Review: The Bog Road (Sub City Comics)

We were drawn into the world of Barry Keegan’s The Bog Road from the minute we saw that iconic cover with it’s title etched in the tangled roots of foreboding tree. But can this Celtic monster story live up to the intricate potential of it’s iconic opener, or will we get bogged down in the journey once we take a trip down the road?

Publisher: Sub City Comics
Writer: Barry Keegan
Artist: Barry Keegan
Price: €15 from Sub City Comics

Our story begins on the titular ‘Bog Road’ – the kind of spooky back road you only get in creepy horror stories. There, our hero Jim Brachen has a meeting with an enigmatic spirit which is part Swamp Thing, part Bigfoot, part Treebeard from Lord of The Rings, and it explains its history on the road to Jim. The beast is part of a race of swampy bog creatures, who have an  uneasy relationship with humans, a relationship which has evolving from being worshipped by primitive tribes to being reviled by the modern day work for causing car crashes. There is also a connection to Jim’s grandfather here. Our story then moves forward ten years and Jim is a broken man, we learn he has lost his daughter on the bog road and he blames the creatures for the death, along with those of many others. Along with the help of a local politician he rounds up a mob to go after the beasts.

Barry Keegan’s superb Celtic infused graphic novel is a fantastic mix of Irish mythology and superstition mixed with modern day horror movie morality. While it starts as a fairly traditional monster book it soon evolves into something much more interesting with an expanded story about a mysterious creature called Spoir who rides a fox and a cat, as well as the ethereal Barrow and the bizarre Stoney Man – all of which gives the book a very Neil Gaiman-esque vibe to it (especially with the mix of old world spiritual characters and modern day men), which is high praise indeed from us!

Writer Barry Keagan has created a beautiful and complex book that has a real originality and uniqueness to it. Pulling double duty on this one, his artwork is also a big plus for the book, with a style that reminds us of a slightly less cartoony Gavin Mitchell from Trolltooth Wars and has the same green and grey colour palette through which makes it feel very organic and earthy. The beasts have a very organic feel to them, but it is the supporting cast who visually look the most interesting (especially the incredible looking Stoney Man who looks like he has stepped out of Guillermo De Toro’s Hellboy 2) and some of the more mystical elements of the story are explored in the final third allowing the chance for Barry to really stretch his wings artistically.

As aesthetically spectacular as this final third is, the story does not quite hold things together in the way we had hoped. The disparate strands of the story do not come together in a totally satisfying way and you are left scratching your head a bit at the end, trying to decipher exactly what is going on. Which is a genuine shame as based on the first third it had the potential to be an exceptional book – based on the visuals and the premise alone. Perhaps with a further volume or some more follow up stories allowing us to learn more about the supporting cast and the world he has created, Barry can help expand on this potential packed debut and make things tie together a bit more neatly.

Despite this frustrating ending it is still a really interesting and highly enjoyable book and Barry is most definitely a talent we will be keeping an eye on for the future.