I had planned on making If It Bleeds by Stephen King my first book of 2022, simply to give me a reason to compare to and rant about his other book that I read last year (Billy Summers), but Heaven No Hell was too quick a read to not sneak in first. Did I feel a tad awkward reading some bits in the breakroom at work? Of course. Still, the shame was very short lived thanks to it being such a page turner.
To give my elevator pitch for Heaven No Hell, it’s akin in spirit to Don Hertzfeldt’s oeuvre. Okay, perhaps I just have Hertzfeldt on the brain, after watching his newly released World of Tomorrow blu-ray; however, I think the comparison holds up enough to keep it. Hertzfeldt is known for trading in the surreal and absurd, which is why I’ve grown so fond of him and his work. Humor is said to be all about surprising the audience, and works like this are forever going in bizarre and unexpected directions. Even the art itself has a similarly shocking quality to it, with an impressionistic vibe that looks as if you’d taken something like a Hertzfeldt film and tossed it into Abstract Thought, as seen in the movie Inside Out.
Every page gives you something to chew on, be it the writing or the art. Be warned, though, it can verge on indecipherable at times, so those readers who aren’t fond of the haphazard zigzags works like these are prone to will probably get some motion sickness or whiplash before too long and find this graphic novel not to their taste. Heaven No Hell appeals to a relatively niche group; for that group, though, it stands as one of the most shining examples of what it is they’re after. “Won’t you give us a clearer taste of what it’s like?” I can hear you asking. No, I shall not. This book is one of those that’s best gone into blind. I wouldn’t want to spoil any of its unexpected twists and turns, or ruin any of its oddball humor. Moreover, it’s tough to distill any of it down into words that don’t wind up cheapening things in the process.
So, to sum up: if you’re looking for the Don Hertzfeldt of the graphic novel space, this should scratch that itch beautifully. Yet if you have little patience for silliness, you should possibly just pass it by.
P.S. You might remember me as one of the guys to do a full Cannonball multiple times over in a single year, or you might remember me as the guy who’s just had false starts since then. Here’s to hoping I’m closer to the former than the latter this go-round.