Freaky Friday: Graphic novel round-up
Dead Boy Detectives, Vol. 1: Schoolboy Terrors by Toby Litt and Mark Buckingham (Vertigo, $9.99).
Glory: The Complete Saga by Joe Keatinge and Ross Campbell (Image Comics, $34.99).
Hey, Mister: Come Hell or High Water Pants by Pete Sickman-Garner (Top Shelf Productions, $14.95).
Indestructible, Vol.1: …Not So Much by Jeff Kline and Javi Garron (IDW Publishing, $14.99).
Nothing like starting the weekend off with some good graphic novels.
First up, Dead Boy Detectives, a new series from Vertigo, offers a new twist on horror, a sort of Encyclopedia Brown meets Tales from the Crypt. This origin story involves Charles, who died in 1990, and Edwin, who died in 1910—both were murdered at the same posh British school (think Hogwarts for the homicidal).
The two solve mysteries, but Charles has a habit of liking the ladies, which frustrates Edwin. Charles is quickly enamored of one living girl, and so they follow one Crystal Palace, daughter of a performance artist and a rock star, back to their old school—only to find that it harbors ghosts and other dark, scary things. Their efforts to get to the bottom of their own murders and save Crystal from becoming dead before her time are a worthy origin story.
Glory: The Complete Saga, on the other hand, is less satisfying—and, in a collector’s edition, much more costly. This attempt at myth-making tells the story of a goddess-demon hybrid who is the product of two warring alien races. Her birth is meant to stop the terrible war her parents’ races are waging across interstellar space, and it accomplishes that. The problem arises when Glory—er, Gloriana Demeter is her full name—decides, in a fit of teenage rebellion, to leave her people and come to Earth, were she will be a superhero.
She does a lot of fighting, getting hurt and sewn up by another alien named Henry. She’s looked after by a human named Gloria and adored by would-be journalist Riley Barnes. She’s got a little sister named Nanaja, and they hate each other but ally when necessary.
And it’s really not as good as so many fans have claimed. While Glory may have been the inspiration behind the Wonder Woman of the New 52—or so many fans claim—she’s not a deep thinker and certainly doesn’t come at the superhero game with more on the ball than a sort of “HULK SMASH!” mentality. The violence isn’t hard to take—it’s all very stylized and comic-y—but the lack of intellectual underpinning is; don’t buy it unless you’re a collector.
As far from reality and as deep into meta as you can get, Hey, Mister: Come Hell or High Water Pants offers up theological conundrums disguised as dumb jokes. You know you’re in for something weird when the two main characters are Satan and Jesus. The “Mister” of the title is identified as an amateur filmmaker and professional loser, so there’s no way this is going to turn out well for him.
And when God has a magic friend—Teddy Roosevelt, no less—you’ve wandered into the straight-up strange.
Satan shows up at Mister’s house while he’s in a meeting with a producer, trying to sell him on hardcore Christian porn: “The Intimate Word Video Series,” perhaps. And it’s immediately meta, because Mister understands that he’s in the Hey, Mister comic series, and that his creator is Pete Sickman-Garner. Forget about God; his creator’s got an eraser.
Smart enough to send readers to Google (“Georgina Spelvin”), and deft in building in traditionally orthodox theology (Satan is clear that despair and the nonexistence of love are the absolute worst things about hell, but people are only scared by fire and brimstone), Come Hell or High Water Pants is about awe and fear of God, coupled with a good dose of adult-child frustration.
Basically, Satan hates hell, so he goes on walkabouts, and he likes hanging with his pal Mister. Meanwhile, there’s a coup going on in hell. Jesus is in psychotherapy, long-term psychotherapy. Joseph is making him crazy. His mother worries.
And, since both Jesus and Satan are unhappy, of course they make a fantastic team!
While this may be of only passing interest to some readers, those of us with a strong underpinning in religious studies will find it both hilarious and thought-provoking.
Finally, Indestructible offers up a fresh take on superheroes.
In an alternate universe where mutants become superheroes and sign with agents—and comic book publishers—Greg Pincus is just a schlub, the less-successful younger brother in a family that only has eyes for winners. When he accidentally survives a shooting and the surveillance video makes it look like the bullets couldn’t kill him, Greg finds himself suddenly among the elite. Of course, everyone has demands, and Greg means to tell the truth, but his spotlight-craving roommate—and everyone else’s unwillingness to listen—leads him to play along with the superhero ruse for a bit.
That would all be well and good, except that superheroes are expected to be, uh, heroic. And there’s the little matter of the rogue superhero, Stingray, a gorgeous woman who’s fresh out of prison and mixed up in some very bad stuff.
This is an interesting take on the superhero mythos, though it’s bound to run out of steam early, since so many people already know that Greg isn’t a superhero. And if he doesn’t come clean, he may lose his chance with a woman who actually likes him.
Overall, these are all worth the time to read—but Dead Boy Detectives and Hey, Mister: Come Hell or High Water Pants are more worthy of your money.