Devil’s Highway is a great new murder mystery story from AWA Studios. The first issue introduced a suspenseful detective story with a haunting quality. Issue #2 is out this week, and it features new chilling details, new deaths, and new leads for Shannon Harrow to follow. The first chapter showed the creative team is very good at telling a slow-build story that feels impactful and relatable, set in small-town Minnesota.
This issue continues to characterize and develop Shannon’s character very well, revealing aspects of her personality in her actions and abilities. It’s spread out over the issue, making it feel natural and part of the story. We see her scan for information, show a cat-caller what’s up with a smooth reaction, and see her take control of a situation when he’s trying to get information out of a prostitute with the greatest of ease. It helps inform us of the type of person we’re working with. It also helps us understand her father and add weight to the loss of his life.
Fans of procedural drama will dig this issue, too. The haunting nature of the first issue can be felt in a key scene involving a medical examiner opening up a victim from the last issue. New details emerge around the cult killer, but we also get a very natural sounding police officer talking to the examiner in the scene. That natural feel to the characters is expressed well in the opening scene involving a prostitute who is trying to turn some tricks in a trucker parking lot.
Artist Brent Schoonover does a great job capturing the personality of this character, who exhibits a wide range of emotions and reactions. These humanize the character and set in motion a sickly dread in your stomach when things turn upside down for her. This opening scene continues to show how well writer Benjamin Percy and Schoonover are at pacing and impactful storytelling. In four short pages, we feel a variety of emotions, question the actions of the characters, and are struck with a surprise ending. It’s an excellent stinger to open the book with, and it reads like a great first 10 minutes of a TV show before it goes to its first commercial.
Schoonover, along with color artist Nick Filardi, add something in every scene to enjoy. Whether it’s the the blinding light in the examiner scene, or the stale nature of a mechanic’s shop, there’s always something interesting to look at or decipher. It would be very easy for this small town to look and feel boring, but the art lifts it up where necessary.
Visually, one thing pulled me out of the issue for a brief scene. In it, a lot of red is used, and the depiction of this horrific moment for someone is felt, but the space they are in doesn’t quite make sense or match between panels. I wasn’t sure if it was a nightmare that was bending reality for the character, or the dimensions of the space were thrown off by accident. The scene does work more or less to convey the utter horror of truckers, but it threw me off.
Devil’s Highway is a chilling ride that has brutal crime elements that are anchored by its lead protagonist. It’s the kind of crime thriller you don’t usually see unless “By Brubaker and Phillips” is emblazoned on the cover.