Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #153 by Drew Barth

A Long and Spooky Road

Highways grow legends. The roads are long enough and old enough that someone had inevitably died. How many of those hauntings have some degree of truth to them? How many roadsides have seen blood and the sprouting of ghouls in its place? Proctor Valley Road by Grant Morrison, Alex Child, Naomi Franquiz, Tamra Bonvillain, and Jim Campbell morph those legends into something eerily tangible.

I touched on the first issue of the series some months ago. The story has since completed its run. From the initial issue of four friends, August, Rylee, Cora, and Jennie, organizing a Spook Tour of the titular Proctor Valley Road to raise money for tickets to see Janis Joplin, the horror deepens as the series progresses. The road beasts are still present, still trying to kill anyone close to the road, but now there is a preternatural leader in The Landlady, who enjoys cursing anyone who tries to use the land she died on for monetary gain. All four girls suffer as a result of The Landlady’s influence.

Typical of Morrison’s shorter comic runs, Proctor Valley Road feels full of momentum and essential power. This five issue series could have easily been spread out to double that, but there is no wasted effort in the storytelling. August, Cora, Rylee, and Connie each get their moments to let their characters shine as they push through the breakneck pace of this dangerous plot, but the constant movement centers the plot of every issue.

Proctor Valley Road connects to an essential part of 1960s Americana that few modern comics have attempted. Morrison, Child, Franquiz, Bonvillain, and Campbell have curated weird ephemera of the past—a carnival among school friends, a concert, a ghost on the side of the highway. At no point do we ever feel like we’re outside of the past. We’re contained in the moment of a ghostly legend so completely and feel the haunt running through the pages.

Get excited. Get spooky.

Drew Barth at Miami Book Fair in 2019.

Drew Barth (Episode 331 & 485) is a writer residing in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida. Right now, he’s worrying about his cat.