Readers familiar with “The Thrilling Adventure Hour” podcast will find comfort in the fact that the co-creators of that podcast, Ben Acker and Ben Blacker, are the writers on the Phil Hester-drawn “The Thrilling Adventure Hour Presents: Beyond Belief” #1. The main story is a smart, twenty-page tale titled “The Donna Party,” where Acker and Blacker take the Doyles out to the suburbs to check in on Sadie Doyle’s dear friend, Donna Donner, who is moving into a new house and a haunted situation.
The rhythm of the Doyles’ dialogue makes an appearance in this tale but isn’t as pervasive as on the podcast. This isn’t a podcast, however; it’s a comic book, and Acker, Blacker and Hester have the flow of the comic book story nailed down tightly for a whole new audience to meet Frank and Sadie. While the plot centers around the horror of a haunting, Acker and Blacker insert some humor and plenty of character-revealing bits into the Doyles’ banter to give readers more than enough evidence of who Frank and Sadie are and what they mean to one another.
Of course, readers familiar with the Doyles as they are portrayed by Paul F. Tompkins and Paget Brewster will find a more fulfilling experience, but it is not a requirement for admission. While it is expected that Acker and Blacker would have the voices of their co-created characters tightly nailed down, Phil Hester matches suit and presents Frank and Sadie as refined caricatures of Tompkins and Brewster.
Hester’s style works magnificently for darker tales, given his propensity for heavy, rich shadows, expressive characters and economic line usage. “Beyond Belief” #1 is a dark tale at its core, but Frank and Sadie shine in Hester’s drawings. Hester also brightens up a few panels by dropping in white silhouettes of the Doyles, which not only add light to the pages but also serve up a visual cue that makes the Doyles become beacons of hope. Mauricio Wallace adds glowing colors throughout this issue, making all of the art ghostly and mysterious, which works nicely with Hester’s art. Coupled with the edgy, eerie letters from Dillon, the colors complete the visuals and make the issue a dark, rich treat.
“The Thrilling Adventure Hour Presents: Beyond Belief” #1 is a solid introduction to the signature installment from the podcast created by Ben Acker and Ben Blacker but, more importantly, it’s a solid comic story. Free of crossovers and stilted restarts and reboots, “The Thrilling Adventure Hour Presents: Beyond Belief” #1 welcomes readers into a whole new world. It does so in an effective manner, avoiding excessive exposition and moving forward, beckoning readers to join and enjoy the ride.