Friday, February 24, 2012

Off Road

by Sean Murphy

Off Road, Sean Murphy's debut graphic novel was first published by Oni Press in 2005, and I remember it catching my eye, although I never did pick the book up.  Last year, after Murphy began to gain more recognition as an artist on things like Joe the Barbarian, John Constantine: Hellblazer - City of Demons, and American Vampire: Survival of the Fittest, the book was republished by IDW.

Off Road is a fun and amusing slacker graphic novel, fitting somewhere on the spectrum between Scott Pilgrim and Pounded (also all Oni books), although leaning closer to the latter in terms of realism.

The plot for this book is simple.  Our main character, Trent, is an art school student who has been hung up on the same girl since middle school.  He hangs out with his rich friend Greg, whose father has just bought him a brand new Jeep.  Trent buys in to the salesman's suggestion that they should take the Jeep off-road (it has a skid plate, after all), and does his best to convince Greg to do that.  After they pick up the jockish Brad, who comes from an abusive home, the trio decides that they should put the Jeep through its paces.

Predictably (especially if you've looked at the cover), they get stuck in a swamp, and this sets them off on a series of misadventures as they try to get the Jeep freed.  The story features abusive parents, incestuous white-trash ATV drivers, madcap backhoe operators, and a giant forest fire (which is a neat trick to pull off in a swamp). 

The three guys go through the usual buddy flick tropes of hating each other, and then reaffirming and strengthening their friendship.  There's nothing particularly original about this book, but it is amusing and an enjoyable read.  Murphy's style is much looser here than what we have come to expect from his Vertigo work, but it's a very capably done comic.

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