What happens when three punk-loving friends learn how to summon a demon at a mall kiosk? Not what you’d expect – in a good way! Warning: spoilers ahead.
“Raise Hell!” features a punk (and ska!) trio of teens who will be instantly recognizable to anyone who grew up in the suburbs. Reeves, Victor and Miri are on their way to their local mall to buy a demon-summoning kit, which is always a great idea and will most certainly not come back to haunt them.
“Raise Hell!” posits that demons are real and very much summonable in a sneaky and endearing way throughout the book. The book opens on two smaller entities squabbling over some roadkill, which grounds us in a world that’s slightly askew from our own. We follow the trio to a mall kiosk run by a local burnout who Reeves most definitely is not a fan of, then back to Reeves’ house to raise, you guessed it, a sloth demon!
No? Alsaqa and Nadine excel at confounding our expectations in subtle and amusing ways in “Raise Hell!” The book’s not over the top with its humor, nor are we treated to any scenes of total shock and awe whenever the demon is visible. The team gets down to the summoning without excessive questioning or building rationale for the audience, and hopping right into the story is definitely the best way to go here. The only cosmic tension that arises is with Miri’s dad, who’s religious and who would very much not approve. Otherwise, the comic maintains a dry comedic tone, complete with a shorter-than-expected demonic pal who delights in annoying the hell out of everyone until the very end, when a more sinister intent is revealed. And even then, it’s not all that sinister. The kids should really have seen this one coming. We’ve got good tension set up for issue #2 – coming soon – and enough distinct personality built for each of the trio to maintain our interest while we wait.
Nadine’s art is expressive, lanky and full of good cartoonish details. In true punk kid fashion, no one’s overly gendered, and physical details say a lot about each character’s personality. Miri’s fun and bright personality shines through in vivid colors, cute bangs and cartoonish t-shirts. Reeves – never Ashley, understand? – embodies “over it” lassitude with a two-tone hairstyle, slouchy beanie and army jacket/hoodie combo. Victor’s shock of green hair and checkered suspenders suit his upbeat nature and signal just how into ska he truly is. Alistair’s appropriately demonic with his wings, forked tail and hooves, but the t-shirt and jorts add a constant visual gag that’s endearing and amusing.
The lettering suits the angular physicality of the characters, with an occasional balloon featuring small text – usually whispered or spoken sotto voce – that’s a bit too small. The balloons are somewhere in between blocks and bubbles, with standard tails and an occasional burst effect when Reeves has really had it. Miri’s blurted justification for opening the fridge door is expressive and funny, and the sound effects are poppy and just rough enough around the edges.
Overall, “Raise Hell!” #1 is wry, charming and engaging. Alsaqa, Nadine and Bouchard craft a familiar landscape that’s near and dear to this angry punk mall rat’s heart, but it’s one that will appeal to any teen who’s ever considered raising a demon or simply pushing a few boundaries. Bonus: “The Demon King of Ska,” a backmatter short, rewards Victor for his passionate endorsement of picking it up with a visit from a bona fide musical demon. The two skank to their hearts’ content in this quick and amusing story, and we’re treated to more depth for Victor and a fun-filled, world-building moment that will tide us over until our next jaunt.
The Verdict: 8/10 – “Raise Hell” is a fun take on suburban demon-raising that never takes itself too seriously.
“Raise Hell!” #2 is hitting Kickstarter soon, so stay tuned for more teenaged chaos and demon antics!