Review: ‘The Sandman Universe Presents: Dead Boy Detectives’ #1 Is Scary Good Fun
by Tony Thornley
DC has been smart about the Sandman Universe titles, keeping them to a minimum to make each one feel special. One of the most beloved Sandman spin-offs returns this week with Dead Boy Detectives #1, and let me tell you, this is worth it.
Pornsak Pichetshote, Jeff Stokely, Miquel Muerto, and Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou bring Charles and Edwin to the City of Angels for a decidedly non-angelic case.
Looking for a change of pace, the Dead Boy Detectives have headed to the US to chase some new cases. They quickly find themselves looking for some missing persons, but there’s a twist. Something has changed in the Los Angeles areas, affecting its ghosts, and drawing them into conflict with Thai spirits and demons unlike anything they’ve ever seen!
I was only passingly familiar with the Dead Boy Detectives prior to this issue. Pichetshote doesn’t just write a great ghost story here, which we all knew he was very capable of, but writes a great Dead Boy Detectives story for both longtime fans and newcomers. He catches up the fans, and gives the new readers enough reason to care about the boys to get into their story.
Then he gets into the overarching Thai mythology at the heart of this case and it’s goes from good to great. The ghost kids are sympathetic, and Pichetshote uses them as a crash course in the rich mythology of Thailand. The human character is so wonderfully written and fully formed that we’re instantly drawn to him as the straight man in a world of crazy. It’s a fantastic introduction (or reintroduction) to the world.
Ostmane-Elhaou adds to the story quite a bit, playing with font and balloon style. The narration switches from typed labels to Charles’ scribbled notes, drawing us in when it’s personal, while keeping us aloof at the more horrific. He also knows when to help the script amp up the horror, making the letters wild and disorienting alongside the art.
Stokely’s art surprised me. It was highly stylized and cartoonish, but that works just as well for the entry point as Pichetshote’s script. He is able to make the horror just scary enough to draw the reader in, through his layouts and storytelling, then switch on a dime to a light story of two ghost detectives trying to find a case. With Muerto’s colors, it’s a visual treat and sets up an exciting series to come.
I loved this debut and can’t wait for the rest of the series. This is something special.
The Sandman Universe Presents: Dead Boy Detectives #1 is available now from DC Black Label.
Charles and Edwin are back and they’re in LA looking for a change of pace. The story is engrossing, the art is great, and I can’t wait to see more. This is what comics are capable of and it’s exciting.