Blowtorch: Bad Roads #1 Review
“Richard, our protagonist, is a lethal ex-military mercenary from the strike team C.H.E.S.S. who wears a full-face mask to cover his horrific scars when he’s out in public. We catch up with Richard on the way home from his uncle’s funeral when he runs across some unsavory characters who don’t know they’ve just messed with the wrong person.”
You’ll probably wonder why our grotesque mask-wearing protagonist is tied to a chair at the end of this issue, right? How did he get there? To know that, you’ll have to understand how a long-haul car trip to a funeral turned into a goose chase. Now I know what you’re thinking… “Mike, did you just ruin the end? Ha!”
I’ve spoiled nothing because this issue is just one of several issues still to come, but it’s going to be a slow burn. You have to understand that in the silver age of comics, the glamour of introducing a character was the fun part of writing the story. It became somewhat of a game between readers and creators; by the golden age, most people just wanted the cakes and page turns.
I can tell you from a storyteller’s perspective that taking your time to tell a story means this first issue is just the pretext for a nice payoff. So what happens when you kill Frank Castle’s family? What happened when those Russian hooligans killed John Wick’s dog? I’m going to predict that you’ve seen those movies, so in Blowtorch issue two, we’ll find out what happens to redneck criminals when you steal a trained ex-mercenary’s car. So let’s get to the grits of the pages.
Igor did a fantastic job with the black and white. The blocking and grayscale really made the need for color second-class. Although, if there is to be action in the upcoming issues, the color would help make for great engagement and dramatization. The cover is an eye-catcher, but those who love color comics might feel cheated.
Either way, it gets the job done. From Kentucky to Colorado, our scarred protagonist is driving home on a call with Rowan, most likely a future love interest and possible co-ex mercenary. The conversation eludes the death of a family member. I feel the exposition was slightly longer than it needed to be, but I’m holding out for the payoff of issue two before I decide whether or not this is just eye candy or worth reading. After the talking heads cease, Richard stops for gas. I enjoyed the interaction between Richard and the store clerk.
“Y’know a clerk working in a place like this sees a fella in a hood and a mask walk through the door, he might jump to conclusions.”
The dialogue is really strong, so props to Alex for keeping things interesting. Some folks think talking heads is easy, but it’s so noticeable that it’s more difficult than you realize. Thanks to modern technology, Richard uses a Find My Car app on his phone to locate it. What bothers me about this, and what a good editor could have prevented, is this line of questioning: Why did Richard pressure the store clerk on the direction if his phone could track the car?
It’s a minor detail, but the little things do matter. It’s not a dealbreaker, though, so I turn the page to find Richard witnessing the leader of these two Kentucky punks chuckling to the sound of murder as their fearless leader teaches a lesson to his crew about honor among thieves.
After the execution, Richard moves into the farm-like compound. He dispatches a guard and takes refuge in a small hut, discovering a small boy bound. Richard, assuming the child is in trouble, is about to learn that not all kids grow up the same. What appears to look like a wayward, lost child in need of a savior is actually a son in time out.
That’s right! His name is Pete, and his daddy, Conroy, hog-tied him like a festival pig and placed him in a well-lit shack under observation for disciplinary action. Regardless of how you feel about that, it was an interesting and evocative use of a plot twist I’ve encountered, and it led to a bloody encounter. Conrad lost several men to the talents and training of Richard’s previous ex-military experience, but his attempt to escape further engagement failed.
So, now we’re back in the chair. Conroy got to witness Richard’s meatball-textured face. Pete puts out his dad’s cigarettes—gross—and the unlucky henchman Dwight gets to watch Richard while Conroy takes a beat. Probably a mistake on his part.
Dwight might be the first to go in issue two, but overall, I’m interested to see where it goes. Will the sexy Rowan join the party soon? What the hell is C.H.E.S.S.? Will C.H.E.S.S. make an appearance? That sounds like a G.I. echo-Joe’s group to read about. But for now, I’ll sit in this chair and stew in the excrements of my imagination about all the ways Rich is about John Wick on his way off the crazy farm.
Michael J. Florio
A true storyteller who sharpened his wit proudly at Full Sail University, holding a bachelor’s and master’s in creative writing for entertainment. After Michael became a Comics Experience alumni, he created his first independent creator-owned titles, Wild Oni and Iron Jaguar.
He’s a member of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Writers Guild, where he lives and works tirelessly on his future published works. Michael is a father of four, three boys and one girl, whom he loves very much.