Every heist needs a planning stage, where the team is brought together, and issue two serves as that for Heavenly Blues. Following last issue‘s proposition by the angel, Barbiel, Isaiah Jefferson and Erin Foley have agreed to steal from an archangel. Before they can get to thieving they have to break into heaven, and that means recruiting some hell-mates to help.
Writer, Ben Kahn, and artist, Bruno Hidalgo, continue to impress with their singular vision of Hell, where it’s not about topping your worst nightmares but tapping into that defeat of this is it. This is the end, a world without stakes, and for not being so terrible to look at, it’s a place where spirits are broken and ground down.
Rather than pitchforks and monsters, Hell is an archive for history. In the same way prison shows consider racial divides, you’ve got Ancient Egyptians, 17th century pilgrims, and 30’s gangsters sharing the same space. Hell doesn’t instate uniforms so everyone’s dressed in period attire. They don’t mesh and nobody leaves. In Hidalgo’s hell, you realize hell is permanent because nobody is hiding when they come from, or how long they’ve been around.
There’s a consistency in detail that’s immersive. The expansion of Egypt’s role in the mythology builds upon throwaway lines in issue one, while Jefferson’s hesitation to involve other people in their plans bolsters last issue’s backstory.
This issue includes a flashback from Erin’s life and her character’s vulnerability leaves a catch in your throat. It’s a ferocious vulnerability, too, nothing timid about it, and Kahn’s writing shines (particularly) bright in her voice. Since Erin’s been in hell, there’s an understanding her story can’t end well, but when her flashback reaches the point where characters always gets rescued, you forget. There’s this second to snap back when you remember nobody’s going to save her and that agitation of being caught in a mistake, where anger masks regret. Set during the winter, color choices are selective and used to set the key players apart.
Erin and Isaiah are associated as a pair. If one’s absent the other brokers questions about their whereabouts, and the rareness of their relationship asks for comment in future issues. These aren’t characters who make friends easy so what made them decide to run together? And if how they met, as torturer (Erin) and tortured (Isiah), is the cause of their closeness, that’s a case study, or therapy session, you’d want to be a fly on a wall to hear.
Heavenly Blues might have its sights towards heaven in issue three but readers won’t be in any rush to leave hell.
Issue 2 is available August 30th.