Review by Mathieu Doublet
Please note that this article has been translated to English from French; please contact us with any errors in the translation in this article’s comments section.
Alabaster Graves is a former U.S. military officer. After being injured on numerous occasions, he had an epiphany when he returned home in the company of colleagues who were less fortunate than himself. He became a hearse driver, guiding corpses to their resting places. And for Alabaster, no risk is too great. Being born in Louisiana, he is quite aware of the supernatural practices of the region and is ready to embark in his hearse, Black Betty.
Meanwhile, Mose Freeman, exorcist by trade, advanced in years, has not had much luck in his last intervention and says in his last moments that it is particularly serious that Alabaster be his guide to the grave. This connection between the two men is strange and will be accompanied by some thugs who died and are determined to regain power disseminated between very special people. Naturally, fate will make their paths cross.
Driver for the Dead therefore relies on voodoo, horror and a bit of symbolism throughout, as this hero does not know (the fool) that he was designed for a very special purpose. John Heffernan’s plot weaves a very classic split into three issues: presentation of the characters, action of the wicked, nice response. And presto, it unfolds. But, ultimately, there is a lovely atmosphere in these pages that mixes the sacred side of voodoo rituals and night creatures (zombies, vampires and strong werewolves). The character is kind of indestructible, taken very quickly from one shot (one of the most normal girl) then thrown into the lion pit, where a super-villain is a few steps ahead. If the resolution of the problem is very fast, it’s because it does not seem forced through the various plot elements scattered throughout a story that do not allow a final conflict to happen fast enough.
When I see the covers of Driver for the Dead, it reminds me a lot of covers for video games. The word “Driver” has certainly done its job in my perception of things, but in the end, the comic book is a bit more cunning than the covers suggest. Certainly, there are many action scenes, but also some questions to learn more about the characters or the action of different plots. Luckily, Leonardo Manco, who designed covers, also deals with the inside pages of the comic book. And I confess that in terms of photo-realism, the designer has made a very elaborate work, color enhanced by Kinsun Loh and Jerry Choo (whom we’ve seen at work on FVZA). Radical is its coloring as a brand, and in the case of Driver for the Dead, the result is really convincing. So I figured that Manco (already working, among other things, on the Hellblazer series) had his share of responsibility for the quality of the panels with their very fine and expressive graphics.
So yes, Driver for the Dead feels like a lot of Radical productions, a loss leader to draw a movie or a television series. The character of Alabaster Graves is damaged and it feels as if his destiny is revealed in this mini-series, but there is room to expand the universe in which he lives. However, these books are very nice to read as a horror story and fulfill all that one would expect of a story like that. So it’s a great and pleasant surprise both in terms of graphics and screenplay.
Click here to go to this article in the original French. Click the image to learn more about Driver for the Dead, now available in trade paperback.