Review - Heavenly Blues #1 (@ScoutComics)

"But we all have our last day."

Some people believe that--when it comes to the afterlife--you'll find a place in Heaven and Hell. Amongst those who believe such concepts, there's very little room for any lateral movement between the two locales, unlike in Heavenly Blues #1 from Scout Comics and Illicit Press that begs to differ.

The issue is written by Ben Kahn, illustrated by Bruno Hidalgo and lettered by Kat Krow.

People live. People die. The "good" are pleasantly escorted off to Heaven; while the rest unceremoniously rots in Hell. Hell - a world where torture isn't retribution, it's just hazing. Isaiah Jefferson fancied himself a dashing rogue; the greatest thief of the Great Depression, but a cruel betrayal left him dead in the dirt. Erin Foley was a scared grifter desperate not to be another child fed to the violent maw of the Salem Witch Trials. When they're given the chance to leave Hell and spit in the face of judgment, can they face their demons and become the master thieves they were meant to be?

Exploring the disparities between Heaven and Hell isn't new territory for comics, but Kahn is taking a slightly different approach to the matter by infusing a sense of organized crime into the comparisons.The issue is set up as the start of a heist story, with two individuals condemned to hell being recruited for a risky operation in Heaven that could also get them a ticket there as well. Most of the issue is spent exploring the backstories of the characters so that the series plot will make sense in the end and Kahn does a solid job of doing just that. There are certainly tropes and notes that the script hits in setting up the battleground between Heaven and Hell, but Kahn still manages to make things feel relatively fresh. The issue is paced in a way that it doesn't feel too rushed; by the end all of the characters are where they're supposed to be in a way that makes perfect sense.

Hidalgo's artwork is relatively loose all things considered, although that doesn't hurt the issue per se. Each of the main characters have their own distinctive appearances that rely on simple linework and detailing to provide their distinctive looks. The panels are laid out very cleanly and provide a very easy path for the readers' eyes to follow as they read along. There is something a little too simple about the artwork however; it might given the issue and characters more emotional weight if the artwork didn't look so cartoony. That's not a knock on the artwork as the colors do a good job of bringing things up to speed a bit in terms of a sense of maturity in all the players involved.

Heavenly Blues #1 offers an interesting twist on a classic plotline. Isaiah and Erin never really saw themselves as ever escaping Hell, but they're given a unique opportunity to do just that as long as they can put their talents to good use. Kahn's script is straightforward and easy to follow, ensuring the reader keeps up with things without moving along too quickly. The lack of detail in the artwork doesn't adversely affect the comic itself, but you do have to wonder if the artwork was a bit more refined if the issue would feel emotionally heavier. Heavenly Blues #1 is a fun first issue that upends a lot of preconceived notions about the eternal battle between Heaven and Hell.

Heavenly Blues #1 is available September 11.