10 September 2012

Faster than a DC Bullet: The Sandman Spin-Offs, Part XVI: The Sandman Presents: The Dead Boy Detectives

Comic trade paperback, 102 pages
Published 2008 (contents: 2001)
Borrowed from the library
Read August 2012
The Sandman Presents: The Dead Boy Detectives

Writer: Ed Brubaker
Penciller: Bryan Talbot
Inker: Steve Leialoha
Colorist: Daniel Vozzo
Letterer: Willie Schubert

My long, ambling journey through all things Sandman continues with The Dead Boy Detectives, which brings back two character who previously appeared in Season of Mists (and in only one issue, I think): Charles Rowland and Edwin Paine. Edwin was murdered at boarding school in 1916 and went to Hell, but escaped during Season of Mists. Charles, attending the same boarding school in 1991, was murdered during the same storyline. Due to the general chaos, both of them escaped Death and were not forced to go to the afterlife.

By the time of this story, they've set up as detectives. Why not? I'm sure there are worse ideas for Sandman spin-offs out there. And it's written by Ed Brubaker, who did an excellent off-beat take on the police procedural in Gotham Central, giving me confidence that he could do a mystery here.

Unfortunately, the book itself is not as fun as the premise "teenage ghost detectives" would imply. The mystery is as about as simplistic as simplistic could be; the characters spend the whole book being blatantly mislead, which is just frustrating to the reader. Who wants to read about a pair of detectives who are complete idiots? And like too many stories set in The Sandman universe, it revolves around the realm's ill-defined mysticism a little too much. Ghosts have the power to make miniature ghost versions of themselves, apparently. Why?

Worse, the characters are just dull. I couldn't ever remember which one was which, and given that one of them comes from 75 years before the other, that's a problem. At the very least Edwin could have been given comedy about being out of the loop from 1916 to 1991 (the story takes place in 2001). But we don't even get that. They're just interchangeable enthusiastic kids with creepy eyes.

Good premise, but nothing interesting after that point.

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