Route 666: The Highway to Horror!

Don't speed along Route 666--your destination is terror! CrossGen brings horror comics back to the mainstream with its new title Route 666.

Cassie Starkweather was an ordinary little girl, until her grandfather passed away. He began to appear to Cassie as an apparition, which no one but her could see. Thinking that the death was too much for her young mind to handle, her parents subjected her to therapy and counseling until the visions stopped.

Many years later, Cassie manages to find a normal life as a college student and gymnast (although the university's Office of Mental Health keeps a discreet eye on her). A freak accident in the gym leads to the gruesome death of Cassie's roommate Helene (the death scene made me cringe on paper--I can't imagine it in a movie!), who appears to Cassie at her parent's home one night asking for help. Something is after Helene on the other side, and she desperately needs Cassie. Goblin-like creatures violently yank Helene back into the other world, and she and the portal disappear.

As Cassie finds herself trapped in a mental hospital, the goblins return for her. They realize that she is the only 'warm one' who can see them, and now want to take her back to their master to find out what makes Cassie so special. With a little help, Cassie escapes the attack and the hospital, and sets out to prove to the world that there is a darkness dwelling among us that must be stopped.

To get a sense of R666's atmosphere, imagine the movie The Sixth Sense on steroids. While Haley Joel Osment could 'see' the spirits of people who suffered violent deaths and becomes more and more mentally unhinged, Cassie is plagued by spirits, black goblins, werewolf-like creatures who roam undetected among humans, and a dark place awaiting her on the other side of physical existence. Her plight forces her to wonder about her own mental stability. The images presented by R666's creators remind the reader of watching a great old monster movie, as the environment resembles America's 1950's--a time of innocence, while at the same time knowing that a great evil may exist just around the next corner.

The world of R666 is seen through the mind's eye of writer Tony Bedard. Once an Executive Editor with Valiant/Acclaim Comics, he scripted runs on Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, Magnus: Robot Fighter, Psi-Lords, and Rai. Tony later worked for Malibu Comics, Broadway Comics, and Crusade Entertainment. For DC Comics, he edited various JLA projects, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Hellblazer, and Transmetropolitan. Like many other comic professionals, Tony was lured away by CrossGen's creator-based philosophy, and now he pens Mystic, Negation, and the new R666.

Bedard's vision is brought to life by penciler Karl Moline, inker John Dell, and colorist Nick Bell. Moline had a scattershot of credits including Vampirella Strikes, Ground Zero: Widow's Progeny, and Marvel's 2099: World of Tomorrow before he received critical and commercial success with his work on Joss Whedon's Fray for Dark Horse Comics (see DMR's February 2002 issue). Fray is arguably the best limited series of the year, thanks in great part to Moline's fantastic art style. Perhaps his greatest gift is the wide range of realistic facial expressions of his characters. Dialogue is often unnecessary to understand what the person (or monster) is feeling or thinking.

Inker John Dell has worked in comics for over 15 years. His credits include JLA, Birds of Prey, Lobo, and too-many-to-count trading cards, covers, and pin-ups. His outlines are subtle and don't grab your attention, the mark of a truly great inker. Nick Bell uses moody colors to set the tone, where less-creative artists might choose to simply black everything out. They successfully draw us into darkness without becoming too shadowy, and flip on the lights when we need to feel a sense of security (usually a false sense!).

As fans of other CrossGen comics know, the yin-yang-like Sigil is a symbol of the struggle of good versus evil in the CrossGen universe, and there's a larger story arc unfolding with every sub-adventure. As of this writing, the Sigil has yet to appear in R666 and we've no indication whether what we're reading is a part of some master plan. So for now, just pick up this series and enjoy!


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