David Weathers, perpetual moaner, was not having the best of days. But when he died, he got into heaven, where things are not quite what he expected.
Writer: Tom Peyer
Artist: Greg Scott
Colorist: Andy Troy
Letterer: Rob Steen
Publisher: Ahoy Comics
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: September 26, 2018
Ahoy Comics launches another original series in their comic magazine format. High Heaven takes on the question of what if Heaven is actually a kind of second-rate place, where everyone hates a complainer?
NOT YOUR TYPICAL COMIC STORY
High Heaven #1 starts out with the main character, David Weathers, talking about his life, and about his memorable thoughts, such as “There must be more than this,” and “It’s not fair.” These may not be too profound, but we’ve all known people who’ve expressed these ideas (and let’s be honest, we may even have done so ourselves).
We see him at work, blond, kind of schlubby, a bit of a goatee. Heather, who sits in the cube next to his, asks if he wants to go for lunch, and his friend Ben urges him to ask her out. Not only does she turn him down, but it turns out she’s engaged to Ben. Then we get a hint that he is telling this story to a bunch of people somewhere. He hears music in his head, and it won’t stop. As he walks away from Heather, she call for him to watch out, but he is too busy with a dramatic monologue to pay her any mind, and a piano falls on him and kills him.
This…is actually kind of funny in a dark way on its own, but in the very next panel, the people all around him are asking him to please shut up. They’ve all died, and they don’t want to hear any more about it. He doesn’t believe he’s dead at first, but then he realizes he is in a huge, long line of people all in pale blue robes and slippers, patiently waiting their turn. He gets pulled out of line to talk to St. Peter, and identified as the guy doing the moaning. He gets issued his Halo, which turns out to be a plastic card, like a credit card. And the guy who was stuck next to him in line accuses him of wrecking his first day of eternity with his complaining, so he intends to ruin David’s days, to the clapping of the others in line. As he phrases it to himself, “the afterlife is real – and it’s high school.” And there are feathers all over the place. What a concept!
No family members come to meet him, but his caseworker, Louise, shows up in a golf cart to take him to his mansion. She doesn’t really want to hear his story about Ben, Heather, and the piano either. She takes him to his mansion, which looks exactly like a dorm room, and is what the living call them, but here they’re mansions. The Halo unlocks the door. There are bunk beds, and he apparently has a roommate. There is no need to eat in Heaven, but there is free food available. In vending machines. Accessed with the Halo. And it’s junk food. You get the idea.
His Uncle Pat, who died when he was a kid, finally shows up to see him, late in the day, when no one else will see him with David. In Heaven for a day, and already he has a reputation. David asks why his parents didn’t at least come to see him. Pat tells him it’s because they’re gone. They were in heaven, and then they weren’t any more. End of issue.
There is humor here, but it isn’t jolly. There is some language, and there are adult situations here, which I did not cover. The story subverts a lot of traditional expectations of heaven, and our hero is not very likeable, although we may feel sorry for him to an extent. This is probably not a story you’ve seen before, but I am curious to see where it will go next.
Because the format is more of a comics magazine, there is a backup feature, Hashtag: Danger. It’s a complete change in pace, a sort of science fiction romp. The team consists of a scientist, a fighter, and a pilot. They have a run in with a dinosaur, which they kill, and then bring the corpse back to salvage for monetary purposes. Well, the scientist does; the other two go off to pick up their business cards and letterhead. And we learn the origin of their name, and why “Hashtag” is spelled out.
And the issue closes with a piece written by Grant Morrison – a reimagining of the World’s Fair – you have to read it. I cannot do it justice by a mere summary.
High Heaven #1 has art that feels very much like a slice of life. The settings are mundane and the people look normal. Heather, for example, is pretty, but she does not look like a beauty queen; she looks like a normal woman. The city is crowded and the streets even look worn. In contrast, the early scenes of Heaven, before we know that’s what it is, look vague and dark. It could be anywhere people are dressed the same – a hospital or a prison.
We see David’s death on panel, and while there is some blood, it is not a super close-up shot, and it is only the one panel. In Heaven, he is no longer blood-covered, nor crushed. I love the views of Heaven with angels flying overhead and the incessant feathers flying about everywhere. And the utter mundanity of the mansions subverts expectations spectacularly.
BOTTOM LINE: STRETCHING THE IMAGINATION
High Heaven #1 is not a book for everyone, but it is a fascinating concept and tale. It really goes to show that sequential art is a superb vehicle for storytelling. The dark humor in this is great. If super-heroes are not your thing, but a thought-provoking story is, give it a try.