Story – Rich Douek
Art – Alex Cormack
Letters – Justin Birch
Issue 2 of RoB continues us down the dark path of genuine terror. After setting a powerful, impactful, and down right grim tone with the opening of the book Road of Bones has pushed right on through to the other side of being scared. I don’t mean scared as in the Killer Clown jack in the box laundry basket type of jump scare, no, I mean truly being frightened. When the lesser of two evils is the borderline torture camp designed to impart maximum suffering and suck the will to live out of you … I can’t say enough about the setting of RoB. Even though the book doesn’t pull up the framework stud by stud there is no lack of understanding the house of horrors this book takes place in.
The house is not conventional though. As you thought those barbed wire fences were the metaphorical walls, the true terror gazed at you from beyond. Fittingly the frozen Siberian landscape forebodes outside the confines (not comfort) of the gulag. Yes there’s literal back breaking “work” and regular beatings for literally nothing that the prisoners must suffer through. Sure there’s food but it’s scarce and not actually the sustenance one needs to maintain that living thing we’re all fond of. To put it simply, RoB gives us the gulag in the exact fashion in which you’d dream it to be and yet there’s so much more to it. Why? Well, that’s on us and those lovely little places our minds go when left to itself. THAT is the hook with Road of Bones and the second issue plays on those mental travels in a horrifyingly wonderful way. Just like the first issue of the story gave you what you needed visually to get your head off to the races.
Having made the escape and set off on the mad dash to freedom, Roman has begun to figure out that the horrors of man and the mind far outweigh the horrors of the gulag. Even if horrific in its own right, the gulag provided rudimentary shelter and the briefest of reprieves from the unforgiving Siberian tundra. The tantalizingly sparse food was still something you could be assured of more regularly than what the snow and ice covered terrain promised to offer up. With what’s directly in front of us being that which captivates our active thought it’s easy to see how we can be oblivious to bigger picture aspects of a situation. It’s even easier to see how that type of thinking would fail to load in a situation as dire as that of being in the gulag. The saying “be careful what you wish for because you just might get it” applies rather on the nose here for Roman. Of course you’d want to escape the gulag and have your shot at regaining your freedom. This is especially true for someone that was sentenced to imprisonment for something as simple as expressing an opinion. Some would say that hope is the invisible driver of this story. For me though, issue 2 bangs home something else entirely. The overbearing sense of dread that comes wave after wave is what’s got the steering wheel in Road of Bones.
Fresh out of the frying pan and into the fire … this phrase is apropos for Roman’s plight. Everything unimaginable that he’d fled by slipping through the barbed wire and dashing out into the cold dead night is now proving to be just the start of the terrors. The Siberian wilderness stretches on for what may as well be forever in regards to three poor souls trying to escape the gulag. With the unforgiving environment now seemingly the adversary, Roman discovers that all new horrors have replaced those he left behind. In the gulag it was all direct. Beatings for this, withheld rations for that, and the overall miserable conditions in general were right there before all to see. No surprises or closet horrors to jump out at you in the night. Out in the Siberian unknown though? There’s no telling what the horrors are or where they’ll come from. Certainly the others sharing the dread lined ‘road’ ahead with you would be the least of your worries, right? Road of Bones is a tale of survival, remember. The first issue made it clear that the brutality of truth would be front and center. Some of those truths are given while others are allowed to fester and rise up on their own to become dreadful realizations.
This dreadful realization is what Roman has to deal with in issue 2. It’s survival after all …
Continue the trek on the Road of Bones THIS NCBD JUNE 26th!
HUGE congratulations to the creative team as Road of Bones #1 has gone to a THIRD PRINTING and features this beaut of a cover: