Maia and Sebastian learn that the man in the hood is still looking for more people. What sort of magic calls for that much life force? Find out in Hell to Pay #3 from Image Comics!
HELL TO PAY #3
Writer: Charles Soule
Artist: Will Sliney
Colorist: Rachelle Rosenberg
Letterer: Chris Crank
Publisher: Image Comics
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: January 25. 2023
Previously in Hell to Pay: Maia and Sebastian Stone have retrieved six hundred sixty-six Qurrakh coins, the currency of Hell which, when brought to earth, is used chaos such as capitalism. Then they discover that even more of the coins are in circulation, and the Shrouded College does not consider their job complete yet. A lead takes them to a jail in Mexico where they discover another coin and learn that someone wanted to buy an enormous number of prisoners. They return to Alex to try to convince him to give them another lead on where to find the next coin.
A HORRIFYING DISCOVERY
Hell to Pay #3 opens with a flashback to 1769 where a demon tempts Mr. Arkwright with a Qurrakh. She works on convincing him that these coins are far more than mere money; they are the way he can get more money for life if only he considers industrializing. Instead of relying on skilled weavers to produce cloth, he could have machines do the work. He would no longer need artisans; he would need mere laborers, even children, as expendable and replaceable as any nut or bolt. It is a sharp commentary on the treatment of many workers over the years.
But how does that tie into the story of the present? The Industrial Revolution was a long time ago. The hooded man from the last issue has one of his prisoners in a machine and is using him to call a Qurrakh into existence. The man dies before the coin can manifest. This brings his work, if you can call it work, to a standstill. His assistant, who has a fiery halo, asks why he cannot just use a coin to buy more people if that is what he needs. He explains that the coins are only used to purchase services from a demon, and when it comes to transactions involving souls, the coins will never keep up. He has figured out a way to process them, but each additional one he makes requires even more resources. It sounds like he has invented the cryptocurrency from Hell – literally.
Meanwhile, Maia and Sebastian are in London at the Shrouded College trying to figure out what kind of spell requires the life force of thousands of people. So far, all they suspect is that it is nothing good. Maia notes that the coins have the equivalent of a mint mark; perhaps she can use that to discover their source. Some spellcasting shows them the hooded man. He is now in Panama offering work and asylum to refugees with a free meal even if they do not decide to take him up on it. Of course, hundreds of desperate people are willing. The spell allows Maia and Sebastian to see this, but they are not close enough to stop him.
Instead, they go to Florence and find Marco, a man who seems to live for the finer things in life, especially food and drink. They want his help. He says he has already paid his debt to the College; this is their work. Sebastian admits that Maia is pregnant. Marco changes his mind. They follow the hooded man to Kashmir and attempt to stop him!
Hell to Pay #3 continues to bring us interesting concepts in demons. While the demon in the flashback is unlikely to put in another appearance, a lot of thought has been put into her concept. Her upper body is much like that of a human woman, a pretty one, if you ignore the thorns she is covered in and the sharp, pointy teeth. The rest of her body is formed of thorny tendrils as though she is a living combination of a person and a carnivorous plant. I find it amusing that in her talk with Mr. Arkwright, he has more trouble grasping the concept of industrialization than the fact that he is conversing with a demon.
The hooded man’s demonic crypto factory is also imaginative, if unwieldy. He has racks and racks of people tied up and connected to one another. They surround a central octagonal area where he works his spell. I like the temporal incongruity associated with the magic. To extract souls from many people at a time cannot simply be done by massacre. It makes me think that it takes the care and ritual of a sacrifice, yet has had to be increasingly amplified with each successive Qurrakh he mints. You don’t want to think about the logistics too hard, but it is a creative way to re-imagine crypto farming.
BOTTOM LINE: DIGGING DEEPER
Hell to Pay #3 is not just telling Maia and Sebastian’s story. It is establishing the world of the Shrouded College with plans to tell more stories in the setting. Even though there is a lot of world-building, the story continues to move along at a cracking pace.
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Hell to Pay #3
Now that they must retrieve even more coins, Maia and Sebastian need a way to track them down.