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Phantom Road #4
Image Comics

Comic Books

‘Phantom Road’ #4 continues the series’ oblique, aesthetics-over-delivery mystery

A book held aloft by its striking sense of design brilliant color work.

In Phantom Road, there are characters who don’t even know they have secrets.

In the fourth issue of the series, while Dom and Birdie continue their standard standoffish relationship of half-truths and evasive answers, Agent Weaver’s kidnapper lays out a series of leading questions Weaver seems unable to answer. She is expected to know the answers; it seems, deep in the recesses of her memory, she knows things tangential to the answers.

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Phantom Road #4
Image Comics

This all feels like a striking metaphor for the series itself, which has taken great pleasure in revealing only minute details of its overwhelmingly bizarre mystery. Issue #4, like the three preceding issues, maintains a near-rigid refusal to provide any major explanations or explorations for the book’s gruesome other world.

That other world – with its ruined truck stops and its Ocarina of Time-style ghouls, is presented here primarily in flashback; people have been stumbling into its mysterious wastes since Weaver’s 1990s childhood, at least.

Phantom Road #4
Image Comics

The issue does offer us a little new information about Birdie – a quick snapshot flash of her life and what lead her to be in the car where we met her several issues ago; like everything else, this only opens the door for more questions.

Phantom Road #4
Image

All of this dense mystery and its long, silent plodding might suggest a book striving for a contemplative tone, a meditation on some sort of central theme or metaphor, but Phantom Road has not provided us with any such theme. That this, the penultimate issue of the first arc, continues to be so ceaselessly oblique feels more droning than introspective. Perhaps if our characters felt more personable or interesting – or even particularly likable – the book wouldn’t seem so weightless.

Phantom Road #4
Image Comics

As it is, Phantom Road’s density of concept, eternal silence, and compelling-but-dissatisfying mystery makes the book a monthly distraction to keep up with. Its aesthetics-first and delivery-second vibe is held aloft by artist Gabriel H Walta’s striking sense of design and Jordie Bellaire’s ceaselessly brilliant color work.

Phantom Road #4
‘Phantom Road’ #4 continues the series’ oblique, aesthetics-over-delivery mystery
Phantom Road #4
Without a central theme to ponder, Phantom Road's slow and ponderous nature feels empty and dissatisfying.
Reader Rating1 Votes
8.7
Brilliant artwork and color.
Remains compelling despite its flaws.
Seems obtuse for its own sake.
6.5
Good
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