: Route 666
(Click to go to the release post)Writer(s)
: Tony Bedard
(Click to see other books from this writer released on this site)Review source
: Jimmy Z
(Review 1) and H. Bala
(Review 2) (Don't click it, read the review here...
) " This is a very fun and well written series."Review
Review 1 - The current issue of this is #12. ROUTE 666 takes place in a place called Empyrean. Empyrean seems an awful lot like 1950's era USA. Even down to the paranoia of Communists coming and taking over. The thing about Empyrean though, Communists are the least of their troubles. Seems there are evil shapeshifters inundating their population. The shapeshifters aren't that bad, except that they like to eat the regular folks (and usually refer to them as cattle.)More info
Along comes the heroine of the story. Cassandra Starkweather. She has discovered that she can see the true faces of these shapeshifters. Their true faces aren't that cute. Not to mention that their true faces are a dead giveaway that they aren't really human. The problem Cassie has is that when she mentions these creatures she sees it doesn't go over well. Her first stop is an insane asylum. After being falsely accused of murder she manages to go on the run from the authorities. The bad guys have long since discovered that being in the positions of power makes their lives much easier.
In the early issues of this series we see her coming to terms with not just the new view of the world she can see: Also there is the ghost of her grandfather that keeps popping up and helping to guide her in times of difficulty. She hooked up briefly with a serial killer (which didn't help her too much when dealing with the "human" authorities.) And in the most recently completed story arc she got mixed up with a carnival.
The current story arc has Cassie in a position of helplessness. She was given a gift from some carnival folk that backfired tremendously. She no longer remembers the events since she discovered the shapeshifters. She can no longer see them for what they are. The last thing she remembers was the math assignment she had to do for school. But the bad guys are still looking for her.
This is a very fun and well written series. Even though Cassie is living a life that would best be seen on the silver screen, the creators keep it going. They manage to make it into a real life scenario. For all we know, it could be. Just because we can't see the monsters amongst us doesn't mean they aren't there.
This is one of the many, many comics I get each month. When I get home with ROUTE 666 it goes immediately to the top of the reading pile (in fairness, most CrossGen material goes to the top, but ROUTE 666 is above the other CrossGen titles.)
I give the series as a whole a strong 4 rabid fanboys. Issue 12 is slightly below par for the series, but it is starting off what looks to be an interesting new story arc.
One of the wonderful things that CrossGen as a company does is collections. Every comic they print they put into a collection. "Highway of Horror" is the first collection for ROUTE 666. It contains the first 6 issues for $15.95 (hmm…let's see here. I bought every issue as it came out at $2.95. That makes the first 6 $17.70. That means that the collections are a darn good deal.)
Review 2 - Bespectacled Cassandra Starkweather has risen very high on the National Bureau of Investigation's wanted list. A deranged serial killer, Cassie wanders state to state, fatally targeting random victims. She claims that these victims are, in reality, disguised monsters who prey on humans. Not too surprisingly, Cassie is an escaped mental patient, so, probably, not too much credence should be given her side of the story. But, then again, just what if...?
CrossGen Comics trotted out yet another gripping winner in ROUTE 666, a horror series in which the "what if" is the reality. Cassie Starkweather is a teenaged college girl and a gymnast, whose childhood mental illness forces the university to conduct psych evaluations on her. So far the unwitting Cassie has passed these psych evals. Until one sudden tragic moment irrevocably changes things, leaving Cassie traumatized and claiming to have glimpsed into the supernatural world. In her ominous vision, she sees the road sign "Route 666." Her horrified parents, believing that their daughter has regressed, check her into a sanitarium. And old hands that you and I are in the horror genre, we know right away that this is absolutely the wrong move.
