Written by Toby Litt
Art by Mark Buckingham and Gary Erskine
Published by DC Comics/Vertigo
Release Date: December 31, 2013

vert03When is an art heist not an art heist (but really is an art heist)? When prominent performance artist Maddy Surname attempts to steal Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” in a widely televised event sponsored by its museum, only to be interrupted by actual art thieves! Enter the Dead Boy Detectives, who embark on their latest investigation — centered upon the artist’s troubled daughter Crystal. But when Crystal decides to attend the very school where the Boys were murdered, the case becomes deeply personal.

As a concept, the Dead Boy Detectives pretty much explains itself without much ado. It’s a rare case to have such a pure concept to work with, and the creators here really find the best balance between explaining their history and letting the reader run with the purity of the concept. The double narration (at times triple) that Litt employs does a lot of the work toward fleshing out each boy, as does the split flashback to each kid’s era from whence he died. Moreover, Litt manages to maintain a light banter throughout, giving the book a real classic feel of a Hardy Boys or Three Detectives tale, while never letting us forget they are indeed ghosts. Even the name of their school, St. Hilarions, reminds us that these boys are meant to be read as light-hearted and fun, much like creator Neil Gaiman’s revolutionary concept of Death herself.

Mark Buckingham brings much of that light-heartedness to the page as well, with facial expressions that, even at their most morose, are endearing and near adorable. It’s a rare gift to be able to express faces in particular in such few lines, but in the process capture so much emotion — especially in the case of Crystal Surname, a character I hope remains a part of the series past this initial arc. The boys of course are formed directly out of every young detective story, but Buckingham captures that flavor so perfectly, both in styling and environment, that it all feels pretty magical.

A strong start to what looks to be a light-hearted, whimsical series tailor made for those fans looking for the fun in comics today, Dead Boy Detectives #1 is a must read for this last week of the year. 2013 wouldn’t have been complete without it.

The Verdict: 9.0/10



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