Dark Horse Comics launches Last Stop on the Red Line today with a #1 issue by writer Paul Maybury and the art team of Sam Lotfi and John Rauch. The series is billed as a murder mystery with a Lovecraftian twist, but both the execution and an afterward from Maybury characterize it as a love letter to Boston, as much as anything else. That is an important distinction, since the first page of the story sees a group of revelers at the 2013 Boston Marathon blown away by one of the bombs there. It is a visceral and emotionally effective page, but since the crime was so recent and the images on the page so individual and personal, it feels like an odd place to start, given that the bombing itself has little to do with the larger plot.
Maybury, known for his work on Aqua Leung and Popgun, among others, is a gifted storyteller, but the minimalist approach to dialogue on many of the pages, combined with the monstrous and surreal imagery, makes it difficult to get a bead on exactly what is going on. This may turn out to be a creative choice that pays off later in the series, but for a #1 issue it is a bit jarring as the story moves through Boston, introducing (and occasionally slaughtering) a diverse group of characters.
One of the earliest scenes is strange, in that it introduces the first murder victim -- by not introducing her. We never get a sense of who she is or even what she looks like before we see her being consumed by a horrific monster. After that scene, there is a transition to new characters entirely who are introduced by a scene trippy enough that, when combined with the off-kilter humor and random violence of the first few pages, feels almost like this is a David Lynch-style project, where Maybury and Lofti are intentionally trying to make it difficult to follow. The thing is, the book is not quite as committed to its aesthetic as something like Aqua Leung, and it becomes difficult to tell what are creative choices and what are creative misfires. The book is ambitious and beautiful, but it feels like it will read better in a trade collection than in single issues.
The comic's aesthetic is cool, and its creature designs are creative and strange, but it all feels a little lacking. The characters you get to spend time with are compelling and certainly the second half of the book sets up some interesting story potential going forward, but getting there was a bit of a slog in places, and there will surely be some fans who take note that half of the women in the book are there to be murder victims without having delivered a line. It is an odd choice considering that the other half are likable and strong characters.
Featuring beautiful art and colors by Sam Lotfi and John Rauch, Last Stop on the Red Line #1 is a creepy and intriguing beginning in spite of some wonky pacing and unclear moment-to-moment storytelling.
Published by Dark Horse Comics
On May 15, 2019
Written by Paul Maybury
Art by Sam Lotfi
Colors by John Rauch
Letters by Adam Pruett