Review by Oneil Edwards
Radical’s Driver for the Dead is a highly original riveting suspense tale that’s damn near-perfectly executed. To state it flat-out, Driver has to be on the short list for best graphic novel of the year. Written by John Heffernan (Snakes On A Plane), Driver follows Alabaster Graves, a specialist who’s called upon to chauffeur the corpses of the newly deceased that other drivers won’t take and the authorities don’t want to know about. When Mose Freeman, a revered voodoo priest, meets his horrific end, Alabaster is called upon to retrieve his body, with Freeman’s gorgeous granddaughter along for the ride, and transport it to its final resting place. Unbeknownst to him, Fallow, a ghastly 200-year-old necromancer who draws his powers from the realm of the dead, is scouring the bayou ripping the body parts from other gifted individuals and adapting their power. He’s also raising an army of undead and in hot pursuit of Alabaster intent on getting his hands on the ultimate prize, Moses Freeman.
Steeped in thoroughly researched black magic and peppered with witches, vampires, werewolves and the walking dead, Driver for the Dead delivers on every front. This book is so unusual it’s almost surreal. At the same time, the realism with which it’s told and presented is at once disturbing and highly seductive. Heffernan’s characters are as varied and well rounded as the world they inhabit is complete and true-to-life. Take note; this is a pro at work. Using the inherent mysticism that is part of what makes New Orleans and the greater bayou area so bewitching to its residents, Heffernan effortlessly works in multi-textured layers of myth and history that he carefully massaged into a coherent and fantastic story that goes places other books or films fear to thread.
Speaking of pros and textures, Leonardo Manco crashes the gates with what I believe is his greatest work to date. The illustrations are tremendous! Driver looks like a carefully edited series of sumptuous film stills cut-up and re-imagined in the graphic novel format. Manco steps up big in these pages with his oft collaborators Kinsun Loh & Jerry Choo doing what they do best in adding subdued, pitch-perfect colors to his gritty, dynamic illustrations. As an art team, one would be hard pressed to find a more perfect union. I’ve previously written that I was close to recommending that if you see their names on a book jacket you should skip the second guessing and either pick it up or download it immediately. With their thoroughly unassailable work on Driver, Manco and his painting tag team partners have only solidified that belief.
The one criticism I have is while Driver begins as a grand and intricate romp that escalates with slow building determination, the book’s ending seems to come much too abruptly and then just stops cold with little in the way of denouement. Of course, this may not be a failing by the writer and artist but simply my wish that the tale of Alabaster Graves would never end. Easily a top ten graphic novel release for 2011, pick this book up and get yourselves lost in the dark back roads and bayous of Driver for the Dead.
Click the image to go to this review at Comic Book Snob or click here to learn more about Driver for the Dead.