Heaven/Hell #1 - Heavenly High Concept

J. Alan Shelton & Jilly Smith's series, Heaven/Hell (with art by J.C. Grande) has a very appealing high concept.

The high concept that I speak of is as follows: An angel's halo is lost on Earth, so Heaven and Hell both send off agents to retrieve it, meanwhile a homeless man finds the halo and hilarity? It will undoubtedly ensue.

That's a great concept, isn't it?

It is great enough that I think it, alone, can carry the book a bit if the execution is a tad lackluster. From reading the first issue (the second issue is due out this week!), though, it is unclear whether the execution can be saved by the high concept. A great idea and sheer amiability will only get one so far, and I am unsure whether Shelton and Smith have enough beyond that to make this book worth reading, but I think that uncertainty, in a way, cuts in their favor, as I am unsure if they cannot pull the execution off in future issues, so it may be worthwhile to find out if they can.

Artist J.C. Grande has a very cartoonish style, which definitely fits the story of the book, which is a comedic one, but quite often, Grande's work seems to be a bit too loose, as the quality of the storytelling seems to suffer a bit as the pencils get looser.

Take this page from early in the issue, where we meet the agent of Hell sent after the halo (who may have an agenda of his own).

Here, I think the lack of detail negatively affects the storytelling, especially the bit with the bonsai tree.

Ultimately, though, Grande is effective. The story by Shelton and Smith, though, seems to be taking things a bit too slowly. By the end of the issue, we are still just meeting the characters who will be starring in the book, and I think there should be a bit more forward progress made. The interaction, though, of the agent of Heaven with the former angel, were handled quite well. I would say they were the highlight of the book, especially the former Angel's dialogue.

There is a bit in the issue where, to mock bureaucracy, we see the memo Heaven sent out regarding the retrieval of the missing halo. While amusing, I think it was probably a bit much to just literally have a full page taken up with just a memo. I think the same comedic effect could have been achieved by having a character shown reading the memo, and their dialogue could highlight the significant issues (and any significantly funny lines in the memo).

This first issue is a very slight comic, in both tone and actual heft, but the writers are amiable enough to make the characters seem interesting enough. And the high concept is a great one. I think the combination is ultimately enough to make me curious as to what will happen next issue, now that the main characters have been introduced.

So while I would not recommend #1 alone, I would be willing to give #2 a chance.

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