Road Rage

Road RageSummary: Acclaimed novelist/Eisner-winning graphic novelist Joe Hill collaborated with his father, Stephen King, in Throttle, for the first time on a tale that paid tribute to Richard Matheson’s classic tale, Duel. Now, IDW is proud to present comic-book tellings of both stories in Road Rage, adapted by Chris Ryall with art by Nelson Daniel and Rafa Garres.

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Road Rage, by Stephen King, Richard Matheson and Joe Hill; adapted by Chris Ryall, Nelson Daniel and Raffa Garres 7.0

‘Road Rage’ is a 4-part mini-series published by IDW in 2012. It consists of two short stories: “Throttle”, by Stephen King and Joe Hill, and “Duel”, by Richard Matheson. “Throttle” is actually inspired by “Duel”, meaning that ‘Road Rage’ offers two versions of a similar tale spread over two issues each.

As an old fan of Stephen King, a growing fan of Joe Hill and a mild fan of Richard Matheson, ‘Road Rage’ was of immediate interest to me. I actually didn’t know that the book was inspired by “Duel” when I first picked it up, but as a fan of the movie version (which Matheson also wrote) I was excited to find out.

The backstory is that Joe Hill and his dad used to drive around together and pretend that they were the protagonists in “Duel”, which is about a salesman who, on the road to San Francisco, winds up being chased by -and fighting off- an aggressive trucker. They would invent exciting outcomes together.

In 2009, Joe Hill was approached to write a story for a Richard Matheson tribute anthology, and he saw it as an opportunity to revisit the material that gave him and his dad so much fun 35 years prior. King, a huge Matheson fan, was obviously thrilled at the notion of this collaboration. Thus “Throttle” was born.

Their version of the tale, put to the page by Nelson Daniel, revolves around a biker gang called The Tribe, who after a meth deal gone wrong are making their way to Vegas. Along the way, however, they end up being chased by a mysterious trucker who quickly makes his deadly intentions known.

What makes this version interesting is the backstory and the dynamics between Vince, the leader, and Race, his son, who has garnered the loyalty of most of the gang. There’s a power struggle developing but it’s mostly about Race’s desire for emancipation from his father. This makes the story a little bit meatier.

Of course, I haven’t read the original novella, but the graphic novel version lacks the intensity of King, Hill or even the screen version of ‘Duel’. It’s a decent enough read, but the whole is lesser than the sum of its parts. At least the art is pleasing to the eye, with Daniel affecting a slick but cartoony style.

“Duel”, however, is far more suspenseful. It takes us on the road with Mann and ratchets up the tension by isolating our protagonist in the middle of nowhere, alone with this massive tanker truck that he can’t seem to break away from. The grimy monster casts an inescapable shadow over him and the story.

And soon he comes to realize that the trucker won’t allow him to escape – no matter the cost.

What works best about this story is that we never see the trucker and don’t know his motivation – it makes him inhuman and instills a certain level of paranoia. And when his intentions are made abundantly clear, by waving Mann past him just as another vehicle is coming, we know that almost anything could happen.

Brrrr…

Garres’ art is much grittier than Daniel’s, but this adds to the story tremendously; it obscures and distorts the details in a way that falls in league with Matheson’s original tale. Unfortunately, the storytelling isn’t always as coherent as it is inventive – there are moments that are poorly-rendered, like the ending itself.

Still, all told, ‘Road Rage’ was an interesting exercise in style. By giving us two different adaptations of  the source material (adapted here by Chris Ryall), it allows us to gain perspective on the strengths of each. I really enjoy doing that sort of comparison. Having said that, I still much prefer Steven Spielberg’s adaptation.

But now I’m quite curious to read Matheson’s original.

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