COMIC BOOK REVIEW: DEAD BOY DETECTIVES VOLUME 2: GHOST SNOW / WRITER: TOBY LITT / ARTIST: VARIOUS / PUBLISHER: VERTIGO / RELEASE DATE: JANUARY 28TH
Deceased schoolboys Edwin Payne and Charles Roland are back, proving yet again that being dead is only the start of the adventure. In this volume, which comprises issues 7 - 12 of Vertigo’s hit comic book series, they’re once again teamed up with Crystal Palace, the pyromaniac girl-who-can-see-ghosts, to solve a very personal murder mystery – was Charles’ father responsible for his mother’s apparent suicide? Charles has discovered a lot of painful facts about his father, not least that his father had another family that Charles knew nothing about. Now Charles is going to meet his mortal half-sister, but what if she tells him more than he can handle? And when Charles and Edwin race against time to save the life of a dying girl, their mission takes them back to Neitherworld and a dangerous confrontation with their sadistic arch-enemy, Nye.
The Dead Boy Detectives first appeared in Neil Gaiman’s iconic Sandman series and now, thanks to writer Toby Litt and artist Mark Buckingham (with other artists contributing as well), the sleuthing spooks are looking – and investigating - better than ever. The above description really doesn’t give this volume credit, there is so much more going on in the story than a brief synopsis can cover, not just in the storyline itself but in the complex ideas about death and the afterlife that underpin it. This is not just an exciting and engrossing read but also a deeply thoughtful and emotional examination of what being a ghost really means; that there are dimensions layered upon dimensions which most of us (living people) can’t see, but that doesn’t mean the ghosts aren’t always there and that we can’t touch them – or be touched by them – when circumstances demand it. Take a look at that moment when Charles, Edwin and Crystal visit the Care Home. To mortal eyes there are a handful of residents watching the TV, but to Charles and Edwin’s eyes the room is packed with spirits including a little girl attached to an IV drip who comes here because there is no television in the intensive care ward and “no-one ever talks to me, except to say ‘go away’… I’m an embarrassment”.
It’s tiny touches like that which make Dead Boy Detectives so special.
Ghosts get a raw deal in fiction. They’re either spiteful spooks out to avenge themselves on the living or waif-like souls who need the living’s help to cross over to the other side. To meet ghosts as heroic, sympathetic and relatable as Edwin and Charles is very refreshing and, we think, extremely reassuring to all of us – adults and children alike – who sometimes wonder what’s out there after we die.
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