Being a Teen can be like living in Hell

If I have one criticism of Oh, Hell, it’s that the plot feels rushed. In one volume we meet the main characters, learn of the school in Hell, learn the backstories of the main characters, and have a resolution to the plot. George Wassil has a lot going on in this story and it’s too bad he didn’t have the room to spread it out over at least two volumes.

I’d been intrigued to read the story since speaking with him at Baltimore Comic-Con 2015.  Our main character, Angela (who also goes by Zoel) was found abandoned in a dumpster as a baby. She becomes an exceptionally trying teenager and her adopted parents send her to what they think is another boarding school, but is actually a school in Hell. Who wouldn’t want to see where that goes?

In an interesting twist, by embracing the mystical (Hell), it becomes slightly less mystical than Morning Glories in which the reader has NO IDEA what’s going on at the end of the first volume. One of the first ideas Wassil is asking us to consider is whether anyone is irredeemably doomed to Hell. The headmaster constantly tells the students they belong in Hell. They were going to end up there anyway at the end of their lives, what does it matter if it happens while they’re in high school?

Oh Hell - Angela and Zipper
Oh Hell – Angela and Zipper

Related to that theme is one of whether a rotten life is a valid excuse for one’s behavior. We’re presented two different scenarios. While Angela was indeed abandoned by her original parents in a dumpster (sending the message she’s trash, rather than someone worthy of an orphanage), she has a loving set of adoptive parents. The adopted kid acting up is a cliche, but it’s also a cliche with roots in reality. Sometimes kids end up shuffled around or put into bad families and the system can make them overly hard as a protective mechanism. At the same time, when put into a loving family, does the child still have an excuse to act out simply because they aren’t with their birth parents? I have three adopted siblings and my parents treat them the same as they treated us and, so far, they’re no more nor less rebellious than we ever were. Then there’s Zipper. He’s also in Hell because of his upbringing. But in his case, his father is literally a demon. He had to adapt to survive, but in the end he stands for the belief that we can outdo our upbringing. I don’t think it’s an easy task based on what I’ve seen with others, but it can certainly be an uplifting message to a receptive mind.

Wassil also gives a motive to Satan’s desire for souls. Rather than simply a contest between God and The Devil, each soul collected gives the demon power, including the power to assume any form. This increases the stakes for grabbing the souls and, as with the demon soul that ends up being a plot point, gives the demons an incentive to steal souls from each other and hunt each other for the privilege of collecting prized souls. Given all the hassles that demons seem to go through for souls in our culture, it certainly makes sense for them to be of some value other than just spitting in God’s eye.

Oh Hell - Angela tries to get a soul
Oh Hell – Angela tries to get a soul

Related to the soul theft is the age-old adage that everyone has a price. The kids are told to figure out what it is anyone is willing to trade a soul for and use that to get souls. What makes Wassil’s take on it so fun is that he does a bit of deconstruction with Angela’s attempt to get anyone’s soul. For someone that can’t do like Alese and take the obvious sex route because of her looks and confidence, it takes a lot more than an unsolicited offer of anything for a soul. It’s why modern tales (if you could call something as old as It’s a Wonderful Life modern) always involve the supernatural being taking some time to convince the mark that he can really get something in exchange for his soul. The Brendan Fraser remake of Bedazzled has a set of scenes (like the hamburger scene) that come to mind when thinking of how badly things for for Angela. The key difference being that Elizabeth Hurley’s Devil is messing around with Fraser while Angela is desperate to succeed.

As you can see, Wassil is trying to get through a lot of concepts in one volume while keeping things entertaining. While it does feel a bit rushed, it is still a good read with some great art. It lays a good foundation for a world that would be fun to explore and the volume ends with what would be the first couple pages of the next volume.

Questions? Comments? I love to chat, so feel free to comment whereever you happen to see this.
Oh, Hell Vol 1 written by George Wassil with art by Dave Hamann and colors by Michael Birkhofer and Ross A Campbell. Lettering by Troy Peteri.

