Isaiah Jefferson is an idle soul, whiling away his days tormenting new souls. So when he gets offered the chance of access to heaven, in return for stealing a valuable object for an angel, he leaps at the chance. Writer Ben Kahn and artist Bruno Hidalgo’s afterlife heist tale is one of those books that completely took us by surprise, appearing out of nowhere and leaping to the top of our must read pile. So here’s why you should be checking out this awesome otherworldly adventure!
Publisher: Scout Comics
Writer: Ben Kahn
Artist: Bruno Hidalgo
Heavenly Blues starts with a bang when a man is gunned down in his office. He then goes on to receive a tantalising glimpse of heaven before plummeting down to the depths of hell. There he meets Isaiah Jefferson, an idle soul who will be his tormentor for the next few thousand years. On Earth he was a failed bank robber but in hell he occupies his days by tormenting new souls along with his buddy Erin (a sweary girl from 17th-century Salem). So when he is offered the chance to get access to heaven, in return for stealing a valuable artefact for an angel, he jumps at the chance. And so begins to put together a plan.
Although it begins as a slightly dark afterworld tale, Heavenly Blues ends up becoming a smart heist story, which feels like a mix of Afterlife Inc, A Life Less Ordinary and Oceans 11. But what makes the whole thing work is the characters. Despite being a tale about heaven and hell it’s really intimate, with the story revolving around Jefferson and Erin, offering only small glimpses of the world around them, preferring to focus on the character of the protagonists, which is fleshed out via a series of flashbacks which introduce us to Isaiah pre-hell.
While the story is absolutely really interesting and the character development top notch, it is the art from Bruno Hidalgo which really helped this book leap out from the crowd. It starts with the stunning Saul Bass-esque cover (which has a colour scheme that changes from issue to issue to reflect the respective characters), to the inside panel work which reminded us of both John Arcudi’s BPRD work (with the character having squashed features and squiggly forms) and also Frank Miller’s best work post-Sin City. He also does an amazing job of balancing the complexities of building a plausible world in the afterlife, as well as adding in tons of personality (especially in the cut scenes and flashbacks). This personality is helped by the vibrant colour palette which helps the whole thing have a lighter and less sombre tone, which you don’t always get with books about hell.
The first issue is a slow-burner, and so doesn’t quite have the immediacy and resolution we would expect from a debut. However, there is plenty to bring you back for more. We’ve been lucky enough to read the second issue and we can definitely tell you that things really begin to develop nicely, but there is enough in the first issue to set the ball rolling. We like the fact Ben and Bruno are confident enough in their own story that they don’t feel the need to cram everything into the first issue. Instead, you can really get an idea of all the characters’ nuances, which makes the whole thing feel much more substantial and ultimately makes for a truly other-worldly book. These are definitely creators to keep an eye on!