Sebastian is trapped, but learns the story of the hooded man. Why is he creating so many Qurrakhs when one could buy him practically anything? Find out in Hell to Pay #4 from Image Comics!
HELL TO PAY #4
Writer: Charles Soule
Artist: Will Sliney
Colorist: Rachelle Rosenberg
Letterer: Chris Crank
Publisher: Image Comics
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: April 5, 2023
Previously in Hell to Pay: Maia and Sebastian Stone must track down additional Qurrakh coins and figure out where they are coming from. They do not yet know that the hooded man has a machine that uses people’s souls to create coins. But the hooded man is having his own problems. The more Qurrakh he makes, the more difficult it becomes. Maia and Sebastian return to London to do more research. A little spellcasting shows them that the hooded man is recruiting people in Panama, offering work, asylum, and a free meal. But they need more help and go to Florence to track down Marco and try to convince him to assist them.
A POOR MAN’S INSIGHT ON WEALTH
Hell to Pay #4 starts from another character’s point of view. Sebastian has been captured by the hooded man, and it soon becomes apparent that we are learning his story. The issue opens ten years ago in Mumbai. A barefoot man wearing ragged clothes and holding a Qurrakh sits in a fancy chair and talks about money. People spend their lives trying to accumulate money, and those who have money are more able to buy anything they think they need. Then we see the demon sitting across from him. Money, to him, is boring, but he can provide it at the cost of the Qurrakh. But the man surprises him and says he wants to be poor.
We flash further back, to the man’s childhood on garbage heaps outside the city, scavenging to survive. One day, he finds a large spool of copper wire – a veritable treasure trove. It is too big for him to handle alone, so he puts together a consortium of other scavengers. They all become rich, but then they rob him. Over several more years, he manages to build up a small store, profiting because of his good reputation and his knack for understanding what people need. He draws the attention of Auntie Leela, a local gangster. His store is competition for her own profitable enterprises, and she offers to buy him out. He refuses to sell, and she burns his business to the ground and has her men beat him up.
This man has horribly visceral experiences with money. Destitute and beaten, he goes to Auntie Leela and asks her for a loan. Out of surprise, she gives it to him. He knows full well that in order to pay her back, he must turn a profit very quickly. And that he does. He uses the money for the down payment on a farm and gets some extra money from the bank. With this, he is able to pay off Leela. He is successful as a farmer and becomes respected. Things go well until a bad monsoon year hits. He manages to live through that loss, but another bad year leaves him destitute once again.
He returns to the city and works as a gardener for a wealthy man. After years of work, he overhears the man telling his son about a coin he has, a coin said to come from Hell. People say it can be used to summon a demon. He has it and has no intention of using it unless, someday, it would be necessary. The gardener climbs in through the window, kills the man and his son, and takes the coin from its container, injuring his arm in the process. He summons the demon and has a rather unusual request for him.
IMAGES OF PERSISTENCE
The art of Hell to Pay #4 is very well done. The opening panel sets the scene and is full of evocative detail. The man is older, barefoot, and clad in torn work clothes. Yet he sits in an ornate gilt chair upholstered in rich red fabric. He delicately holds a Qurrakh in one hand, and that arm is badly injured, so injured that we can see bone. To cap this off, his opening discussion about money is presented in speech bubbles that arc over him and travel down the page. They can be followed easily, and they echo the design curves in the architecture of the house. It is a lovely presentation of a serious discussion.
The hooded man’s life unfolds in a series of scenes that capture the rhythm in his cycle of poverty, wealth, and return to poverty. The wealthy do not give up their wealth easily. His life in the slums of Mumbai is difficult, but he is determined. Losing his money is tied, over and over again, to being beaten up. He continues to bounce back. When he prospers for a time, an honest man making an honest living, we feel glad for him. But for him, nothing lasts. While he toils stubbornly, he cannot make headway. At the end of the book, we are reminded that he is the villain, but he is an interesting one. We can almost sympathize with him. At the very least, we can understand him. But his goal for the Qurrakhs is certainly a fascinating and unexpected twist to the story.
BOTTOM LINE: CAN MONEY BUY ANYTHING?
Hell to Pay #4 again shows us the dark underbelly of capitalism, but using horror to do this in a way that is creative and suspenseful. Even though this is a digression from the main story, it answers questions in the most interesting way possible.
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Hell to Pay #4
We learn the origin of the hooded man and just what his plans he has for the Qurrakhs.