The subtitle change for this series signifies not only a new chapter in this exploitation comic done right but also a series shift in tone. Whereas Grindhouse: Doors Open at Midnight stood as homage to the wonderful films of the 70s that utilized the sex and violence to an elevated art form and beyond mere salacious perversion, Drive In, Bleed Out conveys a metaphoric, cautionary tone. Don’t worry--the boobs and gore are still there.
The difference now rests in adept scribe Alex De Campi’s shift to using villains for “Slay Ride” who resemble Ronald McDonald, Colonel Sanders, and, I believe, the Hamburgler (yeah, I could be wrong. It’s not the first time). Shayla comes home one snowy winter night to find her father and brother dead. Her stepmother, referred to as Mother Wolf, gets a temporary reprieve from murder because of the “black flowers” in her lungs because “The Cowboy” got to her when she was young (Marlboro cigarettes caused her some lung cancer for those of you who need some help). Shayla and Mother Wolf set out on a quest to avenge the deaths.
The indictment of a society plagued by obesity and vices like smoking resounds brilliantly through the subtleties of the story. De Campi never preaches nor makes this narrative out to be some lecture on temptation and societal ills; instead, she delicately sets all the parts of her thesis in place behind entertaining bits of violence and flashes of sex.
Additionally, the gender reversal of the atypical revenge story adds a refreshing dynamic not often seen in tales of this sort. Particularly entertaining is the character of Mother Wolf, an octogenarian more effective than Shayla in a fight. Take that, ageism!
I must also note that R. M. Guéra’s illustrations work so well that readers will feel shivers from both the icy setting of this winter revenge story and from the creepy illustrations of the monsters that haunt its pages. Pay particular attention to the panel where the leafless tree branches reach out to form a sinister visage. Also, the clown kids with mouth eyes will spook even the boldest readers.
While the name has changed, the quality has not dipped. My one concern is that De Campi delivers on the set up but wanes on the conclusion. The next chapter (eagerly anticipated by this reviewer) will tell if the new arc rectifies that one, crucial flaw in an otherwise groundbreaking comic.
“Slay Ride” Part One
Writer: Alex De Campi Artist: R. M. Guéra Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 11/12/14 Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital