The cover: I’ve purposely cropped the photo accompanying this review because it may give away a tasty bit of the story for readers. It’s graphic, but it’s also perfection. In the background, the book’s lead, Joe Fitzgerald, lights a cigarette after a job well done. He’s covered in blood and for good reason. When last we saw him he unleashed the forces of Heaven into Hell and war broke out. He was played by both sides and one of the players is about to get some payback. This is the perfect image for what occurs in this issue and C.P. Smith does it with all the love that can be put into a cover. For those that are dying for a hint: it’s akin to a classic character from a novel by William Golding. Sorry, it’s the English teacher in me. You’ll have to go look that up. Trust me, though–This is terrific! Overall grade: A+
The story: This is the payoff issue. Having unleashed the wrath of Heaven onto Hell, Joe is asked by an avenging angel, “…How did you figure it out, little insect? When did you figure it out?” This issue has the perfect title with “The Book of Revelations,” as Joe explains how he knew that both sides of eternity were playing him for their own ends. I was extremely nervous about this, because if writer J. Michael Straczynski took one misstep with his story it could have plunged what has been an exceptional tale into marginal storytelling if the lead had some bizarre revelation. He doesn’t. He’s a private detective and he used his talent and gut to make him privy to what’s going on. Like the best of explanations one would find in a classic detective story by Dashiell Hammett or Raymond Chandler, Joe explains with details from previous issues how he knew what the forces were doing. It’s beautiful how every clue was put before the reader to figure things out just as Joe did. I love when novels do this, and Straczynski is doing the same in this graphic novel. After his revelations, a character is going to be made to pay, and it gets really nasty. I was cheering Joe on in every panel, and when all seems done, the final panel gave me gasp that will have me hanging until the next issue. Flawless storytelling. Overall grade: A+
The art: There are flashback images in this issue, as Joe reveals his clues, by artist Ben Templesmith. The artist of the new material is C.P. Smith and it looks fantastic. He is providing fully colored work for this and it’s amazing. Yes, Hell has its fire and brimstone, as one would expect, but it is so vivid, so detailed, it deceptively looks like a cool place to hang around. The first two pages open with Joe recounting what he would have done with Laura, if she had lived. The joy in those images only make her death the more tragic and heartfelt. I really like how Smith use purples and oranges to denote warmth on the second page. Once in Hell the colors go darker, naturally, but its the work in the backgrounds that suggest a swirling miasma of torture and degradation that make this setting so disturbing. It’s as if damnation was lurking just beyond the reader’s eye, and it does come forward later in the book. The angel Joe speaks with is delightful haughty, and her gazes upon the human show she didn’t expect him to be so smart. The knockdown fight is a wowser of a scene, going on for several pages and ending brilliantly. The addition of a nonspeaking character was a surprise and Smith makes this individual magnificent. This is beautifully hellish work. Overall grade: A+
The letters: Dialogue and narration (the same font), Angel speak, and a few screams are Troy Peteri’s contributions to the book. For all the dialogue that has to be given in this issue, Peteri expertly places it all in panels without overshadowing the art. That’s a skill that many letterers do not possess, but Peteri has every single word take readers through this tale, keeping the visuals intact. Overall grade: A+
The final line: Chandler meets Dante, with bit of Tarantino thrown in. How could this be anything but superior? Highest possible recommendation. Overall grade: A+
Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer’s Guide for several years with “It’s Bound to Happen!”, he reviewed comics for TrekWeb, and he currently reviews Trek comics at TrekCore. He’s taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for two years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.