Freeway Fighter #1
By Andi Ewington, Simon Coleby, Len O’Grady & Jim Campbell
Freeway Fighter has an interesting history, it was originally created by Ian Livingstone as part of the Fighting Fantasy range of game books from the 1980s. After 35 years, Freeway Fighter has found its way to the comic book medium, thanks largely to Andi Ewington. So how does this very old title stack up three decades later as a comic book?
It’s impossible not to draw comparisons with Mad Max, and Ian Livingstone himself will be the first to admit he was a fan of the original film and American muscle cars. Livingstone gives a very interesting introduction to the comic that explains just how personal the release of this comic is to him, how after all these years the legacy lives on. Andi Ewington is also a big Mad Max fan, so the influence is certainly clear.
This book introduces Bella De La Rosa, the main character, as a racing car driver then catapults the story 18 months ahead as the majority of the human race is made extinct by an unknown virus. This leaves a bleak post-apocalyptic setting as De La Rosa fights for survival in her original racing car, modified for survival. Ewington does a nice job of introducing us to the past and present, while hinting at a clearly interesting back story for De La Rosa and her father’s reputation as a racer.
The artwork is stunning, and the illustration and colouring from Coleby and O’Grady stands out with some menacing vehicles and dynamic panels. There are interesting angles to the artwork that gives glimpses of the interior of De La Rosa’s car and puts you firmly on the road as you see tires screeching and suspension bouncing. The strong use of lines give a stylish look and provides great shading for atmosphere, while the colouring is vivid during full-on action sequence, but toned down for more contemplative moments.
Lettering from Jim Campbell is great, with plenty of emphasis on certain speech and exclamations, and the placement being perfect.
De La Rosa’s existence is a lonely one and although there is dialogue and monologue (her loneliness is demonstrated wonderfully by the conversations she has with her car), a large part of the action is silent. This works well to provide action sequences with no unnecessary chatter: it is a bleak existence and the fighting is desperate and brutal, pitting tons of metal against each other at break-neck speeds, leaving little time to talk.
The action is balanced against the need to survive and this means scavenging and leaving the relative safety (if it can be called that) of the car to find supplies, food, and, of course, fuel. This means there are moments of interaction with other characters and the story can take the time to build suspenseful moments. Environments can therefore vary greatly from on the road, inside the car or in a town/store.
As a character, De La Rosa is ruthless and cunning and would be right at home in a Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western (if you gave her a poncho and hat), a woman of few words, drifting through this bleak frontier ready to put up a fight when needed. The character design includes a detailed tattoo on her right arm, nose piercing and vibrant red hair that flops over her bandana and shades. She looks badass and has a definite aura of ‘cool’ around her.
Let’s take a moment to talk about her car as well because it gets a lot of panel space for obvious reasons. The car design is mean, aggressive, and modified to provide more protection and a spiked ram at the front to deliver high-speed devastation. It’s a monster and it’s impressive visually. The blue and red paint job remains from the racing days, so it stands out immediately against the metal-coloured enemy she adeptly takes out near the beginning of the issue.
The backgrounds and environments are rich with detail and they do vary. For instance, a busy stadium full of people watching a race is given clean lines and bright visuals, but the interior of a wrecked store is full of rubble, dirt, plaster hanging from the ceiling and dark shadows. The fiery muzzle flashes and ricochets are given bright orange and yellow flames and the weathered metal of vehicles is brought to life in great detail. Suffice to say, the art is incredible.
Freeway Fighter #1 introduces familiar settings and themes, but with a fresh character and new story. As introductions go, this is a nigh on perfect attention grabber from the outset. However, with themes and concepts not exactly being ‘original’ it remains to be seen whether Freeway Fighter can carve its own niche and set itself apart from the obvious similarity with Mad Max. If any of the themes above are of interest, you’re going to want to pick this up as soon as possible.
Freeway Fighter #1 is out 17th May from Titan Comics