I’ve always admired the work of actor Lance Henriksen. He’s been in some great movies and television … and – as tends to happens in the world of Hollyweird – he’s been in some not-so-great movies and television. That isn’t his fault directly. After all, a man’s gotta pay the bills, right? But hats off to the inspired folks at Dark Horse Comics for giving the man to explore one of his many passions – storytelling – in such an oddly compelling way. It may not be perfect, but it just might make you think about the world outside differently the next time you do.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
I’m all in favor of what often gets termed ‘vanity projects’ so long as these works serve more than just the creator’s ego. Minimally this would mean that the tale have a recognizable shelf-life beyond being told (for the sake of it), and it could in some large or small way contribute something to the ongoing legacy of storytelling. To some, that may sound like a pretty big bill to fill, but it’s actually quite negligible when you consider the vast number of titles available on shelves today for purchase. It’s just that I’ve seen so many ‘personal message films’ and read so many ‘personal message books’ that I loathe being spoon-fed some particular lesson by those who live in glass houses; I’m perfectly comfortable learning what I need to know about life on my own.
Thankfully, actor Lance Henriksen’s inspired TO HELL YOU RIDE isn’t one of those inferior projects. There’s a germ of inspiration in it – even a relevant, cautionary message about what fate may wait for those of us who ignore our role in being stewards of our world – that transcends the typical vanity work. Dare I say that the creative crew meant for the book to actually notice things in life not only so much for what they were (or are) but for what they have to potential to become?
Still, there’s an effect that pervades most of TO HELL YOU RIDE which may be the unintended and unfortunate side effect of having Henriksen’s face posted as one of the central characters: what you’re reading is actually a contemporary B-movie (think “direct-to-DVD” release) which couldn’t find a suitable mainstream outlet or audience. There’s nothing wrong with that, per se – as a purveyor of B-movies, I tend to love ‘em from start-to-finish for being so bold as to stay committed to a particular tale if for no better reason than to maintain originality; it will understandably always limit your audience to those who are willing to risk it all with a B-movie.
That said, TO HELL YOU RIDE does feel a bit long in the tooth toward its conclusion. Late in what would be the fourth issue, some new developments kinda/sorta feel like a late-breaking development, one that didn’t serve the narrative as strongly, as directly, or as obviously as it could’ve. The trade includes a terrific afterward which basically confirms some of these sentiments; and I’d argue that no matter how hard the team worked to include all of these influences that there is something to be said for maintaining a tighter focus. This would’ve meant resisting the urge to ‘pile on’ at such a late date; but, as they say, it is what it is.
TO HELL YOU RIDE is a trade paperback published by Dark Horse Comics which collects issues one through five of the same-named miniseries previously published. The story is written by Lance Henriksen and Joseph Maddrey; the art is by Tom Mandrake; the colors are provided by Cris Peter with Mat Lopes; the letters are by Nate Piekos of Blambot; with the cover and chapter break art provided by Tom Mandrake and Cris Peter. There’s a terrific series of smaller essays that serve kinda/sorta as special features for this trade; while I don’t usually point out the significances of such extras, these actually are quite good as they detail some of the creative choices the team made in assembling this particular tale in the fashion they did. They’re definitely worth the time.
RECOMMENDED. TO HELL YOU RIDE is a wild ride, indeed. It combines elements on old-age Native American mysticism with a kind of New Age “we’re makers of our own destiny” in a small-town tale of death, rebirth, death, rebirth, and death. It might be a bit long (methinks a four-issue mini might’ve trimmed a bit of excess), but that’s small potatoes when you’re dealing with a looming near-Apocalypse.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Dark Horse Comics provided me with a digital reading copy of TO HELL YOU RIDE by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.