BOOM! Studios has historically done an excellent job introducing readers to great new character-focused stories, and that continues in Proctor Valley Road. Similar to Specter Inspectors, Grant Morrison, Alex Child, and Naomi Franquiz introduce readers to very believable young kids you might have known in high school, or maybe you were one of them. Set in the June of 1970, this series is a bit of historical fiction but is more about a group of kids in California who really want to see Janice Joplin.
Opening with the Janis Joplin song “Kosmic Blues,” we soon realize the music is coming from a truck that is easily tossed very far from a soon-to-be victim. The thing doing the damage is a tall being clad in chains. Smash cut to two girls in a Qwikmart trying to pay for stuff with a song. The story moves quickly, following these girls to a home, a third in the group not taking crap from anyone, and finally, a fourth where they relax in a hideout amongst old vehicles that could be a dump. These characters know their town, are comfortable in their own skin, and have a plan. Like most of us at that age, though, they don’t have the money to make their dreams come true.
Soon, we’re introduced to a few bullies who get on the case of a Black kid who can shoot well. They are off to war and because he doesn’t agree with fighting in wars overseas they accuse him of a communist. The time period comes through loud and clear and it’s abundantly clear the main characters introduced in the prior scene are open-minded and ahead of their time. In 18 pages, Morrison and Child have done well to flesh out these characters and make them feel real.
These two worlds combine as the main characters figure they can make some scratch if they scare these boys who are off to war. Little do they know the stinger that opened this book revealed something very dangerous is actually out there to scare them. The hook of the book takes much too long to get to, though.
Though we get to see a bit of what is out there in the darkness in the opening pages, so much of this book is slow, spending most of its time on characters talking about their hopes, desires, or thoughts on the world. Humor, action, and conflict are absent until twenty-four pages in. It also cuts away, which is further frustrating as we wait for more to be revealed in future issues. Then, the final few pages set up a less than interesting conflict for the main characters, pulling focus from the monsters. It does bring into focus the military, though, so that element suits the time period storytelling.
Franquiz’s art has a style that mixes cartoony expressiveness and endearing realism. The characters are immediately recognizable and the world around them equally so. Tamra Bonvillain’s colors help create a warmth that suits the summer setting and should bring a reminiscent feel to the story. The focus is on the characters and they shine through well.
This is a good start, but there isn’t enough humor or entertainment value in the interactions to keep things interesting while we learn who these characters are. Proctor Valley Road has a lot of potential, especially since it does have strong characters, but we’ll need to wait for issues #2 and #3 to find out if its mysteries are worth investing time in.
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