Saturday, 8 August 2015

Dead Boy Detectives, Volume 1: Schoolboy Terrors Review (Toby Litt, Mark Buckingham)

Dead Boy Detectives is another fruitless attempt to give these minor characters from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comics a series of their own. The reason why this idea keeps failing is that there’s nothing to Charles or Edwin: they’re around 12 years old, they’re ghosts, and they decide to solve supernatural mysteries. That’s it?! It might work as a series for younger readers but, this being a Vertigo title, it’s clearly being aimed at the adult market and I’m not sure it should be. 

Novelist Toby Litt doesn’t know what to do with these characters and bundles them up in several uninteresting stories to kill time. The riveting opening sees the pair go looking for a fucking CAT! Later they help out a ghost stuck in a mirror. Then they decide to protect the daughter of a pair of rich artistes for no reason when she decides to go to the school where they were murdered, St Hilarion’s, for no reason, and then the three become a trio of detectives for no reason. Awful, awful stuff! 

Even though there’s not much to these characters, I have read Gaiman’s Sandman before so I was already familiar with the Dead Boy Detectives. Anyone who hasn’t and picks up this book might be confused. Who are they? Why are they ghosts? How did they die? Why are they detectives? What are their powers? What is their goal? Litt does a piss-poor job of explaining all of that (when he does explain anything at all), choosing instead to barrel through his badly plotted, boring stories. 

The powers question must’ve bothered a number of readers because towards the end of this book a double splash page explaining the Dead Boy Detectives’ ghost powers is shoe-horned in out of nowhere. But it’s indicative of the lack of thought and the shoddy way this series was thrown together. 

Mark Buckingham’s art is very good as always and I enjoyed the old-timey comics way (image with block of text beneath, six to a page) he told the older ghosts’ story. Lee Loughridge’s colours are lovely too – he seems to be the go-to guy for school-set comics (he’s the colourist on Deadly Class too, a far better comic I’d recommend over this drivel)! 

The characters are dull and poorly written, the stories are all over the place and there’s no real reason behind why this series exists in the first place, other than to try to capture some of the Sandman audience. The art team produce good work but it’s not a strong enough reason to check out this forgettable series. Charles and Edwin work fine as supporting characters in a larger story; they completely fail to captivate on their own. As I slogged through this I was wondering where it was all going and then by the end I knew – cancellation!

Dead Boy Detectives, Volume 1: Schoolboy Terrors

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