If you Google, “Road of Bones,” you’ll find that there’s a road in Russia that runs 1,262 miles across a region of the world known for having the coldest recorded temperatures on the planet, outside Antarctica. Known as the Kolyma Highway, this road’s construction was a thing of nightmares. During the 1930s to 1950s, the Kolyma Highway was built in the height of the Stalin regime of the Soviet Union. There, the nation’s Gulags overflowed with political prisoners. Thousands of lives were lost to the road. The bodies of fallen prisoners were buried beneath the road, giving the Kolyma Highway the nickname, “The Road of Bones.” IDW Publishing’s newest horror entry, Road of Bones #1, written by Rich Douek, illustrated by Alex Cormack, and lettered by Justin Birch, takes place during the Kolyma’s highway’s infamous construction.
The four-issue comic book miniseries follows Roman Morozov who has been sentenced to 20 years of hard labor for slandering Stalin. But Roman dreams only of freedom and the Domovic, a strange creature from Slavic Folklore. When several of his fellow prisoners plan an escape, Roman joins them in hopes of one-day feeling warmth again. But out on the road, Roman finds the Domovic is much more than a dream.
There’s a certain brilliance to Road of Bones #1 that comes entirely from its setting choice. Horror stories can take place anywhere but with the right threat and place in time, you can make the backseat of a Ford Pinto into the most terrifying place on earth.
The sites of human atrocities or haunted houses, these radiate a special brand of bad mojo. Just being in one puts us on edge, launching our brains into fight or flight. Setting a supernatural horror story in a real, toxic place gives you the chance to say so many things. The tricky part, though, is accurately capturing the true brutality of the place, alongside your supernatural threats.
There’s very little supernatural threat in this first issue. Instead, Road of Bones #1 takes great pains to spend its first chapter on man’s wanton cruelty to man, and just how ugly that can be. The book doesn’t wallow in that misery though.
It simply refuses to look away, depicting the ugly truth of life on the Kolyma Highway. Cormack’s art only heightens that raw energy in Road of Bones #1. Everything in this issue just seems finely tuned to strike a nerve. You got to respect that in a book, especially if it only has three issues left to tell its story.
Road of Bones #1 makes a brutal impression that I’m sure not going to forget for a long time. The issue concludes with a scene that sets up the next chapter in a way that will be sure to have you thinking about it long after you’ve put this comic down. With its spine chilling setting and unflinching eye, Road of Bones has the potential to be a knockout.
Road of Bones #1 is available now wherever comic books are sold.
Road of Bones #1
Road of Bones #1 makes a brutal impression that I’m sure not going to forget for a long time