Comics, Reviews

Phantom Road #3 Review: In for the Long Haul

Jeff Lemire's latest comic explores how dark paths can lead one to horrific places. Discover how the mystery of the Phantom Road unfolds!

Phantom Road #1
Image: Image Comics
By: Javier ReyesFeb 23, 2024, 2:06 AM

Phantom Road #3

Phantom Road #3

Writer: Jeff Lemire

Artist: Gabriel Hernandez Walta

Publisher: Image Comics

Release Date: May 9, 2023

Format: Comic

The latest issue of Phantom Road introduces a new character that recontextualizes what we know about the world so far while opening new possibilities for the story to evolve.

If there is a brand of story that Jeff Lemire is a master at telling, it’s horror stories that are deeply rooted in a person’s emotional trauma. Phantom Road is the latest comic series from the acclaimed writer that explores the horrific places people can find themselves in from journeying down dark paths in life. Jeff Lemire and Eisner Award-winning artist Gabriel Hernández Walta have created a surreal world that’s a mix of both grindhouse horror and occult fantasy. Now on its third issue, Phantom Road continues its path of being another hit from some of comics’ best creators.

Let’s dive into my review of Jeff Lemire and Gabriel Hernández Walta’s Phantom Road #3 from Image Comics.

Agent Weaver arrivesImage: Image Comics

The Road Travelled 

In the story so far, Phantom Road introduced readers to Dom, a long-haul truck driver whose life on the road is his escape from troubles at home. He stops one night to help Birdie, a young girl who survived a horrific car crash that killed her fiance. After investigating the strange artifact on the road that caused Birdie’s car to crash, the two enter a parallel dimension where the earth is as dead as the zombies crawling all over. The two can only momentarily return to the living world through certain truck stops along the highway. Because they entered the Phantom Road, they’re cursed to painful deaths unless they complete the job put on them: to deliver the artifact to a place called Golgotha. Only then will Dom and Birdie be free from the clutches of the Phantom Road.

The latest issue takes a detour from the story of Dom and Birde to introduce a new character, Agent Theresa Weaver. As a member of the FBI, Agent Weaver was dispatched to investigate the strange corpse that Dom and Birdie left behind at a truck stop. The agent retraces the steps of the duo, unraveling more mysteries with each new clue she discovers. She eventually finds herself at another truck stop that shakes off some memories she’s long forgotten about her childhood. There is where we see Agent Weaver’s personal connection to the mystery behind the Phantom Road.

Investigating the crashImage: Image Comics

New Discoveries

While the series is only at its third issue, the story told in this latest chapter was a welcome change in pace. The first two issues read like a more traditional horror story of two people fighting to survive in a hellish landscape. This latest issue reads like a procedural cop drama. There’s a lesser emphasis on gore and fantasy but a greater focus on character-driven moments. When you first meet Agent Weaver, you see she is very cool and calculated in her approach to the case. Then as the issue progresses, you see more of the cracks that hide behind her mask. In this one issue, Jeff Lemire masterfully establishes a new character that offers plenty more secrets to reveal about the inner workings of the story.

Gabriel Hernández Walta once again kills it with his art style. This issue is more grounded than the first two, with hardly any supernatural elements involved in the storytelling. While events in this issue are “normal” compared to earlier installments, Walta’s art is consistent in building a world that feels gritty and captivating. Everything from the subtle emotions on the characters’ faces to the detailed environments of each scene adds greater depth to the story with every panel.

Agent Weaver arrives at another sceneImage: Image Comics

Final Thoughts

Phantom Road has been a wild ride, and this issue is the best in the series so far. This latest installment recontextualizes plenty of details established in previous issues. Hints sprinkled throughout the issue point toward characters not being who they say to be. Even Agent Weaver’s bosses seem like they know more about the Phantom Road than they are letting on. So, not only is there more to reveal about the parallel world, characters we’ve met have plenty more to reveal about themselves as well. With the issue’s final few pages dropping surprise after surprise, the final cliffhanger will leave you deathly curious about where the story is going next. 

TAGGED: Image Comics, Reviews