leaves me with a big "okay...so?" in the end.
I think with a stronger, more well-choreographed ending, the entire book would have felt more complete. As it is, it feels like we're going along great and then we just--STOP. The end.
And given that these are very obviously two different truck drivers in two different stories in two different settings chasing two different protagonists . . . it's not like we needed "Duel" to properly finish off the tale of the mysterious Laughlin from "Throttle". Personally I would have been very happy with just an adaptation of the King/Hill story and left "Duel" to an adaptation of Matheson works, sandwiched between "I Am Legend" and "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet".
But still, those last couple of pages aside, ROAD RAGE is a good book and well worth the money. Definitely recommended. Now, as for whether it's worth a $25 cover price . . .
on April 15, 2016
I love Stephen King's Work, but now and then he is human. This was also a very early novel. It got to be loads of fun by the time it nears its end. If King were not graphically willing to be violent and sexual, I'd wonder if he'd been given a frontal lobotomy. He gets into the turf and plays football in the rain, and that is sexy. He becomes a truer person in his novels when he includes his characters' TRUE feelings about things, and I personally think that clean-up of the English language will leave it the poorer. I can't say why I think that, except that there are words of emotional coloring, many more than some list of the Most Unwanted Words, with a reward on their heads. When I smash my finger by accident repeatedly while trying to build something important for someone, there is only ONE. Only the one word will do. I suppose now I'm going to "heck," gosh darn it. We need our power words. Shucks. "Thou shalt not censor." I'm just another slob like you, and some guy going "postal" as they used to say, kind of makes me want to laugh until I weep. Better some fictional Section 8 character than me!! The more (censored) he can blow up, the BETTER!! AND you want to know why. Why? So I feel better because some fiction hero from a securely distant reality just did what the 3-yr-old in all of us feels sorta like laughing about.
on October 6, 2013
Road Rage brings to graphic novel life, two short stories, the first written only a few years ago by King and his son Joe Hill, called Throttle, paying homage to the much more famous and influential classic Duel written of course by the master Richard Matheson. If you haven't read the short story you may be more familiar with the Steven Spielberg TV movie adaptation (which you can also now get on DVD).
For me the artwork of both stories is good, the layout resembles your standard graphic novel, with larger frames, with smaller frames on top, the characters speaking in speech bubbles and the narrator torn of paper looking rectangles. The bikers in Throttle looked like your traditional biker villains, more than your Sons of Anarchy pretty boy types. Unlike Anarchy, this guys can't be looked at in Throttle as anything other than people to be despised. The graphic novel doesn't go into the detail of King/Hill's story, you don't quite feel the outrage at what the bikers do as it isn't told in enough detail to be rooting for the trucker from the get go, but overall the condensed graphic novel version does cover the whole short story.
Whereas with Duel, there's huge chunks of the story left out. It pretty much ends after the diner scene, which is very early on in both the short story as well as the movie. What made Duel such a terrifying classic as a short story was that you could feel the terror of the driver through Matheson's words which very well put the readers mind in a this could be happening to me, what would I do in this nightmare situation terrifying experience as they turned the pages. That factor isn't here at all with the what pretty much resembles a storyboard for a few scenes from the book read. Plus I only knew what was going on in some scenes as I was already familiar with the story, if I was reading this fresh, I'd be confused. The ending is very rushed and unsatisfying in this graphic novel.
But Throttle, although better done as a graphic novel was by far the weaker of the two original materials to be adapting. I was disappointed with this short story when I read it as a non graphic novel so for me it's not worth owning a graphic novel version of it and the graphic novel version of Duel, lets down that masterpiece so much it's not worth owning either.
King and Hill give a spiel on how Duel and Richard Matheson's other work influenced their careers and why they decided to write a homage to Duel. However you find this in their normal version of the same story. Those author's images also appear in some random, these stories themed artwork after the two stories.
"Road Rage" was a cool audio download that I acquired from Amazon's "Audible" subsidiary. Also available as an audio CD, the production presents terrific performances of two short stories: the old Richard Matheson classic, "Duel", about a traveling salesman being terrorized by a maniacal truck driver (the story was adapted by Steven Spielberg into the equally classic TV film of the same name in 1971) and "Throttle", Stephen King and Joe Hill's take on a similar theme, depicting a group of tough bikers dealing with the same sort of menace.
"Duel" is basically a primal tale of the hunter/prey variety, with readers (or, in this case, listeners) eagerly wanting to find out if the traveling salesman can overcome his fear and possibly outwit his bigger, stronger, faster, and, not so incidentally, quite psychopathic, foe. "Throttle" is also pretty scary and suspenseful, but it also uses the menace of its own killer trucker to illuminate the complex relationships between the several bikers, especially between a father and son. I enjoyed that extra touch.
The terrific performances I mentioned were provided by Stephen Lang, who brings to life all the drama and emotion present in the stories, keeping listeners (this one, anyway) immersed and eagerly waiting to hear what happens next. Clocking in at a shade under two and a half hours, "Road Rage" is a fine choice for those who sometimes enjoy the occasional shorter audiobook between longer, more ambitious audios.