Devil’s Highway is a new murder mystery miniseries from Benjamin Percy and Brent Schoonover from newer comic book imprint AWA. The first issue of this five part series offers a delectably morose killing and a female protagonist who is after the culprits who killed her father in a small town. It has all kinds of dark and brooding atmosphere as it takes the usually cheery Christmas time of year and steeps it in blood. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The first issue opens on an all-day breakfast diner while a blizzard sets in. It’s closing time, but a woman covered in blood comes banging at the windows and is let in. Soon, the killer follows. We learn the man running the diner is the father of a woman named Sharon who wants to obtain the police records of her father’s death and bring whoever did this to justice. As the story progresses, the measured layout design and pacing draw you into the mystery as clues reveal insights and a larger mystery unfolds itself. It’s good gumshoe detective-style storytelling with a protagonist who is as punk as they come.
If you like nine-panel story structure, you’re going to love this. Schoonover, with colors by Nick Filardi and letters by Sal Cipriano, brings us an excellent example of how well placed, blocked, and framed multi-panel pages can suck you into the story. I found myself paying closer attention to the details, to the reactions of characters, and to the surroundings. The visuals are at times immersive, putting you in Sharon’s shoes wonderfully. There’s also a great comedic beat that plays well thanks to the framing that repeats later on.
The use of color and lighting is great, too. Filardi is one of the best — just look at DC Young Animal series Cave Carson to see what I mean — and the use Ben-day dots enhance the shadow work on the page.
This is a strong example of how well a comic can deliver a story no matter how ordinary the characters and world are. Devil’s Highway is a suspenseful detective thriller with a haunting quality noir fans won’t want to miss.