Pullbox Reviews: Road Trip to Hell #2 – Enter… the Angel of Death! No, not him… the other one

In the first issue, Francis discovers his father is the devil, who has been mysteriously killed. Now, Francis has been named the new king of Hell. But everyone in Hell has been freed and if they kill him, they can become the new ruler of Hell. He needs to get to Hell in order to claim his throne.

In the second issue, Francis and his new guardian angel, Joan of Arc, must go to the Angel of Mercy hospital, which has been taken over by Nazis! Francis must go toe-to-toe with Adolf Hitler himself to save his sister. 

Wow… Okay, so there’s a lot to take in here, and the story moves pretty fast. If you’re reading this but you haven’t gotten hold of the first issue yet, you’re gonna wanna do that. Go ahead, I’ll wait…

You back?

How ‘bout now? Great!

So picking up on the events of the opening issue of Road Trip to Hell (I’m serious, check it out or you’re gonna be screwed), a whole mess of chaos has introduced itself into the life of Francis Rhoades. Turns out, he’s the Son of Satan- not the Marvel™ Comics version that my Mom hated me reading as a kid- and has been named the sole beneficiary for all of the Devil’s powers and authority in the event of his demise. Which has totally happened (yeah, the Devil’s dead… I told you read the first issue). In order to claim his rightful place as the King of Hell, Francis (gonna have to do something about that name if he’s planning to rule over all of Damnation) has only to set foot inside the Infernal Gates. Until that time, he remains mortal and extremely vulnerable as there are those who would cheerfully kill him to usurp his birthright.

Like Hitler. Adolph. Cuz of course, who else?

In order to draw Francis into a trap to accomplish that very thing, Hitler and his gang have seized control of the Angel of Mercy Hospital, where the fledgling Hell King’s sister, Star, is recuperating after a procedure (details of the procedure are protected by HIPA law… if you wanna know more, get the first book). The terms are simple: Francis is to surrender himself to Hitler immediately, or Star and everyone else at the hospital will die horribly. Thankfully, Francis isn’t alone in his quest to claim his birthright… In a surprising turn of events, it happens that God is actually looking forward to the pending change of leadership in Hell, and to that end has sent a protector to aid Francis on his way. If you’re going to be fighting undead Nazi demons who have escaped from the Underworld and plan to unleash Hell on Earth, you could do worse than having Joan d’Arc at your side.

Jeeze, who comes up with this stuff?

I can answer that, because it was actually creator/writer Nicole D’Andria who sent me the first two issues of Road Trip to Hell, in the hopes that thePullbox could see fit to show her book some love. As it happens, that’s the easy part. D’Andria has put together an entertaining story that moves fast, turns on a dime, and features an interesting cast of characters, both fictional and historical. Even the demon lord Baphomet came across as kinda likable… y’know, for an infernal being of pure evil. D’Andria’s protagonist, Francis, is a pretty normal dude, with the exception of his psychic ability to see the future for whoever he touches- but only the really BAD stuff. Despite the ongoing horror show that brings him, Francis remains relatively upbeat about things and continues to use his gifts to help others. His sister, Star, is as indomitable and gosh-darn likeable as he is, and seems to embody a “never give up, never surrender” attitude that will serve her well in this issue when she meets the “Angel of Death”. For her part, Nicole D’Andria has successfully found the balance in tone for a story with this kind of left-of-center premise. The comedy is dark and rapid fire, with dialogue that embraces banter without tipping too far over into goofy, and she throws enough curveballs to keep a reader guessing.

The art laid down by Marco Maccagni serves the attitude of the story well. It’s got a frenetic style to it that pulls in elements of manga, using them to highlight certain character traits. Maccagni’s style also does a great job of “toonifying” some of the story elements that could have come out overwhelmingly dark if the tone of the book hadn’t been more comedic. Assisting on that venture, Joaquin Pereyra maintains the fairly bright tone of the story with a relatively bright color palette. What I really like about Pereyra’s colors is how the emphasis is really laid into atmosphere, with shadowy figures backlit in doorways, light fixtures producing a hazy sort of diffused effect, & a variety of background colors that underscore the action in the panel. The visual appeal of Road Trip to Hell is rounded out through the lettering of Justin Birch. While the dialogue is relatively straightforward in style, not overdone to the point that the artwork is overshadowed or obstructed, Birch slips in some tweaks here and there that work great as a punctuating factor for what’s happening on the page.

If you’re on the prowl for something seriously grim and gritty, with supernatural elements that will test your reading fortitude and maybe keep you up at night… this probably isn’t gonna be it. However, if you’re looking for a farcical romp of a story about Hell, Hitler, torture, and demons seeking to rule over all of Creation, I don’t think you’re going to have to look any farther than Road Trip to Hell. The chaotic pace and flip on a dime plot twists could work to keep you from thinking too hard about why Joan of Arc would be helping the future King of Perdition, why we’ve all put so much trust in Baphomet, or who let all of these demons out of their cells to cause mischief in the first place.

Final Score: 8.5

Cover to issue #1
Demonic wake up from issue 1
Siblings… am I right? (Issue 1)
Seeing the future sucks (Issue 1)

Finally, here’s some preview pages from issue 2 (courtesy of the Kickstarter page)

No, really… it’s a comedy!
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