Uneasy Peace: Fables Vol 9

This volume is all over the place. There is a Christmas interlude, we learn of Rapunzel’s plight, and a series of reader questions answered as 1-2 page comics. But the bulk of the volume is about the eye of the storm in the Fabletown and Adversary relations. Each has wreaked devastations upon the other and now Fabletown must see if their Israel Gambit will succeed.

Fables Vol 10 - "This is how the world ends."
Fables Vol 9 – “This is how the world ends.”

The volume is also about how warfare is also a battle about information. As far as Fabletown knows, Gepetto is OK with peace as he’s sent a diplomatic envoy. The reader, on the other hand, has seen Gepetto’s war council and that he prepares for total war. While Pinocchio is correct that the Fables and the Mundys would be swift with their retribution, the first punch will have already been thrown and the Mundy world would be worse off for it.

Gepetto’s plans for total war are in stark contrast with the way wars have been fought since World War II. For the most part, countries attempt to inflict minimal damage on non-combatants and on infrastructure. This is partly due to most countries now being democratic and having a population weary of total destruction on other humans. Perhaps it is meant to show just how far gone Gepetto is from his origins of assassination for the good of the realm that he is now planning for a complete destruction of a world he knows little about. Yet, while it might make him the bad guy, it truly is the only way for him to succeed against the Mundys. It is all or nothing, especially when it comes to technology vs magic.

Fables Vol 9 - Hansel
Fables Vol 9 – Hansel

Hansel’s story certainly runs parallel to Gepetto’s origins as The Adversary. His cause begins with righteousness – he wants to rid the world of witches like the one who tried to eat he and his sister. However, his inability to forgive (as is required as part of the Fabletown compact) leads to an exile in which he falsely accuses others of being witches. Yes, he is feeding his desire to rid the world of evil witches, but the witches he’s killing are neither real nor evil. Yet, he is so committed to his cause that he kills his own sister when she mentions dabbling in witchcraft.

Well, it’s a short article this time around, perhaps the next volume will delve into more numerous or deeper themes.

I love discussion, feel free to comment wherever you see this post.

Fables Vol 9 by Bill Willingham with the following artists: Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, Michael Allred, Adnrew Pepoy, D’Isreali, Gene Ha, Joelle Jones, Barry Kitson, David Lapham, Joshua Middleton, Inaki Miranda, M.K. Perker, Jim Rugg, Eric Shanower, John K Snyder III, Jill Thompson, Lee Loughridge, Laura Allred, and Eva de la Cruz. Letters by Todd Klein.

Friendship to the Max: Lumberjanes #1-20

Almost two years ago Kari Woodrow wrote about Lumberjanes #1 here on this site. Her conclusion was that everyone needed to be reading this comic. Having read issues #1-20, I must agree. When I relaunched Comic POW!, I set a focus for the site that it would examine this story-telling medium that we love and focus on how these stories are influenced by the authors and the time and place in which they were written. Lumberjanes is, without a doubt, about being a girl in America in the 2000s. No matter what kind of girl you see yourself as, you will no doubt find a counterpart in the main characters. Continue reading Friendship to the Max: Lumberjanes #1-20

Canadian Vampires, eh? : American Vampire Vol 6

American Vampire has always been more about America than vampires. Because America has always been portrayed as a land of opportunity, it has always attracted those most desperate for that opportunity. That has often led to the exploitation of those least able to defend themselves. Yet, unlike many countries, throughout a good chunk of America’s history, it has been one of the easiest countries to move up the social ladder. For some that meant running away from debts to start anew in America. For others, it was getting free, large tracts of land out west from the American government. From the industrial revolution forward, a good idea and a bit of luck could propel one to the highest heights. A great deal of fiction has explored what happens once someone catapults out of their poorer circumstances – sometimes up just one level and sometimes from poor to rich. Do they now treat their former peers with the same contempt they once received? Or do they remember where they came from and remain respectful of those in poorer circumstances? Continue reading Canadian Vampires, eh? : American Vampire Vol 6

Image Comics Creators Own Worlds Humble Bundle Live Today!

