The Story: Need to ward off demons from hell? There’s an app for that.
The Review: We all knew some shady things were going down at St. Hilarion’s, between the military-grade tech in the headmaster’s office and the demon-creatures crawling out of a hell-pit and all. Given the long history of the place, you’d think it’d take an equally long time to uncover all its secrets. Any hope of a long storyline at Hilarion’s, however, went out the window the moment Crystal, Charles, and Edwin directly confronted the source of all the school’s evil.
Even if our heroes managed to escape, it’s not as if they could stay on the D.L. from their enemies after that. So you understand why Litt had to wrap things up at HIlarion’s so quickly, but that doesn’t make the school’s destruction, along with most of its fell denizens, any less sudden. As climactic as all this sounds, it’s also a little disappointing. You’ve barely had a chance to get acquainted with Theodore, Nath, Cheeseman, Skinner, and Barrow, and now they’ve gone before achieving much of note.
At least their greatest work lives on in Demon-Hana, which means the Dead Boys and their newest partner will have an ongoing threat that no amount of sleuthing or technological ingenuity will resolve. Charles and Edwin’s former headmaster went down mostly by virtue of inside conflict, and they sort of just lucked out where the three ghostly bullies are concerned. They only manage a true defeat over Nath, and that required some fairly drastic action on Crystal’s part, destroying Nath’s body in a way they can’t afford to do with Demon-Hana if they want any hope of rescuing the real online gamer.
Speaking of which, it’s surprising to see that Hana may still have an active role in the story. As with the HIlarion goons, we haven’t seen enough of Hana to care about her one way or another, so spending more time with her is the best way to make the risk to her body (and potentially soul) meaningful to us. Trapped in “the Neitherlands,” the snowy wasteland Crystal, Edwin, and Charles all dreamed of, Hana encounters Rosa, Crystal’s one-time best pal, who’s accounting for all newcomers to the realm. Maybe as Crystal and our two dead boys investigate the supernatural on Earth, our two semi-dead girls will do the same in limbo, which doesn’t sound so bad at all.
One thing’s for sure, it’s high-time Litt focused on developing characters other than Crystal for once. I won’t deny that Crystal has the most colorful background, between her wild and crazy mother and her asshole of a father.* But there’s not only Hana and Rosa to think of, but also Charles, who has his own twisted family history, and Edwin, who has none we’ve seen just yet. After four issues, it’s a bit puzzling we know less about the characters featured in the very title than we do about their sidekick.
Buckingham’s flat, carefully constructed figures don’t have enough natural drama to emphasize the horror in Litt’s script, but it doesn’t seem like Litt’s going in that direction anyway. Given that the most powerful villain in the arc has chosen a nerdy schoolgirl as a host, and that Cheeseman, Barrow, and Skinner get sucked into Hell via Three Stooges routine, wry comedy seems to be the game here, and Buckingham can handle that just fine. His pencils quietly capture the humor of the story, but have such sophistication that you’ll never misconstrue this series as a joke. Given how centered and neutral Buckingham’s style is, however, I’d encourage Loughridge to go a little bolder with his colors, as the pale blues and grays make for bland reading after a while.
Conclusion: An unexpectedly quick, though exciting, conclusion to our adventures at St. Hilarion’s. Litt’s proven the concept; he just needs a stronger design.