Comic Review – Beyond Belief #1

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Every week he is going to attempt a mini review of one of them, with potential minor spoilers.

This week I picked up The Thrilling Adventure Hour Presents Beyond Belief #1, the second comic based on characters from The Thrilling Adventure Hour stage show and podcast (I reviewed Sparks Nevada a while back). I discovered TAH a few months ago, mainlined all of the episodes and caught up pretty much just in time for the announcement that they were doing their last ever shows, and while there would be a few months more of podcasts of those shows, it was ending. Despite only recently jumping on the bandwagon, I found this pretty devastating. Sparks Nevada and Beyond Belief have effectively been my soundtrack for the last several months of lab work, so I may have to start back at the beginning! Regardless, the two comic series being published by Image Comics offer a way of continuing these stories, and telling them in new ways that may not have worked on stage. As with the show itself, Beyond Belief was written by Ben Acker and Ben Blacker, with pencils by Phil Hester, inks by Erik Gapstur and Ande Parks, colours by Mauricio Wallace and letters from Marshall Dillon.

If this is your first experience of Beyond Belief, all you really need to know is that Frank and Sadie Doyle are a married couple of mediums, who love to drink (very nearly as much as they love each other) and keep getting called upon for help with various supernatural occurrences. In this first issue, Sadie’s friend Donna moves in to a haunted house, and calls up Sadie to come and help. Frank reluctantly agrees to come along, even though he only recently went out (I empathise a great deal with Frank Doyle’s penchant for whisky and opposition to leaving the house). There they encounter creepy possessed dolls and spirits enraged by the voices of the house, driving them to kill. Frank and Sadie have to figure out what is causing the haunting, and how to deal with it to rescue Donna in time for her house warming party (it is the house’s warming, as Sadie points out).

As with Sparks Nevada, the fact that the creators of the stage show Acker and Blacker are both writing this Beyond Belief comic means that tonally it is spot on for what fans of the show have come to expect. Again, the strength of the dialogue especially meant that I read every word in the voices of Paget Brewster and Paul F. Tompkins, with the back and forth sardonic wit that oozes from both characters. The plot is a fairly standard haunted house affair, that is elevated by how Frank and Sadie react and talk.

Sadie – “Once a patch of land gets a taste of human blood, it can become thirsty for it.”

Frank – “I’m the same way, but for whiskey.”

Hester’s art is really strong here, with great almost period-style garb for the pair, expressive action and ethereal looking ghosts. However, I think his pencils are given more opportunity to shine in the #0 issue that is included in this book. It doesn’t take anything away from the ghosts in the #1, but in that prequel/first meeting issue the monster looks just that little bit more impressive and terrifying. The inks from Gapstur are really heavy and thick, which works extremely well for a ghost story, and the colours from Wallace look very nice, especially for the two attacking spirits in the end of the issue.

I think the only danger with this book is that while it is a good stand alone ghost story, you will get much more out of it if you listen to the podcast. There is plenty to enjoy, but having heard Brewster and Tompkins deliver hours of dialogue leaves you with an expectation of delivery in every line, so the humour that may otherwise not land or be missed will be picked up because it still feels like the lines have been written for them. I really enjoyed Beyond Belief #1, and will be following up on this series. If you are already an Adventurekateer, then you probably already know you’ll enjoy this. If you like a fun, very well drawn ghost story then pick this up. If you haven’t checked out The Thrilling Adventure Hour podcast, absolutely do it because there is hours of excellent comedy there. Then read this. Pick it up at your LCS or digitally now!

Score: 8 Clinks! out of 10


Comic Review – Sparks Nevada: Marshal on Mars #1

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Every week he is going to attempt a mini review of one of them, with potential minor spoilers.

Shine your astro spurs and don your robot fists!

This week I was looking forward to picking up the first issue from The Thrilling Adventure Hour’s Sparks Nevada: Marshal on Mars series from Image comics. I only started listening to The Thrilling Adventure Hour podcast fairly recently, having got about halfway through the backlog that has built up over the last few years. For those who don’t know, TAH is a stage show in the style of old-time radio. Regular performers are often joined by cult guest stars to deliver various hilarious stories, and the shows are recorded and uploaded for podcasts. There are several regular series, all of which are very funny, but Sparks Nevada is my favourite (mainly because I love a space western). Now it has been translated (not for the first time I think) into a comic book series from Image, with another of the stage shows Beyond Belief coming soon too. As with the show itself, Sparks Nevada: Marshal on Mars was written by Ben Acker and Ben Blacker, with art by J. Bone, colours by Omi Remalante and letters from Marshall Dillon.

In this first story arc, ‘The Sad, Sad Song of Widow Johnson’, Sparks Nevada is escorting a coach across the red planet, with a cadre of deputybots. His old companion Croach the Tracker, with his Martian tribe still under onus to the Marshal, meets him along the way to warn him of danger ahead. They’re ambushed by a robot gang, but while Nevada and Croach hide the wagon, the robots themselves are attacked by the real danger – science aliens. The issue also contains the previously digital #0 issue, where Nevada meets Croach for the first time, and has to fight his previous malfunctioning deputybots. But as for those in the current series, well they’re “factory-promised to not go sentient and trouble-make this time.”

Unsurprisingly, as Acker and Blacker write the actual show, the comic is spot on for exactly what I expected in both story and dialogue. The situation is ridiculous and funny, with nothing being brought up as silly, rather it is just the way things are in the 31st century on the martian frontier. The characters’ back and forth, particularly Nevada and Croach, was so perfect that all I could hear were Marc Evan Jackson and Mark Gagliardi, the actors who play them in the shows, with every turn of the page. Nevada is brash and Croach condescending, as they bicker mid gun fight for no reason at all. J. Bone’s art is very cartoonish, fitting very well with this type of fun, over the top story. Oddly, I thought Nevada looked very much like Matt Smith’s Doctor, especially later on when he took to wearing long coats and occasionally a Stetson.  The action is dynamic and colourful, and even basic facial expressions are great at establishing the sardonic tone of what the characters are saying.

This was a tight, hilarious first issue of Sparks Nevada: Marshal on Mars. I can’t wait for more, and if this is the quality I can expect then I’m definitely going to check out Beyond Belief when it comes out too. If you like space westerns, laser fightin’ and robot fists, pick this up from your LCS or digitally. Also definitely check out The Thrilling Adventure Hour podcast, because it is excellent.

Score: 9 Deputybots out of 10