Are you looking forward to a new comic book but it’s impossible for you to wait for its release before you know what we thought about it? That’s why there’s DoomRocket’s Advanced Reviews—now we assess books you can’t even buy yet. This week: ‘High Heaven’ #1, out September 26 from AHOY Comics.
THIS ADVANCE REVIEW OF ‘HIGH HEAVEN’ #1 CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS.
by Jarrod Jones. According to High Heaven #1, Belinda Carlisle only got it half-right: Heaven is a place just like Earth. There’s a paradise waiting for all of us after we die, but it seems none of us bothered reading its Terms & Conditions: In this book Heaven has long, arduous lines, stifling bureaucracy, stuffy gatekeepers. It has the same kind of monotony that a lot of city living has. It’s dull, and at times when things seem especially grim, that dullness feels calculated, there to dampen the spirit, cow the hordes into one shifting, semi-obedient blob of humanity.
It’d read like a treatise of sacrilegious subversion (and a rather cutting one, to boot) were it not for David Weathers, the schlub at the epicenter of High Heaven. See, Heaven in this book, much like life is for us, is what you make of it. And David’s been a whiny, entitled chump his entire life. He didn’t kill anybody, never intentionally coveted another person’s significant other (wittingly, anyway), never stole. So he gets in. And the bouncer at the gate, a ‘roided out testicle named Peter, lets him know that his ticket to Paradise arrived because, here at Heaven™, everyone observes the strictest adherence to the rules.
Given the cover I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say David dies immediately in the first batch of pages of this AHOY Comics debut (I’ll save the “how” of his death for the reader to discover, because it is priceless). But after a dozen or so panels of his ceaseless whinging, his death comes as a form of darkly hilarious catharsis. What follows is the equivalent to a spoiled brat getting dropped off at summer camp: He knows everyone hates him but doesn’t understand why; he gets the feeling that the authorities tolerate him only because they have to; he knows that they don’t have his favorite things on tap—and perhaps worst of all, he honestly believes there’s absolutely no pleasure to be had here. Not the kind he wants to have, anyway. So David wants to go home.
It’s a bit of brilliance on Tom Peyer, Greg Scott and Andy Troy’s part that we get to experience this Heaven from the perspective of such an ass. There’s a David Weathers in all of our lives, the guy who just doesn’t seem to get it—he could, if he really wanted to, but really? Nah. He’d rather be dissatisfied, in life, in paradise, holding on to the idea that a grand reward is coming his way regardless of how he acts. So the Heaven David enters feels more like a punishment, and jawing on about the raw deal he feels he got is really pissing people off, at a time when peace and eternity are literally under everyone’s feet. High Heaven raises interesting questions about perception, self-deception, expectation, reality. And it’s really fucking hilarious.
Because this is an AHOY Comic, where we’re safe in indulging a bit of our own inner Davids by “Expecting More”, the issue comes with A+ backmatter that doesn’t bother with filler. Like AHOY’s other debut last week, The Wrong Earth, Too Much Coffee Man‘s Shannon Wheeler pops in for a quick comic that flips the concept behind High Heaven and gets a big laugh because of it. Peyer shows up once more to team with artist Chris Giarrusso on Hashtag: Danger, a Challengers of the Unknown-style lampoon where our intrepid crew of explorers attempt to monetize their particular brand of derring-do. It’s a colorful bit of gig economy tongue-in-cheek that depicts an exciting world that only seems worth the trouble if there’s a Paypal full of cash waiting at the end of things.
A prose piece from none other than Grant Morrison ties the whole issue together, and underscores the tone of what we can expect from this publisher going forward. Titled “Festive Funtimes at the New World’s Fair!”, Rick Geary provides illustrations to Morrison’s carnival barking which concerns a highly touted attraction that isn’t quite what it’s cracked up to be—in fact, without giving anything away, it’s a downright morbid commentary on modern living with engaging, if humbling, wordplay from one of comics’ finest.
If you’re beginning to notice a theme, that’s probably deliberate—as a publisher, AHOY seems to have things to say about life, about comics, and says it with a sardonic Boomer perspective. It’s satire in grand Mad fashion (even the cover is by Mad artist Richard Williams), a high-quality magazine that takes a bite out of the collective asses of all the David Weathers of the world. High Heaven juts a thumb in the direction of the crummier aspects of life, and the laughs that come because of it provide a hearty sense of satisfaction without too much of that dyspeptic acidity—though it’s too early to say if that’s self-satisfaction we’re supposed to be feeling. I’m hanging around not just because I love these creators, but to see if there’s any salvation to be found amid all this irony.
Written by Tom Peyer, Shannon Wheeler and Grant Morrison.
Art by Greg Scott, Chris Giarrusso, Rick Geary and Shannon Wheeler.
Colors by Andy Troy.
Letters by Rob Steen.
9 out of 10
‘High Heaven’ #1 hits stores September 26.