Title: Road of Bones.
Writer(s): Rich Douek.
Artist(s): Alex Cormack.
Colourist(s): Alex Cormack.
Letterer(s): Justin Birch.
Publisher: IDW Publishing.
Release Date: January 21st, 2020.
Genre(s): Comics, Horror.
My Overall Rating: ★★★★☆.
Stripped of your freedom, limited in resources, forced into physical labour. There’s nothing pleasant about a life where the future is bleak and dark. Not only is it physically exhausting but there’s also only so much that the mind can handle before unhinging someone. The mere thought of this situation provokes anxiety and that’s enough to tell you how despicable such conditions must be. But when the mind starts playing tricks on you, that’s when things get complicated. That’s when the creepy, ugly, and deadly monsters in the corner of our imagination come crawling out and make life unbearable. Writer Rich Douek and artist Alex Cormack team up to deliver a brutal horror story where imagination meets reality in the cold Russian mountains.
What is Road of Bones about? Set in 1953, Roman Morozov is condemned to a miserable and abhorrent life in the Siberian Gulag of Kolyma. Surrounded by hundreds of miles of frozen tundra, freedom remains unimaginable for these prisoners. While the guards serve out inhuman punishments to every mortal at their care, Roman Morozov secretly feeds a strange being with stolen ration and fears the consequences that he might face if anyone were to find out. Fortunately for him, with the help of this creature from his childhood fairy tale stories and fellow prisoners, a plan is hatched to escape the gulag, looking for a way out of this barbarous life. Collecting Road of Bones issues #1-4, this graphic novel explores dark corners of the mind of individuals living in a hell hole with nowhere to go.
Brilliantly blending horror, history, and Russian folklore together, this self-contained story captures a horrific moment in history while giving it a supernatural edge that keeps you wondering if everything you see is real. While it doesn’t break new ground and sticks to telling a linear story where humans are portrayed as monsters, it succeeds in illustrating a grisly and hideous reality that will have you cringing at the horrors that humankind is capable of when given the opportunity and put in the ideal circumstances. There is a certain predictability to the narrative presented in this graphic novel, but seeing it so well-executed is what ultimately makes it an enjoyable read, especially if you’re looking for a relatively realistic horror story.
With fear being personified in the supernatural creature, it is when trying to figure out what is real and what is of the imagination that makes this story so bewitching. With the help of artist Alex Cormack’s illustrations and colouring, the story was able to take a life of its own. From the beautiful landscapes to the gory scenarios, his contribution is impossible to neglect. His facial designs are, however, rough and scaly; which can be distracting at first until you allow it to represent the monster-like characteristics that are present within all of us. Nonetheless, the dialogue-light story coupled with the contrasting and expressive artwork gives way to an engrossing journey through gulags and frozen tundras.
Road of Bones is a straight-forward, gruesome, and crisp horror tale diving deep into the psyche of prisoners who would do anything to know freedom.
Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for sending me a copy for review!