Author: Toby Litt | Illustrators: Mark Buckingham / Gary Erskine | Page Count: 160
'...He always treats us like royalty, it's just... sometimes it's the red carpet... and sometimes it's the guillotine.'
Of all The Sandman secondary characters that could've been revived for an ongoing series the Dead Boy Detectives wasn't high on my list of wants, but Toby Litt has changed that. The previous incarnation (2001) is acknowledged and respected but Litt has taken a different approach to the storytelling. He doesn't reinvent what's already in existence, he rejuvenates it, making everything feel more vital and a lot more entertaining.
The two boys, Charles Rowland and Edwin Paine, were born decades apart but they share a passion for solving mysteries. Where there’s a mystery it follows that there’s almost always danger; doubly so if the occult is involved. When the two friends decide to help a young girl they find themselves in the deep end of personal history, surrounded by terrors unique to them. It's a place where being already dead is no guarantee of safety.
Something I don’t think I've mentioned before is the work of Todd Klein, the finest letterer in the business. If you're new to comics you might think that it’s just text and any fool can do it, but no, not like Todd. His text boxes, bubbles, etc, complement Litt's dialogue by being written in different fonts and presented via different mediums, each one chosen specifically to accentuate the traits and unique personalities of the character from which they originate. Edwin was born in the 1900s, so you'd expect his vernacular to reflect that, but so too does his lettering. Likewise, Charles is a child of the 1990s, his analytical approach to things is more hard-boiled and so his lettering reflects that.
If you pay attention not just to what you read but to how it's written then you'll discover many more examples. Hopefully it'll open the way for you to appreciate the other unsung heroes in comics, such as inkers and colourists, too.
The book collects together Dead Boy Detectives issues 1-6; and stories from Witching Hour issue 1; Ghosts issue 1; and Time Warp issue 1.
3½ French exchanges out of 5