“…you don’t deserve happiness”
I haven’t seen the Matrix but it’s that scene when the bullets are whizzing at Keanu Reeves and he has time to Gumby around. Misfortunes happen to people in slow motion. ‘Frozen with fear,’ helpless to stop or change it, you watch tragedy happen from the outside.
That’s what Bruno Hidalgo’s opening art for Heavenly Blues is like—where death is big and slow enough to be prevented, but fixed at the same time. Brain matter steals the focus—a shattering, conclusive image of violence—but this isn’t a Tarantino movie. Brains aren’t gory.
Hell isn’t brimstone and fire. The flames on the cover deceive and sell the comic like a show, “presented” with “special guest.” Theatrical nods to Shakespeare in this issue draw the showmanship out further. Alone on a bridge, main character, Isaiah Washington, picks up a skull that could be Hamlet’s Yorick and throws it into the water. A spotlight drops on a flashback, where a monologue would be, alluding to Julius Caesar.
Flames and stars are what get people in the door. Hell’s actual coloring is purple, pink and salmon. A man falls into the place like Wiley Coyote, with a powder blue exclamation point over his head. The frantic plunge gets extended to accentuate every “no” and outstretched hand, a cartoon where the powder blue lettering is the most cruel joke.
Washington is a philosopher who in another life was a Chicago gangster (his shirt, red in the 1930’s, is pink in hell). Fans of The Good Place will get another chance to question the binary divisions between heaven and hell, while Hell’s new patron tries to bribe his way out of a pit. Screaming for oblivion, Washington tries to explain that Hell is a Russian nesting doll of pits. Exit one and your reward is another pit, or worse.
Heavenly Blues acts like a cushioned hell, where the smoke isn’t ashy but fluffy, and molten gold is soft core Game of Thrones, but then writer, Ben Kahn, comes in with derision and its sick stuff, meant for adults, not children. Erin is the Devil who appears a nebbish child until she speaks. The red hair is on point, and the gutter mouthed kid is a shock cliché, but Erin isn’t an angel, she’s not sexualized, and when you think you’ve figured out her tone she’s brought to tears. There’s a concrete set-up for the next issue involving “sinners and thieves” being treated differently but Heavenly Blues avoids categorization. This is not the Hell you know.
Heavenly Blues #1 comes to Scout Comics this summer.