I'm sorry, but hospitals and sanitariums creep me out, and now I know why: they're plagued by monsters, mister! For Cassie, being committed to an insane asylum allows her deeper insight into frightening paranormal events taking shape behind the curtains. She learns that she isn't crazy, that she can actually see and interact with dead people and, what's more, that she can penetrate the disguise of monsters when in their human forms. She also learns that sheer terror doesn't end after death, that there are dark things in the afterlife which alarm even the departed.
Cassie's grandfather tells her: "There is a war between this world and the next. You have been drawn into it because of your gift. The gift you deny even having. They know you can see them." That statement would sound really overdramatic, except that it's coming from a man many years dead. The spectre of Cassie's grandfather tells her of the Adversary, an otherdimensional entity which has shapeshifting agents placed in Cassie's world who take on the guise of classic horror movie monsters. These minions are bent on murdering humans, preparing their souls for harvesting.
Being late to the show, I have no clue how all this turns out. ROUTE 666 ended its run after 22 issues, running from 2002 to 2004, at which point CrossGen Comics went kablooey. Far as I know, ROUTE 666 Vol. 1: HIGHWAY TO HORROR, which compiles the first six issues, is the only available trade to have collected this title. These six chapters set up what I think is the recurring theme of the remaining issues: Cassie, framed and having gained notoriety as a serial killer, on the run from the law and from vampires and werewolves and other creatures of the night.
Writer Tony Bedard lends this series a genuinely creepy feel. Bedard's pacing is good, building on scenes of normalcy that soon enough give way to foreshadowing and strangeness. The first issue gets off on the right footing by providing a really disturbing death scene halfway thru, a scene which I have to say made my jaw drop. Tony Bedard makes sure that this is rapidly followed by other moments of gristly, graphic murder. Was this disturbing, off-kiltered quality sustained for the rest of the series? Hell if I know... but, if I have to guess, probably...
This series takes place in the CrossGen universe, on a world called Erebus, in the Empyrean nation. And, yet, in its feel, Empyrean echoes America during the 1950s era. Note the theme of Cold War paranoia which hovers in the story background, the retro diners, and even the name of the NBI director (J. Elgar Purvis). If you've gotten a chance to check out the pre-Comics Code EC titles of the '50s, like TALES FROM THE CRYPT and THE VAULT OF HORROR, then ROUTE 666 serves as a bit of home cooking, being in the same vein of grotesque and all.
The artwork may not be as accomplished or as realistically rendered as that in other CrossGen titles (SOJOURN, RUSE, CRUX), but there's no gainsaying the energy or depth of detail infused by ex-FRAY penciller Karl Moline. I'd like to single out issue #3 which has a two page spread of a head-on collision. This is an awesome study in violent force and impact, with the shattered glass, crumbled vehicles, and limp figures tearing thru the glass.
In CrossGen's line of intriguing comic books, ROUTE 666 has a flavor all its own. And, like most of CrossGen's comic books, ROUTE 666 ended prematurely, with unresolved story arcs. I'm actually very tempted to pick up the remaining individual issues (all the way up to #22) to see what does develop with Cassie, her semi-helpful grandfather, Sheriff Cisco, and the mysterious Adversary and that secret war being talked up by ghost grandpa. I do hope that this town to town scamper doesn't go on for too long, as a loss of continuity sometimes tends to surface (think THE INCREDIBLE HULK, the TV series). One thing which does set back the story is that not many moments are given to exploring the central character's personality. Bedard only allows us a brief glimpse of Cassie as a normal college girl, right before the creepy crippitycrap comes down. And then it's Cassie mostly caught up in a state of panic and fear, fleeing or fighting off monsters. But it's not only occult horrors which stalk Cassie. She ends up forming a momentary partnership with the Railsplitter, a psychotic serial killer she meets while riding the rails. Less bent are two more strangers she runs into on her travels: a Fox Mulder-type government agent assigned with nabbing Cassie and a sheriff who just may eventually join Cassie in her fight. If he doesn't get his throat ripped out first. I wouldn't put it past Tony Bedard.
Writer: Tony BedardPublisher
Artist: Karl Moline