Dead Boy Detectives #4
Writer: Toby Litt Art: Mark Buckingham, Gary Erskine, & Lee Loughridge
Overview: So far out of the new Vertigo launches, I think Dead Boy Detectives has been my favorite. This issue wraps up the introductory storyline, and although there were some aspects I didn’t enjoy, I thought the arc overall was successful. As this issue begins, our titular dead boys Charles and Edwin are in the midst of an attempt to rescue our teenage heroine Crystal from the clutches of the demon-possessed headmaster and his cronies, who want to use her body to house the soul of yet another demon. There is no shortage of demons in this issue, and naturally they want human bodies, cause we’re awesome.
Story: The story itself was done well, though nothing was exceptional, it was your standard save a girl from demonic possession, form a kinship after setting an evil boarding school on fire tale. I kid, but I watched a lot of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and this stuff was pretty commonplace in Sunnydale, so I’m a tad desensitized. After witnessing her only friend and classmate Hana become possessed and comatose, Crystal is trying to save her from the evil folks in charge at St. Hilarions. Edwin and Charles do their best to help Crystal, and in the end they all achieve a half-victory. I don’t know if I’ve fully bonded with any one character per say, but the three main kids are interesting enough that I want to read more so that I can eventually.
One thing I didn’t care for was the overuse, in my opinion, of caption boxes. We have three separate people narrating the events, along with dialogue, so things didn’t flow as well as they could. I found it hard to keep track of what was going on because the narration kept breaking up the dialogue. The art team is very competent, so I thought the book would have been better served to let the art do its part to tell the story, and cut down on the use of narration as a crutch. I felt a lot of the sequences didn’t need the captions, because they didn’t add much except commentary to the events, which didn’t help the flow of the story. In the end I thought the story was satisfactory, but I think it could’ve been a whole lot better with some minor changes.
Artwork: I’m a fan of Buckingham’s style, and it works really well in this title. There is a dark foreboding atmosphere to the events in this book, and Bucky’s deep, high-contrast shadows work well to establish that tone. He is also very talented in regards to facial expressions, he doesn’t use a whole lot of lines, but the definition and variety of looks he achieves is wonderful. The vacant eyes of the ghost-bullies paired with their schoolboy attire, is an effectively creepy design, I know I’d be freaked if they were chasing me around. One flaw I noticed was the coloring of the demons; due to the somewhat monochrome coloring, they appeared flat, and it was hard to decipher what was going on during the fighting. I think it would have been more effective to either pair down the elaborate design of their bodies, or add some depth shading to give a more three-dimensional shape.
Verdict: In the end I still enjoyed this issue despite some flaws, our heroes have now banded together, and I think some exciting adventures are in store for future issues. I hope some of the problems I had with the captions don’t become too much of a hindrance to the story flow, but I’m sure I will also get more used to the triple threat of captions as well. I’d say if you’ve enjoyed the series so far, you probably liked this one enough to continue like me. If you haven’t checked it out yet, give the first trade a shot. The title is a very good indicator, if you want to read stories about ghosts solving mysteries, then I think you would enjoy this; if not, then by all means don’t pick this up because that’s exactly what it is.