"Satan's Prep" Graphic Novel Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Sky Pony Press
Written by Gabe Guarente
Illustrated by Dave Fox, Luis Chichon, and Tricia Van den Bergh
2014, 112 Pages
Graphic novel released on August 5th, 2014
Did anyone actually like high school? It seems like a universal truth that it sucked for everyone, even the popular kids. It certainly wasn't Trevor Loomis' favorite thing in the world. You'd think that after he died, he'd get a break from the tedium of high school. Unfortunately for him, he's in Hell and there's a whole new curriculum at Satan's Prep. When he's not dodging the demon jock bullies, he's being disemboweled for biology class or being yelled at by the three-headed dog of a principal.
The idea that Hell is the worst high school in existence doesn't sound all that far off. It would make sense that it would be torture for just about everyone. Writer Gabe Guarante paints a pretty dismal picture, from the most violent game of dodgeball ever in gym class to a health class where you learn about the human body by watching videos of your parents getting it on.
Satan's Prep is filled with some basic student stereotypes. Moloch is the demon version of the high school jock, sporting a letterman's jacket and being a genuine dick to everyone around. Miles is the preppy douchebag that was often played on screen in the 1980s by Billy Zapka. Then there's the misunderstood goth beauty, Persephone, whom Travis instantly falls in love with.
This brings me to Travis. He's basically a lump. He didn't do much in life and he's not doing much in death. This is matched in the artwork, especially in the first two chapters handled by Dave Fox. Travis is almost always shown with his eyes half closed, like he's drowsy or bored. He's completely apathetic regarding his surroundings, going through the motions to make the day go by. If that means he needs to have his chest cavity ripped open for class or hung by a dozen different hooks by the school bully, so be it. It's tough to relate to him because there's a void where his personality should be. I don't feel sorry for him. He just annoys me.
Granted, I'm not the exact target audience for Satan's Prep, as this is a young adult comic, geared towards people that are more in line with Travis' age. That being said, it's tough to relate to him as he doesn't really try at anything. By the time he finds some sort of purpose, I had already stopped caring about him. It was too little, too late. I get that high school sucks and teenagers hate the world, but Travis gives new meaning to the term "stick in the mud."
The artwork for Satan's Prep is split between three artists: Dave Fox, Luis Chichon, and Tricia Van den Bergh. Fox handles the first two chapters, with Chichon and Van den Bergh handling the third and fourth, respectively. Fox definitely sets the look and feel of the book with a very dour style, cementing the hopelessness and dread that fills the halls of the school. The other two artists are fine, but they don't quite match the pace that Fox started out with.
There are many subtle sight gags spread through the comic as reminders that this place is in Hell while also being a high school. Instead of a pep rally, the school has an "angst rally." Things like chapters or scores in the dodgeball game use Roman numerals instead of numbers. These little tidbits add some fun to the comic.
Satan's Prep is a pretty great idea with a boring main character. It's a nice horror spin on your typical high school story, complete with a cover image that's an homage to The Breakfast Club. The ending leaves things open for more stories. I just hope that Travis grows a spine and actually does something if further volumes are released.