Fast Cars, Sleazy Bars and Pulp-Noir – The Ride: Burning Desire #1 Reviewed

by Olly MacNamee

Back in 2017, I picked up a comic book called Plastic by Doug Wagner and Daniel Hillyard. What can I say; I dig black humour and the darker the better and this series was definitely that. In spades. So, while I never read the original comics, I was always going to pick up this new 5 issue series from the same creative team hoping for lightning to strike twice. And, while it’s only one issue in, I think we’re in similar territory with The Ride: Burning Desire #1 catching us up on ex-Detective Samantha Vega, who seems to have served her time in prison after murdering the killer of her partner on the force way back in 2004’s original series. Although, previous knowledge of Vega and her exploits are not necessary to jump on board as this book quickly informs readers of everything we need to know, for now. As I said, I never read originals, but I think I will now based on the evidence of this first issue.
It’s very much a book dominated by talking heads and sassy, clever dialogue as we meet the key players in this unfolding drama, set around a dance club (don’t call it a strip club!) where Vega has taken up employment as a bouncer. We get to meet the brother and sister who work there, with Sid behind the bar and his sister Nance (A sly reference, methinks, to Sid and Nancy, geddit?), high as a kite and in charge of a minor –  her own kid –   who she tries to palm off on Vega while she dances. Not the most conducive environment for a young child to be hanging around in now is it?

It’s a book that takes the seedier side of society as its starting point, and here’s to more tales like this. The disenfranchised, the poor and the challenged are not your usual focus for comic books, but it’s in these darker, ignored corners of society where true contemporary horror can be found. There’s clearly more to Nance’s drug dependency than we’re seeing in this issue and it would be easy to judge her as an unfit mother. As for her missing arm, has it been amputated because of her past history with drugs, or was she born this way? There are so many questions that this book throws up, almost tempting you to look out for clues after Vega early on in the book mentions the importance of the little details. Well, an amputated stripper – sorry, dancer – seems to  scream out to me like a police siren in the night. You work in a place like this and your life may not be going the way you’d hoped.
Hillyard’s art seems to have been scaled back for this gig, as the whole tone of this book is not as darkly humoured as Plastic was, so maybe that’s why the change in style to be more grounded and akin to the work of Evan ‘Doc’ Shaner: all amazing and seemingly effortless economy of line with some startling colour work by Laura Martin who brings the sleazy neon-lit and no-windowed world of late night ‘dance’ bars like this to life. It’s all popping-pinks, purples and cool blues emphasising the artificial nature of such places.

It’s a world that also informs the back-up story by the ever-amazing Adam Hughes who must really have dug this to honour us with his presence on art. It’s also a darker tale than the main strip, and one more akin to Plastic in tone, but without the sick jokes. It’s a story that also explains Hughes’s cover too as one of the dancers (who is seen in the double pager earlier on in the issue) is abducted for, no doubt, nefarious means. The artwork may be beautiful, but the story isn’t. That’s not a criticism, mind, but a compliment. Wagner has shown himself to be a great writer go the horror that exist just outside our windows; bloody, brutal and brilliant!
It’s like The Yellow Rolls-Royce (1965) but filtered through the sick, pulp-noir sensibilities of Wagner’s mind. Here’s to the second issue.
Ride: Burning Desire #1 is out now from Image Comics.

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