Publisher: Image – Shadowline
Written, Illustrated & covers by: Brian Haberlin
Colours: Geirrod Van Dyke
Letters: Francis Takenaga
When I heard that nearly all the creative team behind Jules Verne’s Lighthouse were coming back with another title for Image-Shadowline I was intrigued and excited. We have covered this issue in our October Indie Comics Roundup and there were mixed feelings. However, I loved it so it seemed appropriate to also do a bit of a written review.
The basic premise of Hellcop is that in an unspecified future type time period humans have broken though dimensional walls and one of these dimensions is full of demons, sort of like hell. To prevent issue with these inhabitants of… hell crossing over it our dimension and causing chaos we have the Hellcops (technically the Pan-Dimensional Security Corps which isn’t as catchy).
There’s a lot of different aspects to the world building and this first issue throws them all at you. It’s pretty dense with the sheer amount of world building going on. We have details about pan dimensional travel, about demons and the various types, the fact normal technology doesn’t work in the other dimensions leading to steampunk type technology, the structure of the Hellcops and their remit. Plus crime and conspiracy. There is a lot going on but it doesn’t feel impenetrable. It gives a really good grounding to understanding this world. You never feel out of your depth.
Our main character is Virgil, a Hellcop paired with Karen and assisted by Taj. During a routine raid on a demon partaking of illegal sweeteners (the fact demons are addicted to sugar is a detail of word building I love) Virgil intercepts another demon who drops a mysterious object with a strange symbol on it which is clearly the mystery hook. He enlists the help of scientist tech Taj to help him with this investigation.
All the characters are interesting and I like the mix. Virgil is of course our main character and he’s very likeable. A bit of everyman in many regards he has a sense of humour about him, as well as a curiosity. He also has a bit of tragedy in his past alluded to in his conversations with Taj after work. His friendship with her is clearly longstanding and strong. There’s a neat bit of trust there. It’s also nice to see a strong male/female relationship without having to worry about other complications down the line
Both female characters are interesting in their own way too. Karen is clearly a tough Hellcop but a good partner who works well with Virgil. It’s clear they have probably worked together awhile. She’s a tough female character but doesn’t feel like a stereotype. Also not a stereotype is Taj. She might be a quirky scientist type but it’s clear there’s more to her than just that trope.
The characters are interesting and the world is also interesting. Whilst there are serious aspects to it there’s also a good strong sense of humour throughout the book with wry references and turns of phrase. That helps the book feel quite fresh There’s a lot of exposition with the narration but with those little touches of humour help lift it.
The art will not to be to everyone’s taste (as the podcast made clear). I admit as a reader I am more about character, world building and plot and I also quite like this style of art which is sort of computer generated. I think it fits anything with even a vague sci-fi aesthetic really well. I also find the way the panels are laid out interesting as well. I enjoy the reading experience.
For me Hellcop is a heady mix of sci-fi fantasy concepts wrapped up with criminal mysteries. It takes us beyond simple cops into a world full of demons, steampunk-style technology and multiple dimensions. With humour and action I very much enjoyed the ride.