Just Keep on Drivin’ – BURNING RUBBER One-Shot Review
Burning Rubber One-Shot
Writer: Hannu Kesola
Artist: Randy Valiente
Colorist: Lala Nariata
Letterer: Jerome Gagnon
Publisher: Action Lab Studios
I love a good piece of crime fiction. I’m especially drawn to heist stories, especially when they focus on the get-away driver. Most of my prior experience with this genre is in film. I’ve seen several movies I really like that feature a wheel-man. The first two Transporter films are some of my all time favorite movies. Death Race 2 has an awesome scene in which Luke Goss drives the get-away car. On the other hand, there are several wheel-man centered crime movies that I haven’t cared for. I only made it fifteen minutes into Drive before I got bored, turned it off, and never tried to watch it again. Baby Driver had a great concept. Although I made it all the way through the film, it’s hard for me to call a movie good when the soundtrack is more enjoyable than the plot. I’ve never been the kind of person who lets the bad outweigh the good though. Since I enjoy this genre as a whole, I try to keep an open mind with each new story. So when offered the chance to read an advance copy of Burning Rubber, I jumped at the chance to review a comic with a wheel-man centered crime story. I’m sorry to have to say it, but after reading this comic, I wish I’d just kept on driving.
For a twenty two page one-shot, Burning Rubber is a decent comic, but it left me very disappointed. The story revolves around Russian drug money, and the perspective is split between two different characters. The first character is the wheel-man for a group of thieves who plan to steal the Russian’s drug money. The other character is a motorcycle gang enforcer who has been tasked with guarding the drug money. One compliment I can pay to Kesola’s writing is that he manages an admirable amount character development, especially considering that each character only gets about 9 pages a piece. Beyond that though, the story is neither original nor exciting. The narrative is technically a crime story since it follows criminals, but the story lacks nuance and suspense. Even though it’s a one-shot, this comic feels like it should have been a back-up story in another, better comic book.
Honestly, this comic’s art team lost me on the very first page. Of the four panels on page one, three are the exact same image (with the fourth being the segment’s title). It just came off as lazy, and things really didn’t improve from there. Valiente’s artwork doesn’t really stand out. His illustrations aren’t sloppy, but they lack the refinement common to modern comic books, even those published by other smaller indies. It is easy to follow along with his drawings, but that’s not saying much considering the lackluster nature of the story.
I also thought that colorist Lala Nariata put more thought into coloring the backgrounds then she did into the characters’ coloring. There are several scenes where she colors a beautiful sunset motif behind the characters. Yet her other color choices miss the mark. There’s a scene where one of the characters has blood all over their face. Except the way it’s colored, it looks more like the scenes in Spider-Man 3 where the faces of Macguire/Grace are half covered by the Symbiote. Out of all the members of the art team, I was most impressed with Jerome Gagnon’s lettering. He does a commendable job of squeezing the dialogue into crowded panels, sometimes even working the dialogue’s lettering into the margins between those panels.
Burning Rubber is a comic that stalls out on the starting line, and doesn’t make it very far when it finally gets its engine running. It’s the kind of comic where if the cops caught up with the wheel-man mid get-away, they’d probably just let the thieves go out of pity. As far as modern comic books are concerned, both this one-shot’s writing and art fail to measure up to the competition. It’s like the creative team behind this comic pulled up to the starting line in their grandma’s station wagon, only to realize that all the other racers brought souped up hot rods. Burning Rubber is being released as a digital first comic on April 8th. I know Geeks everywhere are hungry for new comics, but this is a title best left behind on the side of the road.
Post Script: As I was writing the last lines of this review, I did a quick Google search to confirm the release date. In the solicitation, Kesola describes Burning Rubber as “Nordic Noir.” This sub-genre of crime fiction is supposedly known for being “dark and morally complex.” I have two things to say in response to the author’s description. First, isn’t all crime fiction supposed to be dark and morally complex? Second, morally complex doesn’t really describe this comic’s story, at least in my opinion. All that being said, reader’s who are fans of “Nordic Noir” may want to disregard my review and give Burning Rubber a chance.
Burning Rubber One-Shot