Low Road West #1 of 5 (7 out of 10) Written by Phillip Kennedy Johnson; Illustrated by Flaviano, Colored by Miquel Muerto; Lettered by Jim Campbell; Published by BOOM! Studios; in stores September 12

Low Road West begins like just another post-apocalypse story set in the United States. From the first panel it’s clear the country is in a bad way. A re-purposed school bus traverses a dusty, empty road. A freeway sign shows the distance to the next two major cities; Amarillo - 166 miles, Albuquerque - 452. Amarillo has been crossed out with red paint, no longer there.

..

Inside the bus are five children, members of the Refugee Relocation Program, and their driver, on their way to San Francisco. An automated recording announces enemy threat level green, air toxicity level orange, and tells them not to leave the vehicle and to trust no one. Not even fellow passengers.

Soon, they have no choice. The bus jerks to a stop, out of gas. The driver steps outside, pulls a bike from the under-bus storage compartment and leaves without a word.

With no transportation, no chaperone, and no idea what to do, the situation for these kids is bad and it’s about to get worse. The world outside, on the Low Road West, is toxic and dead. Crops are decimated, infrastructure is gone, and dust storms sweep over increasingly large swaths of desert. Not to mention roaming groups of violent raiders, deserters from the military scraping out an existence any way they can. And that’s only the ordinary threats.

Low Road West promises to breathe new life into a genre that’s been beaten to death.

Whatever has happened to the land has made it… weirder. The group encounters a mechanical bird and animal corpses in an advanced state of decay that lift to their feet and walk again at a touch. And, when the dust moves in, a house emerges that wasn’t there before, then an entire town.

Something strange is happening on the Low Road West and if these five kids have any chance of surviving it, they’ll have to start trusting each other.

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Phillip Kennedy plants the seeds of a narrative, in issue one of what is to be a five issue story arc, of a suitably interesting tale. While the apocalyptic story type has been done ad nauseum, Kennedy presents a story that’s more fantasy than horror. Low Road West promises to breathe new life into a genre that’s been beaten to death.

Flaviano’s art is charming when it needs to be, showing innocence in the eyes of children left to their own devices in a world gone to rot, and visceral when the story calls for it. The image a child gently petting the nose of an animal whose eyes are rotted and whose intestines are spilling out, is particularly haunting.

It’s unfortunate that Low Road West is slated for just five issues, while a well-told short tale isn’t a bad thing, there’s surely the potential for a lot of story in the world this team has put together. I can’t wait to see where it goes.

Low Road West hits store shelves September 12.

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