"Heavenly Blues #1" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Scout Comics
Written by Ben Kahn
Illustrated by Bruno Hidalgo
2017, 32 Pages, $3.99
Comic released on July 26th, 2017
Isaiah Jefferson is in Hell. Literally. He was a bank robber during the Great Depression, then he was shot to death. Now he's in Hell. Don't worry. There are plenty of other folks down there too. He even has a friend named Erin. The two torture newcomers, as there's seemingly nothing else to do in Hell. That changes when the pair are offered a job from up high. If they pull off this biblical-level heist, they'll ascend into Heaven. Not a bad deal, but of course, the job isn't going to be easy.
Heavenly Blues was pitched to me as Ocean's Eleven in Hell. It is so much more than a killer premise. Writer Ben Kahn amplifies the story with some great characterization, especially with Isaiah. He's grown quite a bit since dying. He's had time to reflect on his flaws and get over what brought him here. All of that comes rushing back when this gig presents itself.
I expect we'll get more from Erin in a later chapter, although we're given some hints here at what she's gone through and the choices she was forced to make. In any case, they're both in Hell. They made some decisions in life that were deemed unfit for Heaven.
Although Heavenly Blues is most definitely set in Hell, it doesn't give off the traditional fire and brimstone vibe. There are occasional reminders of the doom and gloom aspect often associated with the place, such as a buggy pulled by skeleton horses carrying a pair of devils, but for the most part, it just looks like an old, beat-up city. There's nothing remarkable about it and I think that's the point. You shouldn't be excited to live in Hell. This is what I imagine Detroit must look like.
Artist Bruno Hidalgo's style works for multiple settings and time periods. The flashback scenes showing Isaiah's last hours on earth are shown in this hazy shade, like you're seeing a memory unfold. It plays well with the time period with tommy guns and gangsters. The juxtaposition between Isaiah in Hell and before he died is substantial. He's more humble now with shoulders slumped, whereas when he was alive, he's all confidence and bravado. His very presence demands attention.
Hidalgo has a talent for action, offering a number of interesting and unique shots that show angles you don't often get in comics. One panel comes to mind, as Isaiah is running from the cops and a bullet flies towards him. It's a shot from the ground with a focus on the bullet with Isaiah in the background. Depending on how you look at it, it's going to go right by him or nail him.
Heavenly Blues has an undeniably great hook that's backed up with solid character development and striking artwork. You might come in for the supernatural heist but you'll stay for Isaiah's story to see if he and Erin can stick it to the holy man that judged them and sent them down to Hell. Like any good heist movie, you can't help but root for the bad guys.