Review: ‘Dead Boy Detectives’ #3

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With two appealing protagonists, “Dead Boy Detectives” #3 strikes the right balance between charming and frightening at the same time. After being introduced in the pages of Neil Gaiman’s “The Sandman,” the dead boys make their own mark with a new supernatural adventure. More alive in death, the boys are about to discover that there is nothing good about going back home.

WRITTEN BY: Toby Litt and Mark Buckingham
ART BY: Mark Buckingham
PUBLISHER: Vertigo Comics
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASE: February 26, 2014

Though Edwin Paine and Charles Rowland died, they decided to stick around as ghosts, solving mysteries in their spare time. The irony is, the two best friends only started living after they died. Now, Edwin and Charles will have to face something terrible they have avoided for so very long. They have to solve the mystery behind their own deaths. When they return back to their school, Edwin and Charles unexpectedly uncover dangerous secrets in the hallways. Time hasn’t changed as their school is still overrun by bullies and bad teachers. There’s nothing worse than a bully who also happens to be a ghost.

I really like how writers Toby Litt and Mark Buckingham are exploring the back-stories of their main protagonists. In the opening pages, Charles unlocks a forgotten truth about his past. After staring at his tombstone, Charles panics after realizing he may have a living relative. There is someone else other than Edwin that remembers him. Charles experiences a sudden brush of hope, knowing that there is a brother or sister who cares about him.

Because Edwin and Charles are ghosts, you really don’t expect them to be afraid of anything. Litt and Buckingham remind readers that these two best friends, at their core, are just naive kids. Edwin doesn’t want to go back to school because he is still afraid of being picked on by a bully. In the afterlife, Edwin runs away from a physically imposing bully, who haunts him as a poltergeist.

In a well-detailed two-pager, Buckingham delivers a surreal illustration of an innocent girl passing between the living and the dead. Hanna is lying on a stretcher, covered in knives and locked in chains. On one side, a demon rises from a fiery pit of lava. As the demon attempts to take possession of her body, Hanna’s soul flies off towards a bright light. Buckingham illustrates dozens of skeletal arms reaching out to grab Hanna’s spirit.

Notice how the color scheme differentiates the perspectives between the living and the dead. When Crystal is walking across the school’s hallways, Charles and Edwin realize she is being followed by the ghost bullies. In Crystal’s point-of-view, colorist Lee Loughridge uses white tones to depict the ghostly figures. When Crystal suddenly sees the phantoms, Loughridge paints the backgrounds with a vibrant purple shade.

“Dead Boy Detectives” #3 manages to keep the mystery suspenseful, while revealing certain clues along the way. The bromance between Edwin Paine and Charles Rowland is what makes the “Dead Boy Detectives” series really stand out.

4/5 Skulls

Reviewed by – Jorge Solis