There’s no doubt about it: it’s hard to make car chases and races work in comics. Really hard. While these sequences are often the most exciting and memorable parts of actions films, they struggle to carry the same impact and excitement in the comics medium. Static pages don’t convey speed or changes in motion as easily as a camera and pages packed with panels struggle to keep readers in the moment. It’s a tough nut to crack.
However, every once in awhile something like Motor Crush #1 comes around and reminds us why so many artists keep trying to make it work. There’s a difference between difficult and impossible, and Motor Crush absolutely proves that an exciting comics car chase is possible (twice in its first issue alone). Reading it is sure to make you think of your other favorite car chase sequences in comics. After some pontificating, we’ve assembled a list of five of the absolute best every drawn. If you haven’t read these before, then be sure to check them out for some sure fire thrills.
Creator: Katsuhiro Otomo
When people talk about a “god level” in comics, there are only a few creators they can be discussing and Katsuhiro Otomo is one of them. His masterpiece Akira is lauded for so many reasons that it’s easy to pass over one of the best elements in its earliest chapters: motorcycle racing. Both of the lead characters, Tetsuo and Kaneda, are part of a biker gang in Neo-Tokyo and their late night racing and battles set them on the first steps to an incredible destiny.
Otomo makes you feel the speed of the bikes in every panel with precise compositions. Every figure, including the riders, bikes, and streets are measured to form a full simulacrum of reality. At the same time speed lines and point of view change your perspective and provide a clear idea of velocity. Each page turn during these high speed gang battles can make your stomach leap as the danger is just as clear in the asphalt as the swinging chains. If Akira stopped after its first few chapters we’d still be talking about it today based on these sequences alone.
All-New Ghost Rider #1-5
Here’s an easy rule to follow when shopping for comics: If you see Tradd Moore’s name on something, buy it. Moore is one of the most kinetic, refined, and stylized artists working in comics today. His approach to action on a series like The Strange Talent of Luthor Strode redefined how you could show energy and motion in the medium. He is a truly extraordinary talent who puts his everything into each new page. So when Marvel announced he would be working on Ghost Rider, it garnered a lot of excitement.
The five issues he drew that introduced Robbie Reyes (also in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) are an absolute blast. While the battles between super-powered gang members and Reyes are as good as you would expect, it’s the car chases and races that will really blow you away. Moore utilizes GPS, dashboard instruments, and a bird’s eye view to provide readers with lots of information in dense sequences. The cars themselves scream down the road as their forms are exaggerated with the energy they contain. He makes the concept of a Ghost Rider in a car really sing. We can only hope Moore decides to draw more comics that feature hot rods very soon.
Dead Body Road
Writer: Justin Jordan
Artist: Matteo Scalera
Colorist: Moreno Dinisio
Dead Body Road is fast, dirty, and mean. Those adjectives apply to the story and the cars that fill each of its five issues. As its characters are chased across a bleak landscape each of those issues feature an impressive set piece with cars that carve up the road and whose passengers aim to do the same to one another.
Before Matteo Scalera struck it big with Black Science this comic was a statement of his style. He conveys motion wonderfully in panels that are covered in precise lines that all work together to move your eye and the figures on the page. He stretches landscapes and vehicles according to the motion in the moment, and to impressive effect. His preference for long, wide panels helps to push these chases to the limit and provides lots of impressive spreads. It’s a mini-series well worth checking out purely for the cars and stunts.
Stumptown (vol. 2) #4
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: Matthew Southworth
Colorist: Rico Renzi
Stumptown is typically a small-time detective book, one that usually doesn’t even feature much in the way of genre staples like murder and conspiracy. When it does tackle a convention like car chases though, it does so with impeccable style. In this issue a single chase is carried across the entirety of the issue and to masterful effect.
From the moment Dex and her quarry jump in their cars to the final moments on a rising bridge, this chase is one for the ages. It’s all about timing and geography. Matthew Southworth captures Portland, OR with almost photographic precision bringing a sense of reality to all of the stunts, turns, and unexpected stops. Stumptown is a great comic, but it’s worth picking up this issue alone for the simple thrill of the chase.
Writer: Ales Kot
Artist: Morgan Jeske
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
The earliest issues of Zero managed to combine a different artist with a self-contained spy narrative before the series blossomed into something much weirder. Zero #4 is a perfect example of this set up as the eponymous hero pursues a much older spy through the packed streets and tunnels of a city.
The car chase here doesn’t consume the entire issue, but Morgan Jeske’s depiction of it is an excellent example of how much room there is to still explore and invent in comics. When the two men go through the tunnels under the city, he alternates depictions of their cars with the careening lights of the tunnel. It’s disorienting and provides a sense of the real chaos that comes with any chase. Those few pages are stunning and show the potential for vehicles in the comics medium, even if we don’t see it every week. It's a potent reminder to keep our eyes open.
Did we remember your favorite vehicle chases and races in comics? Are there any great ones you think we missed? Let us know in the comments below.