I haven't read beyond the first volume of Sandman, so from the start, I was worried that I wouldn't understand what was happening in Dead Boy Detectives. However, that wouldn't stop me from picking this issue up - any new series from Vertigo will always catch my eye especially when it's a spinoff of a popular series that had an interesting and awesome first Volume that was my first graphic novel (It was either this or Watchmen - I think I got Sandman first but I actually ended up reading Watchmen first). It's really a wonder that I haven't gone back to read more of this series whatever the case though, although I've been expanding my knowledge with the first issue of the awesome Sandman: Overture and now I can add Dead Boy Detectives from that list, because as it turns out, #1 is actually quite new reader friendly, creating a mystery that should sustain the readers for the opening arc set against an intriguing plot with strong supernatural elements.
Edwin Pane died in 1916 and Charles Rowland died in 1990. Having been fans of detectives in stories, they're now essentially ghost Detectives, ready to take on pretty much any mystery that comes there way - including the big one, their own deaths. The book opens off with a staged art heist that takes place whilst a real art heist is underway, and quickly introduces us to our main characters. Edwin and Charles are likable, quirky and fun to read, with their interactions feeling real and fun, with the two lead characters instantly making an impression on the readers. Nobody wants to root for an unlikable character, and it's important that Litt makes them captivating and he does just that, making both leads compelling and interesting. And then, as far as I'm aware, an entirely new character comes in - Crystal, a young girl with some interesting tech skills from a rich family who's sent to St. Hilarions, a boarding school where the boys went to when they were alive, and where they discover that the bullying headmasters are actually still there - continuing to rule the school. It's a strong plot for a first issue and has an interesting premise that will be fun to watch it unfold over the series to come, because based on what I've seen here I will certainly be picking up at least the first story arc.
2013 has been full of excellent new series and it's only appropiate that on the last week of 2013 we get another promising new series to add to the list of books we already have like Velvet, Lazarus, Coffin Hill and Rocket Girl as well. However, whilst Dead Boy Detectives doesn't quite match the memorable heights of the first issues of the aformentioned books, it's still a good read with an interesting mystery, with three compelling lead characters who I can't wait to return to discover more about in future issues.
Marc Buckingham's artwork is pretty good. It's not mind-blowing but it's far from the worst artwork you'll see on paper either - and there are several solid panels proving that if he is going to be the long running artist on this series I won't be put off by what he can bring to the table - there's just something about his artwork that really works. Lee Loughridge's colours also enhance the book as well, helping to create a dark and gloomy atmosphere that puts this comic more in tune with the likes of Coffin Hill than Rocket Girl, for example. It's very much a horror series, but is still a good start.
I can highly recommend that you pick up this book. It's a strong contender for pick of the week, and I will be adding the series to my pull for sure based on the strength of the series. It's new reader friendly, fun and just awesome to read. My last experience with a spinoff comic was with Talon by James Tynion IV - whose last issue wraps up this week but the title itself continues until March, and I'm hoping that the series is just as good as the early issues of Talon were. Toby Litt and Mark Buckingham are an excellent creative team and it's a series that I'm very much looking forward to reading more of. Even though I read this book in 2014, it's a great way to wrap up 2013's releases of comics, and will hopefully start 2013 on a high.
VERDICT: 4.5/5 - PICK OF THE WEEK!