A new horror universe is launching this week in Hell to Pay, and its first chapter involves demons and Hell money. Since it was announced, Will Sliney and Charles Soule have outlined it’s not just one series but multiple with different themes. Before the larger universe becomes more clear, how’s the first issue, and is it worth your precious money, demonic or otherwise?
Hell to Pay #1 opens on a castle in Ireland. The owner is having a drink with Maia, dressed to the nines. A short tour reveals he has expensive tastes and he’s very good at collecting. His most precious item is from Hell itself, which leads to the reveal that Hell is real and it’s a place of social class and money.
The imagery from Hell is disturbing, twisted, and quite original. The tentacled demons force souls to work and barter with gusto. Their precious money has escaped Hell itself, though, and we soon learn it has been involved in major moments in world history. Tethering real-life moments to the narrative further cements its believability and the lore behind it all.
Enter Sebastian, Maia’s husband, who brings plenty of action and adventure to the narrative. Intercut with the action, which is captured in an epic layout that slashes across the screen, is the further backstory on these heroes and the dealings of the Shrouded College. Thanks to the action, the intensity doesn’t drop while we learn their situation and how their seeking out of the coin is more about freeing themselves.
The metaphor is evident in this book, which features two heroes in debt trying to escape it before starting a family. Is anything more modernly horrifying than debt preventing younger people from starting their lives? It’s a clever premise to hang a horror series on.
Ultimately this story revolves around a MacGuffin, usually a red flag, but it’s wrapped up in secret organizations, world history affected by it, and a touching relationship. There are enough pieces in place to hang a larger story while piquing your interest in regard to its main characters.
The visuals are fantastic in this first issue, particularly the inventive layouts and backgrounds. The locations in Hell are truly disturbing and, at times, mind-bending. Rachelle Rosenberg colors the book, bringing her strong sense of atmosphere and volume to faces.
Hell to Pay comes out of the gate swinging with an excellent idea hung on two strong main characters and mysteries at every corner. Mixing action, horror, and impressive visuals, Hell to Pay is well worth all the coins from Hell if you got ’em.
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