Alabaster Graves, the hero of John Heffernan and Leonardo Manco’s Driver for the Dead (Radical Comics), is not the kind of driver you’d expect to see at a traditional funeral. A “scruffy looking” guy in a cheap black suit, Graves drives a souped up hearse named Black Betty that looks like something Ed “Big Daddy” Roth might’ve concocted.
His job is to chauffeur problematic corpses (a newly transformed vampire, for instance) to their final resting place and ensure that they stay down for good. In the first book of the three-ish mini-series, Graves is assigned the task of picking up the body of Mose Freeman, a recently slain hoodoo man whose body is of interest to a lot of parties working the sinister side of the street. It’s a dangerous job, and, judging from the crappy trailer that we see him living in, the pay ain’t that great either.
Graves is accompanied on his pick-up by Freeman’s college-age great granddaughter Marissa, who refuses to acknowledge what the old man really did for a living (to her, he was a “medicine man who helped poor black folks when the rich white doctors wouldn’t treat them”) and looks at our hero with a suspicious eye. Marissa is about to get schooled, of course, since a monstrous necromancer named Uriah Fallow is after the body. To establish just how much of an s.o.b. Fallow is, he’s introduced cutting out the eye of a blind fortune-teller.
Rated for “Mature Readers,” Driver makes good use of its Louisiana setting and its hard-boiled hero. Scripter John Heffernan (he co-wrote Snakes on a Plane, but let’s not hold that against him) paces the pulpishly horrific moments effectively, so that even when you’re pretty sure you know where a scene is going, its arrival still has impact.
His monsters are suitably nasty (there’s a great naked green-skinned witch), and our hero is agreeably rough-mouthed. Leonardo Manco (who has previously worked on another lone-wolf fighter of supernatural beasties, Hellblazer) catches Heffernan’s creep-outs beautifully: I was won over by the book’s opening featuring a snake and demon-filled exorcism, though there are other visual moments just as choice.
A strong start to a promising horror hero series.