22nd May2017

‘Freeway Fighter #1′ Review

by Dean Fuller

Written by Andi Ewington | Art by Simon Coleby | Published by Titan Comics

FREEWAY-FIGHTER-ISSUE-1_COVER_A_SIMON_COLEBY

I’m sure all of us of a certain age remember the Fighting Fantasy books series. I still have few on my nostalgia bookshelf in fact. Before the internet, social media, and online gaming, there weren’t that many avenues for escapism (I chose comic books), and the fighting fantasy books really tapped into something. If you’ve never played them they basically told a story with you as the main protagonist. During the story you would made decisions, and those decisions would dictate if you lived or died, failed or succeeded. They were great fun, even though we all cheated…

Freeway Fighter was Book 13 of the series, and moved away from sword and sorcery to post-apocalyptic Mad Max territory, giving it a then pretty unique style. It obviously caught the eye of writer Andi Ewington, who approached creator Ian Livingstone with the idea of converting the ‘choose a scenario’ book into a linear story. Ewington felt all the right pieces for a great story were there, it was just a case of assembling them in the right order. Simon Coleby, most familiar to me for his 2000AD work, signing on as artist is a definite plus too. So, the year is 2024, a virus has just wiped out 85% of the world’s population, and the survivors have to scavenge and fight to survive. One of those is former racing car driver Bella De La Rosa.

In the Mad Max-esque post apocalyptic future of 2024, Bella’s skills as a top racing driver stand her in good stead. Her life is basically keeping on the move, salvaging and scavenging food and gas wherever she can, fighting when she really has to. In fact the majority of this first issue is designed to show us how brutal this world is, and how brutal Bella has to be to survive. She’s no altruistic hero, she’s prepared to get as down and dirty as the other scavengers on the roads. She has also developed a pretty strong bond with her car, talking with it as though it’s a real person, something I suppose we would all do if we lived alone the entire time. After Bella survives an early brutal attack, which she returns in spades, she pitches up in a deserted town, looking for food and supplies. Thing is, someone else is also there.

Well mostly good, with a little bad, for this first issue. The good? Great premise and source material, great art, and great text pieces and book design, including the nostalgia of including the original adventure sheets. The bad? Very light on content. The entire plot for the issue could be summarised as ‘survives fight, goes to a town’. Yes, we need a little background, a little world building, but we also need some story as well, something to get us excited enough to return next month. What we saw was good, we just didn’t see enough of it. I’ve no doubt this will be a good title, but the entire issue would probably have been done in eight pages in a 2000AD strip.

What we did see was very promising, especially Simon Coleby’s art. With the minimal text and script he really took centre stage, and did a great job. This felt like a dirty, violent, nasty place, full of desperate people. The environments, people, and vehicles were spot on. It all felt cinematic, full of nice touches everywhere, and certainly grabbed the attention. Although Ewington’s script was a little minimal for me, I did like the establishment of Bella as a survivor, and the fact that he didn’t shy away from the derivative aspects of the book, but really embraced them. Doubled down, as the kids say. Overall, promising first issue.

The best compliment I can pay to Freeway Fighter #1 is that it felt like a low budget, late 70′s sci-fi action flick, peopled with B-list actors and probably made in Italy. Who wouldn’t love that?

***½  3.5/5

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