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The Ride
Review by James W. Powell

Bookshelf Comic Review: The Ride
The Ride

Doug Wagner, Chuck Dixon, Cully Hamner, and Ron Marz
Cully Hamner, Brian Stelfreeze, Georges Jeanty, Dexter Vines, Jason Pearson,
D. Alexander Gregory, Roby Haynes, Chris Brunner,
and Rico Renzi

Image Comics and
12 Gauge Comics
Softcover Collection
Publish Date
July 13, 2005
Cover Price

Now that was fun. I just got done reading The Ride, and I'm pleasantly surprised: I was expecting a few meaningless stories with lots of violence and a cool car acting as the centerpiece to them all. And that's exactly what I got. Then why was I surprised? Because I didn't know it'd be this much fun.

The Ride collects a number of different stories, the first and longest of which is "Wheels of Change" written by Doug Wagner. The story has tons of potential, but it turns out to be a cop thriller that's a bit cliché with its tired story of an old detective teaching the young star about the system. Plus, it doesn't stand up to much scrutiny directed at each character's motivations. Yet it's still a good time, even if you need to leave your brain at the door. The young detective, Samantha Vega, learns that her brother is in trouble, so she and her new partner investigate. Lots of action take place before the big finale, in which we see even more action. "Wheels of Change" has the fast moving, adrenaline rushing action Hollywood's summer blockbusters wish they had, not to mention one of the best shootouts on the highway I've seen on paper.

The next story, "Shotgun," is more mysterious and a little more intriguing because writer Chuck Dixon lets the reader puzzle through the events in each panel, but gives very few clues along the way. Who is this guy picking up hitchhikers, and what's his game? The answer probably won't shock anyone, but makes you think about before hitchin' a ride with strangers.

After that is "Big Plans," about a thief doing his last gig only to find that...well, that would be telling. Cully Hamner proves that he can write as well as he can draw, as his story reads like a perfect pitch for the end to an exciting con film.

"Iron Road" by Chuck Dixon is perhaps the lowlight of the collection. Here, a GI in the Vietnam war talks about the car he's going to get when he gets back home. But when he has to make a life or death decision to help a young boy, he realizes there might be more to life then owning that sweet, sexy '68 Camaro This story just didn't work with the rest of the more action-packed, fast moving stories that make up this volume.

The Ride Interior Image

The final story, "Language Barrier," is hands down my favorite. While the others might be fun, this one uses great storytelling and imagery to move the story along. In this short story, which takes place in Japan, Ron Marz chooses to present the dialog in Japanese, forcing readers to create their own story. The visual narrative is done well enough that the story flows without needing the explanation that dialog would bring. But what's better, Marz supplies us with a translation at the end of the story, a translation that may prove that the story was misinterpreted the first time through. It's a gimmick that works perfectly, making the story so much more than it could've been had it been written "normally."

Of course, each story features a sleek '68 Camaro in one form or another, but luckily, it only plays a background character and never becomes too intrusive. It's a nice way to tie the stories together, however, and the car does amplify the feeling of speed in these fast-paced adventures.


The Ride Interior Image 2For the most part, The Ride features some cool visuals. Unfortunately, the alternating styles create some problems in the collected format. I prefer my stories to have one unified look and feel, so reading the four chapters of "Wheels of Change" was distracting because each section used a different artist. Sure, Cully Hamner, Brian Stelfreeze, Georges Jeanty & Dexter Vines, and Jason Pearson all have remarkable styles that really fit well with the events that happen in their chapters, but their styles verify too widely for me.

Like the story, I found that "Language Barrier" was my favorite when it comes to the art, too. Chris Brunner's art is detailed, dark, and menacing; a style that works perfectly with the story. On top of that, Rico Renzi's "zip fx" create an entirely new look. The gray tones in this one really make it feel heavy and used.

The rest of the art in this collection are equally hit or miss. Rob Haynes' art doesn't really fit the tone of the "Iron Road" story, but D. Alexander Gregory's certainly works for "Shotgun." And while I liked Cully Hamner's imagery in "Big Plans," it lacked speed. It felt like snapshots of action instead of one, continuous flow.

Bonus Features
Now that's what I'm talkin' about. The Ride features some of the coolest bonus features I've seen, not necessarily for their overall quantity or quality, but because it's totally obvious the creators had a blast working on the comic and the trade paperback collection. I was a bit disappointed by Howard Chaykin's forward (which was a little too praising for my taste) but believe me, the good stuff after the story more than makes up for anything the collected issues might've lacked. You get five pinups and four pages of sketches/character designs from the artists (including cover artist Adam Hughes). You also get some caricatures of the creators drawn by Cully Hamner. But the coolest feature has to be the "creator's commentary." Here, Doug Wagner asks each of his artists to explain a particular page from their part of the "Wheels of Change" storyline. Their answers are both entertaining and informative. So much so that I hope there are more commentaries in the future, or possibly entire annotated graphic there's an idea.
Final Words

While I wouldn't recommend this book for everyone, if you're in the mood for some fun short stories that feature lots of action and some decent crime elements, The Ride might be just the thing for you. It's not perfect, but for $10, it's not that risky of a purchase, particularly when you consider the nice bonus features you get.


James has written for such fine web sites as DVDtalk, Broken Frontier, and Paperback Reader. He lives in Denver with his lovely wife and two cats who wake him up at 3 a.m.
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