by Jason Wilkins
For a comic featuring a hot rod hearse piloted by a machine gun-toting driver with a bad attitude, one would think speed is of the essence. Such is not the case with Driver for the Dead #1 – and that’s a good thing.
Writer John Heffernan, the man who wrote the hell out of the screenplay for Snakes on a Plane, turns in a seriously strong first attempt at comics with Driver for the Dead. As stated in his recent interview with Broken Frontier, Heffernan isn’t just another “Hollywood guy” looking to use comics to make a quick, easy pitch to the studios. He’s a bonafide comic book nerd.
He knows things – things like new comics come out on Wednesdays and who published Nexus and Badger. It’s this genuine passion for comics that fuels his first comic book’s originality, craftsmanship, and ultimately its success.
Set in the Deep South, Heffernan’s plot unfolds languidly, naturally. That isn’t to say the pacing is lethargic or the plot overweight – both are quite the opposite, in fact. It simply felt like I was taking an evening stroll through the streets of Shreveport or New Orleans, allowed by the plot’s even pacing to relish the sights and sounds and shadows as they slid past.
Much of the plot’s balance stems from Heffernan’s fully realized characters and settings. Each new face is introduced to the audience organically and allowed the time and space to grow as the story unfolds, pushing the action as they mature. Hoodoo witch doctor Mose Freeman’s introduction and subsequent death in the book’s first act is a perfect example of Heffernan’s strong characterization. Although he may have only lived for 22 pages, Freeman engages the audience with his humility, charm, and bravery. His sudden death just less than halfway through the book comes as a genuine shock.
Heffernan’s script truly leaps off the page thanks to his artistic collaborator Leonardo Manco. His work here is absolutely phenomenal, treating the reader to stunning, panoramic establishing shots, dramatic camera angles, and expressive characters. Manco infuses every panel with fine detail, creating lush backgrounds and atmospheric settings with exquisite linework and an intuitive grasp of visual storytelling. Digital painters Kinsun Loh and Jerry Choo accentuate Manco’s beautiful lines rather than overwhelm them with cheesy coloring effects, showing remarkable restraint in service to the story.
Driver for the Dead is one of those books you’re not sure what to make of when you first discover it. Once you crack the cover though, you discover that speed isn’t everything, even behind the wheel of a souped-up coffin wagon. Sometimes, finesse and craftsmanship and a little care make for just as satisfying a joyride.
Read Jason’s review at Broken Frontier by clicking the image below.