Long time readers of Comic POW! know that I am a fervent advocate of DRM-free comics (and this news story). If you’ve seen the site evolve you’ve also seen my tastes evolve. While Marvel and DC continue to tell great stories and explore new characters (like young Ms Marvel), I’ve grown to love indie comics a lot more. The main reasons are that anything can happen (including permanent death of the main characters) and usually the stories have an ending that the author is working towards. So I was very stoked to read today that Image Comics has put out a new Humble Bundle. I was even more excited when I read how Image organized the comics in the bundle:

Image Comics is pleased to announce an all-new Humble Bundle digital sale—Humble Comics Bundle: Image Comics featuring Creators Own Worlds—set to bring awareness to equality and to support the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the educational arm of America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. This Humble Bundle highlights some of the series from Image Comics that are created by or significantly feature LGBT characters.

With the Humble Comics Bundle: Image Comics featuring Creators Own Worlds digital sale, fans will experience $400-worth of some of Image Comics’ bestselling and award-winning series at pay-what-you want pricing.

Continue reading Image Comics Creators Own Worlds Humble Bundle Live Today!

What if Heroes had a Union? : C.O.W.L Vol 1 and 2

COWL Vol 1 - The Founders
COWL Vol 1 – The Founders

Two things attracted me to C.O.W.L.: the subject matter and the author. I knew Kyle Higgins from Nightwing Vol 3 (AKA New 52 Nightwing) where I enjoyed his writing. C.O.W.L. takes place in Chicago in 1962 when unions are still strong and the Chicago Organized Workers League (C.O.W.L.) happens to be the superhero union. Similar to Watchmen, and very in vogue right now, the heroes are not pure of heart; some of them are just shy of being sadists.

The main plot of Watchmen is two-fold, someone is investigating hero murder and someone is trying to create a tragedy to unite humanity and end the Cold War. But knowing that doesn’t take away from the story, which is a deconstruction of Super Heroes and is focused on their stories and personalities. Similarly, the main plot of C.O.W.L. is a negotiation with the city about whether to continue the contract with C.O.W.L., but the story is about the characters Higgins has created. If I may continue the comparison for one more subject, I’d say that both Watchmen and C.O.W.L. benefit from being self-contained stories of about the same length. It allows Higgins to focus on the story without worrying about the long-term implications for his characters. Continue reading What if Heroes had a Union? : C.O.W.L Vol 1 and 2

Cheesecake in the Jungle: Jungle Girl Omnibus

The most important thing you need to know about this title is that it is pure, unadulterated pulp. It is cheesy in a throw-back sort of way and it celebrates that. I’ve been getting a lot of pulp and neo-pulp from Dynamite for some time now. For the time being, they seem to be the undisputed masters of the revival in pulp comics. Jungle Girl is an older pulp than the one that gave us Batman, The Shadow, and detective stories. Jana, the eponymous jungle girl, traces a direct line back to Tarzan, which, if Wikipedia is being accurate today, came out in 1912. It also mixes in a bit of The Land Time Forgot which, like Tarzan, was written by Edgar Rice Burroughs. So the story is almost one giant tribute to Burroughs’ legacy.

I have not read the source material so I’m unsure of how much Cho is also making tribute in the format of the story, but there is not so much a plot as a constant propulsion of our protagonists from one scene to the next. In one sense it’s nice not to have a McGuffin. Too often they are too transparently simply a means to start the plot and, as the linked TV Tropes page defines it, could be replaced by almost anything else. Still, the only driving force of this story is to constantly run away from trouble. They literally stumble around from one dino attack to another and then to the territory of rivals. The antagonist of the second series is seemingly found just as randomly. Continue reading Cheesecake in the Jungle: Jungle Girl Omnibus