Written and Illustrated by: Sean Murphy
Published by: IDW
Reviewed by: Kristian Horn
A comic artist’s girlfriend breaks up with him, breaking his heart. On the same day, his best friend’s father buys him a new jeep. When both of them get to the dealership to pick up the vehicle they are accosted by a salesman who laments their ability to comprehend what this jeep is really for. This is not just some ordinary automobile, he tells them. This type of car is not just to be used for just tooling around town, picking up groceries, and running errands. This is a Jeep. It is a key to adventure, a path to freedom from a world of predictably carved up roads and boring expectations. This thing is not for just driving. It’s not just for cruising. It’s for off roading.
So begins the amusing and well executed graphic novel adventure that is Off-Road. Once the aforementioned salesman plants that particular kernel of an idea in the minds of these two young men there’s no going back. They are set on course to engage in an off-roading expedition that will end up being possibly one of the craziest days of their lives.
Off-Road is a real gem of a book. Artist/writer Sean Murphy displays an impressive amount of talent handling both disciplines. Murphy’s characters are relatable, well rounded and, best of all, really quite funny. Mr. Murphy very accurately captures the feel of what it’s like to be young and inexperienced men out for an adventuresome time. All the dialogue smacks of being pretty much authentic to young college age males and the friendship dynamic between what ends up being three main characters has a ring of truth to it. From the opening of the book I felt that many of these characters were stand-ins for people I knew during my own youth and people I still know today. Murphy’s characterizations are genuine and the players in his story feel like they could have walked off of any college campus.
As great as Murphy’s writing is it is far surpassed by his illustration ability. Sean Murphy’s art is absolutely terrific! He is an expert craftsman who, despite using a cartoon-like style, is able to use it to ground his story in reality. Murphy’s illustration style is a cross somewhere between Humberto Ramos’s and Doug Tenapel’s yet his talent, at least to me, surpasses them both. Murphy is a master of perspective and his storytelling and panel layout are fantastic. With each panel on each page Murphy seems to be able to present a new and refreshing take on his subjects. It really was impressive to behold his mastery with setting up a shot from almost a perfect angle every time. What makes him an even more impressive talent is his ability to portray humor on the page. I’d never heard of Sean Murphy before but after reading this book he’s someone that I’m going to have to keep an eye out for.
This was a graphic novel that a friend happened to loan to me. From the first moment I opened it up I was sucked in. I could tell that a unique talent was at the wheel when my eyes saw Murphy’s art. Unfortunately, it seems as if the book is out of print…or at least new copies are not on sale via Amazon. You can get used copies but it’s a damn shame that it’s not currently in print right now as this is one of the better original stories I’ve seen put out by IDW. Hopefully if they aren’t going to be able to keep it in print Murphy will be able to find another publisher who can make sure new copies are available to anyone who enjoys a fun comic read with some truly dynamic art.